Sage the Gemini and Iamsu
Better than… Complaining about the Dodgers.
Friday night saw the HBK Gang (Heartbreak Kids Gang) at the Echoplex. They're a crew originally based in the Richmond, California area known for songs like “Function,” (which features HBK founder Iamsu), and “Red Nose,” by Sage the Gemini, who's now based in L.A.
They're best described as the Bay analog to L.A.'s YG and his Pushaz Ink crew: a group of talented friends making music for the turn up with an edge missing on your typical radio playlist. HBK's performance at the Echoplex was, to the best of our knowledge, one of their first big shows in L.A.
HBK member Kool John was breezy yet engaging, delivering his rhymes from behind shades fit for perpetually-lifted macks. The highlight of John's set was his subdued banger “Full of Dat Weed,” which appears on his overlooked 2013 mixtape Peace, Love & Shmoplife.
Even in the internet age, for some reason Bay hip-hop still seems to dissemination slowly. This was evidenced by the small turnout, which unfortunately didn't increase much as the headlining sets approached. We're glad there was ample standing room, and the smoking patio wasn't the labyrinth of sweat-drenched bodies it can be, but we wish more of L.A. had come out to support their not-so-distant brethren.
L.A. bred Finatticz soon came up: Though their lesser-known songs came off fine, the crowd was waiting for their big hit “Drop That Thun Thun,” and when it came on the Echoplex bounced in time.
After a ratchet set from Power 106's DJ Carisma, Iamsu came out wearing a t-shirt reading “Been Hyphy” on the back. It was a nod to the crop of Bay artists who gained national notoriety during the peak of the hyphy movement in the mid-aughts.
Iamsu opened with his verse from his club-hit with Loverance, “Up.” He then moved onto cuts from his mixtapes Kilt, Kilt II, and $uzy 6 $peed before bringing out Sage the Gemini for “Return of the Mac.” At this point there wasn't a still body in the house, and Su's energy was infectious as he bounced around the stage, at one point jumping down to rap in the crowd.
After Iamsu's set members of their crew flooded the stage and turned it into their own dance floor, leading the audience in the “J-12 dance” associated Clyde Carson's “Slow Down.” Iamsu then brought out Tennessee's Yo Gotti for his hit “Act Right,” produced by P-Lo, which drew screams.
After Gotti left, Sage dropped a few songs from his Gas Pedal EP. Iamsu then came back for a few more, including the sub-rattling ratchet anthem “Function,” which everyone seemed to know by heart.
Sage then did “Red Nose,” which a woman near us had had been screaming about since he arrived. During the song, members from the HBK crew engaged a few women on stage in “yiking,” the latest Bay dance craze. Sage ended with the Iamsu-assisted “Gas Pedal.”
After the show was over, HBK danced to whatever their DJ played for nearly an hour. When the DJ dropped Mac Dre's “Feelin' Myself,” it felt like the spirit of the late Bay legend was smiling down on them.
Personal Bias: We've been listening to HBK Gang for some time now.
Crowd: Women in tight pants, short skirts, beanies, and cut-offs and the men who loved to dance with them.