One of the most exciting rappers working right now is IamSu!, the Bay Area rapper/producer who’s had a hand in such neo-classics as LoveRance’s “Up!” and E-40’s “Function.” He’s also one of the most prolific artists in recent memory, issuing tape after tape of absolute fire, dipping his toes in any style you can throw at him whether it’s weaving in and out of negative space to issue top tier party rap, making pop-rap anthems that are just on the right side of weird, or inspiring the best Juvenile verse in recent memory. The best thing about IamSu! as a rapper is that he perpetually sounds psyched to be on the mic.
At Noisey, we fuck with IamSu! so hard that we’re getting him to play his first New York City show, along with Problem, with whom he recently made the beyond stellar Million Dollar Afro mixtape. The show is on May 15th at Santos Party House, and will also feature Problem and some more acts to be named later. You can buy tickets here.
In anticipation of the show, IamSu! and I hopped on the phone to discuss his live show, Rollercoaster Tycoon, and exactly how he gets that weird noise that sounds like it's someone saying "Hi" in his songs.
Noisey: Hi IamSu! What are you doing?
IamSu!: I literally just woke up
What did you do last night?
I had a show in Sacramento at Ace of Spades, and then I had to take my friend home hella late, so I didn't get home until six in the morning.
When you come to New York next month, this going to be your first New York show?
Yeah, it is, I'm juiced up on it. I’m kind of nervous about how it will be received but I'm sure people are going to be cool with us.
You’re playing with Problem, who you made Million Dollar Afro with. When you and he play live, how does that work?
We come out and we do like two records from the tape, then we do “Function,” and then I cut out and he does some songs and then I do my songs, and then we close with like three or four songs that we’re both on, so it's kind of a back and forth thing.
How are you so prolific?
Oh man, I don't know. Just God.
Walk me through your process when you're making a song.
It's pure inspiration. I won't sit and think, “Oh, I need to make a song about this,” you know what I mean, it will hit me, the beat will hit me, and once the music starts moving I'll start thinking of a chorus.
How do you feel the New York scene perceives West Coast rappers?
I think a lot of people assume that we only make party music, and that we don't have any music other than stuff about being drunk and talking to girls and stuff like that, but there’s a lot more to us and that's what we're trying to show.
There’s this one specific certain affect that you have used in your songs that pops up every once in a while. it's this high pitched woman's voice saying "hi" or something. What is that?
Like, "hi…hi…hi"…something like that?
Yeah. Why does that sound show up in everyone's production?
Well I'm not going to claim that I was the first person to use it, I might have been the person to popularize it, but I heard it on a Lil Jon song, "Who You Wit" and it was just like a random sound in the drum machine and I literally took the sound off of his song and sample it in my song. From there it just got hella popular and hella producers starred using it. It was in the “BMF” record from Lex Luger, 2 Chainz’s “I’m Different….”
What do you think is so alluring about that sound?
I don't know what it is about that sound but people hear it and just hella intriguing and just makes them wanna dance. I don't know what it is.
When you were a kid, what was your first dream job?
I wanted to design rollercoasters.
Did you have Rollercoaster Tycoon?
I did, it's so crazy you even know about that game. I had all the expansion packs and hella shit.
Why do you have the exclamation in your name?
That just comes back to people finding me on google. I did hella stuff to my name. I read this long ass article about search engine optimization and I just applied that to my name.
What about IamSu! with the exclamation is more SEO friendly than without the exclamation?
What they were saying in the article is things like dashes and characters and whatever makes it easier for people to find it, people like ?uestlove and The-Dream has a dash in his name so people can find them. At first my rap name was just Su, but couldn't nobody find who I was and I was putting out hella music for no reason, and then I just did that and it started working.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on my next mixtape; it's called Kilt 2. I'm just going in on the production end this time. With the Million Dollar Afro mixtape and Suzy Six Speed I produced on both of them but not as much as I wanted to, so I'm pretty much producing on every song of this next tape.
How have you evolved as a producer?
Just trying to do more with my piano playing, trying to learn the music and understand the deeper chords progressions and all that. I'm just tryna take my music to another level.
Drew Millard is 24 years old today. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard