Breeding Ground Spotlight: IAMSU! (@Iamsu)
It's two days before Thanksgiving and Bay Area rapper, IAMSU! is in New York City with much to be thankful for. He recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, produced on Wiz Khalifa's Cabin Fever 2, released a new mixtape, $uzy 6 $peed, and performed with his idol, Snoop Dogg. And, before he returns to the West Coast, he is scheduled for studio sessions, label meetings and interviews. We meet at a pizza parlor in Manhattan's Flatiron District, where he arrives with his publicist - exuding the kind of fresh energy only a creative under 25 could embody. The Richmond, CA, native is double-threat and is determined to build on the buzz he has already has in the production and artistry lanes.
AllHipHop.com: What prompted your interest in producing and rapping?
Iamsu!: My aunt had a production studio when I was growing up, we would record on a mixer when I was really young and that's where I made my first beat. She has always supported my dreams in music. I remember one time I was on my way to Great America and I heard 2Pac & Snoop Dogg "2 of Amerikaz's Most Wanted (Gangsta Party)," on the radio and that was the first time I remember wanting to rap.
AllHipHop.com: When did rapping go from a strong interest to a passion?
Iamsu!: I got involved in Youth Radio, a youth organization based in Oakland. They showed me how to make beats on Protools, and it was there I honed my craft and began to take music seriously.
AllHipHop.com: You've become known primarily as a producer. What was your breakout moment?
Iamsu!: I was making beats for hella artists in the area, and I got my first song on the radio when I was 16.
AllHipHop.com: What took you from generating local buzz in The Bay Area to generating a name for yourself on a national scale?
Iamsu!: That happened in 2010 when the “Up” record came out. That song was in every club in The Bay, YG did a remix to it and then it blew up in L.A. Even 50 cent, T.I., Young Jeezy, and Trey Songz got on it. That took our production team, The Invasion (myself and P-Lo), to the next level. It would later become the number two song in the country.
AllHipHop.com: Let's talk Heartbreak Gang, who are they and what do they mean to you personally and musically?
Iamsu!: Heartbreak Gang is made up of myself and a bunch of my really good friends and with or without music we would be friends. We all got to know each other in high school; we're all into fashion and making beats, so coming together made sense.
Oftentimes, rappers have crews, as you do with the Heartbreak Gang, as a collective what makes your crew different?
Iamsu!: A majority of us are producers, we have a bunch of talented rappers and I even have a singer named Rossi, a blogger and business development team - everyone is exceptionally talented. We don't necessarily need to be in a group because everyone can hold their own, but it makes it that much more doper that we're all in it together.
AllHipHop.com: From a solo standpoint what do you feel like you bring that's different to the Hip-Hop?
Iamsu!: I bring a new and original perspective. It's been a long time since someone from The Bay Area has been at the forefront. Where I am from is very diverse, people are open-minded, and through my music, I want to preach the message of being yourself and accepting of others.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you think celebrating individuality is so important?
Iamsu!: Coming up, I was always different because my mom exposed me to all different type of things, so people never understood where I was coming from. I know there are a lot of people who are going through the same thing, so the message in my music is about being you and accepting different cultures.
AllHipHop.com: What's the meaning behind the title of your mixtape, $uzy 6 $peed?
Iamsu!: [Laughs] I call myself Suzy and in The Bay when you rap well, they say you're "gassing". So I compared myself to a six speed automobile. It also relates to the music because a lot of the songs are high energy. My older work was more self-reflective and about my experiences, but with $uzy 6 $peed, I'm trying to inspire people with the raw, high energy.
AllHipHop.com: Does your mixtape provide a look into what's happening culturally in The Bay?
Iamsu!: Yes, its like a time capsule of the Renaissance Resurgence, which is a movement made of up a bunch of young artists in The Bay who do everything from design clothing to directing visuals.
AllHipHop.com: You recently produced "Bout Me" on Cabin Fever 2, how did this collaboration between you and Wiz Khalifa come about?
Iamsu!: P-Lo and I ended up in the studio with him during the weekend of the "VMAs", and we played him a bunch of beats. As soon as he heard the record that became "Bout Me," he said: "Blow that sh*t up!" He's also featured on my mixtape. I'm a big fan of his, and he is definitely an influence of mine.
AllHipHop.com: What's you guys’ relationship like?
Iamsu!: It's good. He's a really cool and humble dude. It’s refreshing to meet someone with that much success who has remained down to earth. And, he gave me a lot of advice. He was telling we [Heartbreak Gang] reminded him of Taylor Gang when they were first starting out.
AllHipHop.com: You've credited Snoop Dogg as your idol, in what ways has he influenced you?
Iamsu!: I've always been a fan of his whole style. I have all of his CDs. And, to see another tall rapper from California made me confident about what I could accomplish. I met him one time at Powerhouse in Los Angeles, he brought E-40 and I out to perform "Function". That was a life-changing experience.
AllHipHop.com: Now that you've generated buzz as a rapper and producer, where do you see yourself going forward?
Iamsu!: I want to introduce the whole Heartbreak Gang and continue establish that as a brand. I definitely want to dip into other aspects of art and continue to produce for other people.
Follow on Twitter: @Iamsu