Looking at the tracklist, one might make some educated guesses about certain aspects of Iamsu!’s debut album, Sincerely Yours: The track titled “Girls” will be about girls, “I Love My Squad” will introduce Iamsu!’s collective (The Heart Break Gang), “T.W.D.Y” – named after the Oakland hip-hop group featuring Bay-Heroes (and T.W.D.Y. collaborators) Too $hort and E-40 – will show he hails from Northern California, and a ubiquitous 2 Chainz verse will assure us we’re listening to a very much modern day rap album. These assumptions aren’t wrong, but Iamsu! brings enough energy, talent and sincerity to make his debut an often absorbing listen.
Such a title as “Sincerely Yours” implies this is a personal album dedicated to his listeners. Iamsu! doesn’t have an interest in creating a character, even calling out on the Jake One-produced, project-closing “Martina”, “These rappers make up stories.” Simply put, Su! just wants to paint an accurate picture of himself. On “No Secrets” he proclaims over punchy bass, “Blindfolded and I know that I can stay consistent/Huh, cause fallin’ off is a bitch/And I’mma work like fallin’ off don’t exist.” The 24-year-old upstart knows how easy rappers can fade from the conscious of the listening public, so he will focus on his craft without giving in to distractions. Dedication and determination are laudable qualities to see in a hip-hop artist.
While Iamsu! isn’t the flashiest or most quotable of rappers, he has a versatile enough flows to hold your attention. The sole presence of just one song that surpasses the four-minute mark and the inclusion of two stand-out interludes also helps to keep the album moving along; however, a sequence of songs near the end of the album blend together due to their similar beats stewing in the grungier, sparser, more brooding corners of the club. Fortunately, Too $hort and E-40 still bring the ruckus.
Regardless of these just-passable patches, Su!’s technical abilities matched with his ear for beats (Iamsu! himself and his production team, The Invasion, produced nine of the 15 tracks) demonstrate his multifaceted repertoire of skills. The title track marries his agile deliveries with a particularly compelling beat: “Own songs/same swan songs/Daddy hit Mommy, Mommy left Daddy, so long/Grandaddy passed, I’m hugging on Granny, hold on,” he tenderly raps over a contrasting ensemble of delicate strings and the sound of someone pounding on a garage door. Other musical highlights include “Ascension”, produced by Jay Ant of The Invasion, which features acoustic guitars, synths, live drums and an outro built around female vocals. “Stop Signs” has an almost conga flair set against a moody background, and “Interlude 2”’s tough beat contains warped, gasping-for-breath vocals, air horns and some horror movie additives for good measure.
Again, Sincerely Yours doesn’t necessarily establish Iamsu! as the next rap phenom (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this virtual land of Buzz) but it does reveal a confident hip-hop artist who has a personal vision intact. Debut albums from artists with mixtapes under their belt typically falter or underwhelm because listeners have already become too familiar with the rapper’s style. Lucky for Iamsu! he manages to stay true to his aesthetic without compromising for the labels. Sincerely Yours may not send tremors through the hip-hop world but this album is a solid inauguration.