Certified Fresh: IamSu!, The Bay Area’s Crowned Prince
To say that there’s a natural bias towards Los Angeles when discussing California’s contributions to Hip-Hop is unfair to a city that’s churned out a fair share of classic albums, but their Bay Area counterparts unquestionably receive an unfair shake in the conversation. For example, Compton native YG’s critically acclaimed debut, My Krazy Life (and DJ Mustard’s sound overall), is greatly inspired by Oakland’s Hyphy movement sound. But as LA rap culture moves in one direction, things are equally progressive in the Bay and that’s most apparent in IamSu! of the Heart Break Gang, or HBK Gang for short.
Many listeners became acquainted with the 24-year-old via his guest appearance on crew member Sage The Gemini’s 2013 hit record “Gas Pedal.” But longtime fans who’ve been listening to Suzy since 2010 know that his current success has been a long time coming. With eight mixtapes in the can, including HBK Gang’s Gang Forever compilation, the producer-rapper is gearing up to release his solo debut, Sincerely Yours, on May 13.
The wordsmith gathered a room full of journalist, photographers, and more at a private listening session for the LP at 333 Recordings in New York City on a brisk Wednesday night (March 26). Yours truly had the pleasure of hearing a Su!’s most mature project to date, though the fun-spirited aesthetic that’s fueled his growing popularity remains ever present.
Learn more about IamSu!, Sincerely Yours, and much more in Hip-Hop Wired’s Certified Fresh feature below.
Who: Born Sudan Ahmeer Williams, the Iamsu! moniker makes perfect sense. The rap up-and-comer hails from Richmond, CA., a city just northeast of San Francisco that’s much more violent than the Fog City. Su! managed to make it out his area unscathed due in part to his family’s musical influence. He attended Cal State East Bay near Oakland, where he managed to hone his rhyming skills, travel across the country, and handle his schoolwork, though teachers weren’t too enthused about his lifestyle.
Nevertheless, Su! managed to gain the respect of Bay Area legends like E-40, as well as rappers like Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz. However, his success didn’t come as quickly as it could have during a time when YouTube can quickly boost an artist’s stock. But a slow process is better than no process, as Su! puts his HBK Gang collective on the map one power move at a time.
Credentials: IamSu!’s growing list of accomplishments began in 2010 with his first mixtape Su! The Right Thing. Within a year’s time, Su! struck big with LoveRance’s smash single “Up!,” which he produced, co-wrote and featured on. After a second big feature on 40 Water’s hit “Function,” featuring YG and Problem (he’d go on to release Million Dollar Afro with the latter in the future), the ‘fro rocking rapper became a force to be reckoned with in his area. Su! continuously flooded the streets with songs that moved parties, but his blue collar work ethic paid off greatly in 2012 when he released three projects including Kilt and $uzy 6 $peed.
Remaining consistent has kept Su!’s name bubbling in the years since. That said, you’ll be hard pressed to hear any big record in the Bay Area without him on it. How’s that for a come up?
Fun Fact: Iamsu! is very big on Egyptian culture, which is why he’s been known to rock a chain with a sphinx on it.