“What You ‘Bout”: Review of IamSu!’s ‘Sincerely Yours’

05.28.14 4 years ago 9 Comments

iamsu - sincerely yours cover

Balancing the weight of his Bay Area roots with obvious crossover aspirations, Sincerely Yours–the debut album from 24-year-old Richmond, California, rapper IamSu!–manages to be a minor success almost in spite of itself.

1. IamSu!, The Capable Craftsman

For all of its faults–we’ll get to those soon enough–perhaps the most striking thing about Sincerely Yours is IamSu!’s ability to flat out craft good records. His rapping won’t wow anyone, but he makes it work for him. For starters, Su has an easy way with melody, capable of producing radio-ready choruses (“Girls,” “Stop Signs”). He also has a good ear–if an indistinct taste–for production, as well as the capacity to see it through: IamSu! himself produces five of the nine songs credited to his production team The Invasion. It’s reflected in the arresting, keyboard-laced “No Secret,” the glistening, Houston-tinged “Stop Signs,” and the lush instrumentation of the album’s title track.

But about that indistinct part. Sincerely Yours tries to have it both ways, embracing IamSu!’s status as a regional star while chasing a broader appeal. As a result, the album ends up split between…

2. Post-Hyphy…

The outro to “Stop Signs” builds IamSu! up as something of a savior, an up-and-comer with the “entire [Bay Area] region on his shoulders.” Without getting into debates over sonic ownership, it’s a bit of a stretch considering Su is but one of several West Coast artists covering similar terrain. Most notable among them might be DJ Mustard and his self-described “Ratchet Music,” which shares with Sincerely Yours an inclination for shadowy low ends (“Only That Real”), menacing keyboards (“Back On Your Mind”) and shape-shifting synthesizers. IamSu! does have some fun with the sound, the best of the bunch being the O.G.-featuring “T.W.D.Y.” with Too $hort and E-40.

3. …And Semi-Earnest New-Gen Rap

Sincerely Yours also boasts an equal share of smooth, occasionally earnest offerings like “Problems,” “Martina,” and “Sincerely Yours.” They’re the kind of slick, safely satisfying tracks that might come off as overly glossy compared to the mixtapes on which IamSu! built his name. More than anything, they’re likely to remind you of some of the more streamlined major label debuts of the pre-Kendrick era.

4. “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’ ‘Bout Me”

For an album titled what it is, Sincerely Yours is an oddly impersonal debut; although, perhaps it’s fitting when you consider how boilerplate that salutation really is. Sure, there are plenty of Big Sean-isms–vague half-reflections and goofy boasts–about the come up, putting on for one’s city, and wrestling with success. But aside from a few genuine moments, Sincerely Yours is faceless. IamSu! makes no qualms about his fear of falling off, and Sincerely Yours certainly sounds like the work of a talented rapper who’s scared of what might happen if he tries to fly too high.


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