Sage the Gemini became an overnight success with his 2013 self-produced hits “Gas Pedal” and “Red Nose,” which did what few Bay Area rappers have done in recent years – get play outside Northern California. When hyphy music blew up in the middle of the last decade, really the only song that crawled across the country was E-40’s “Tell Me When to Go.” Even hugely influential songs by Mac Dre, Keak da Sneak or The Federation stayed in the ears of people wearing dreadlocks and stunner glasses over them. The biggest Bay hits in the past few years have been D-Lo’s “No Hoe,” LoveRance’s “Up,” E-40’s “Function,” and John Hart’s “Who Booty,” the latter three of which had Heartbreak Gang founder IamSu! featured on them. Su has been building his audience for a minute, but his biggest accomplishment thus far might be discovering Sage.
IamSu!’s seemed like he’s been primed for crossover success for years, but he’s yet to have a charting song of his own and the biggest hit he’s been on is “Gas Pedal.” That song, and to a lesser extent “Red Nose,” found traction with Billboard‘s new way of counting YouTube videos with songs in them and the video sharing app Vine. Both singles have become twerking anthems as well as yiking anthems (twerking’s little brother dance). Both songs showed up on last year’s Gas Pedal EP and also make an appearance on Sage’s new LP, Remember Me. They’ve brought attention to the Bay’s Heartbreak Gang (HBK for short), which Sage joined when Su found that he had talent. And in addition to that talent, Sage has had the looks, the presence, and most importantly the hits to be the first of what HBK hopes will be many to become a nation-wide star.
Remember Me comes on Universal’s Republic Records and it’s both a table setter for the rest of HBK Gang and a cashing in of Sage’s chips for his major label. Besides a couple of L.A. artists on album closer “Second Hand Smoke” and the August Alsina feature on the southern-sounding “Down on Your Luck,” nearly all the production and features come from the Gang, whether it be P-Lo, Kool John, Jay Ant, IamSu!, or Sage himself, who handles production on six tracks. There’s a general “we made it” vibe flowing throughout, from specific taunts toward his old Fairfield High classmates to the Justin Bieber verse on the “Gas Pedal” remix that shows up on the deluxe version.
On “Put Me On,” Sage explains why he deserves his bigger pockets, describing when he and his brother were cleaning houses to afford recording equipment. Sage has admitted his rapping is mostly catchy stuff for the radio and not serious, but it’s pointed and serviceable for a dance floor. There isn’t much new ground broken; half the album is aimed at girls he likes, the other half at haters he’s left behind. And despite all the ass-shaking post-hyphy production, it might not resonate too far outside the people in the Bay who’ve either been listening to all things HBK or connect with his declarations of nerdom. Even with “Gas Pedal” going digitally platinum, the album’s first week sales were around 7,200 units. It doesn’t bode well for IamSu!’s debut album – which drops next month – to cross over very far, but if the album cuts blasting from passing cars are any indication, the stars over the Bay will continue to rise.