IAMSU! has sustained his place as one of the Bay Area’s distinct producers and after a year in the studio, he’s released his latest album, Kilt 3. The co-founder of HBK Gang is best known for his production on takeoff tracks like “Red Nose” and “Gas Pedal,” but on this release, IAMSU!’s pushing to elevate himself as more of a self-serving creator.
In a conversation at The FADER office on Tuesday, IAMSU! was all smiles as he talked about his new album, how he drew inspiration from 80s movie soundtracks, and what he envisions for his future.
How would you describe the new project?
So I was going for a certain sound. After my tour last year, I was really investigating how I wanted my music to sound and I found myself always listening to the Scarface soundtrack and the Flash Gordon movie soundtrack and a lot of older 80s sounding stuff. A lot of rock music. I wasn’t necessarily trying to emulate that stuff but more so trying to figure out what made it sound so big. The hooks were so huge and the melodies were super strong and that’s what I was concerned about with this—putting together something that could be performed really well—big songs, but still maintaining my aesthetic and what people expect from me in terms of beats and drums.
Who’s worked with you on this project?
I worked with a lot of producers, Calay, he’s from the Bay. June on the Beat, he’s from Sacramento. Trakademics, AKA Frank and I co-produced one, DJ Official, he’s hella clean.
What artists? Are there any features?
It’s not that many features. The features are Sage the Gemini, Ymtk, HBK CJ, and AKA Frank. I try to keep it slim like that. I want people to hear me and hear that I’m good.
What level do you see yourself going towards?
I’m trying to get to that arena level and touring the whole world and selling out arenas. Even when I’m in my 40s and 50s, I’m going to try to advance music. I want people to look to me when it’s time to hear the next sound and something that’s progressive—I want people to hear it from me.
What would you say success looks like for you?
Success is happiness. Success is being able to do what I love and make a living off of it, a really good living. To be able to take care of my kids and my grandkids and put the family in positions to open businesses and all types of things within the reach of my music and use it as a vehicle. I see the groundwork being laid and I can tell by the fans interaction. I’m talking to fans all day on Snapchat and on Twitter I’m always trying to be interactive.
Do you get overwhelmed with trying to stay connected with fans?
I’m day by day with it and I like it. I like seeing people like, “What’s up with the new music?” And then I’ll see fire emojis. I love that. I can’t ever get enough of that.
Does HBK still exists as it did before? Has it changed?
It definitely still exists but with people getting more successful it gets busier and they get teams. But, nothing can be the same as it was when were fresh out of high school and running around. Those are my brothers and my sister until the end—I talk to them all the time, it’s not like we broke up or anything. As soon as time permits, we want to keep it lit but people got shit to do. We’re grown, people have kids, bills and we can’t stand in each others’ way when it comes to that. The thing I want for everybody is for them to be successful and then we can do a group mixtape or tour if it affords time for it to be done. It’s definitely no love loss with me. That’s in my heart.
Would you say you’re happy right now?
I’m very happy. I’ve been waiting on this to come out since last year.