As rappers like Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q continue to take over hip-hop, a new, unique voice from California joins the fold. IamSu! has enjoyed indie acclaim for his $uzy 6 $peed mixtape as well as the collaborative Million Dollar Afro with Problem, but is still bubbling just below the rap radar. During soundcheck in NYC for his first headling tour, the Bay Area rapper spoke to VIBE about what it’s like to still be in college, working with Wiz Khalifa and why hip-hop just doesn’t understand him. —Sowmya Krishnamurthy
You’ve been buzzing on the indie scene for some time. Is hip-hop is late to the party?
Mmhmm. Maybe it’s just the kind of person I am. Maybe it’s the energy that I project, maybe I attract different kind of people. I don’t know. I feel like I’m not hella like, just “rapper-ish.”
You’re not wearing a chain right now.
I am wearing a chain, but it’s tucked in. It’s not a diamond chain. It’s a pharaoh chain and it’s Jesus. It’s small.
What do you say to the hip-hop heads that aren’t feeling you?
I’d say, “In due time.” You just have to keep putting out good music, keep being progressive. Being innovative. Then more people will catch on.
Does it matter to you if hip-hop heads like you?
No. It doesn’t matter.
You’re on the Million Dollar Afro tour now with Problem. Despite being a working rapper, you’re still enrolled in college.
Yeah. I’m about to go back in the fall. I’m going to SIT in a classroom. It’s really hard, especially because I’m going to school in an area where everyone knows my music. I got to Cal State East Bay. It’s close to Oakland. It’s going to be a trip. For my major, all of the classes weren’t available online.
I went to University of Michigan where athletes were gods and nerds like me were at not. On your campus, who’s at the top of the pecking order: Rappers or Athletes?
Uh, the athletes probably. I don’t know. We’re going to see. People are probably more mean to me. Schoolmates are nice to me but teachers and stuff are really mean like, “So what you have to leave school for? A week to go to New York?” They think I don’t care about school. I sent my teacher a long ass email like, “I’m about to go on tour but I’m trying to finish school. I’m hella serious.” No response.
People think touring is all “Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” Is it?
Not for ME. Maybe for somebody else. I go, do the soundcheck. Then I probably get in the bed. I might smoke. That’s probably the most “turned up” rapper part, that I smoke a little bit of weed. Then I come back here. I perform. Then, we either go home or I go to sleep.
You don’t partake in any of the uh, “fringe benefits” of touring (Translation: Groupies)?
I try to stay away from that. Every other day I see somebody getting caught up. She might do that or do a bunch of other weird shit. She might try to rob me or set me up to get robbed by a bunch of dudes. I might get a venereal disease. She might have a baby. I don’t want a baby right now. I’m kind of young. Or, she might just be a fucking creep.
You recently dropped a video for “Goin’ Up,” your collaboration with Wiz Khalifa. Are you going to be on his new album?
Hopefully so. We made a bunch of songs. We always make songs. Hopefully something ends up someway. He’s going to be on my new mixtape out June 6th.
You’re from the Bay Area. How tired are you of people saying, “YOLO”?
[Laughs]. I was never an advocate of “YOLO.” I thought it was stupid from the start so, I’m in agreement with you, I think it’s weak. It’s a Drake thing. You heard of the store Chic Shoes? Maybe it’s just a Cali place. They make shirts with whatever popular rap phrase is in, like a YOLO shirt.
I hate “Turned up” and “Ratchet” too. Don’t ever say “Turned up” on stage.
I might say it…If it’s necessary.
Fine. Then I’ll say, “YOLO.”
Fuck it. If it’s needed, though. I’ll never say “YOLO” in a song. I pray to God I don’t start.