HBK Makes Its Own Rules Within Indie Rap

(Photo by: Grady Brannan of FilterlessCo)

He's worked with several of rap music's elite, including Wiz Kalifah and 2 Chainz, and now he's headlining his first nationwide tour. But before Bay Area based rapper/producer IAMSU hits the road, he and his crew, the Heartbreak Gang, wanted to do something special for their day-one fans.

(Photo by: @stspittin)

HBK Day, a day for IAMSU and the HeartBreak Gang to connect with fans, started with a handful of eager teenagers in San Francisco's Haight District camped out for a meet and greet with the members of HBK Gang, advanced copies of IAMSU's new mixtape, "Eyes On Me", and to buy new HBK merch made in collaboration with Pink Dolphin.

(Photo by: Grady Brannan of FilterlessCo)

The night of this weekend's meet and greet, the mob of teenage fans found their way to The Chapel in the Mission District for a special free show featuring all of HBK. "I didn't think anybody was gonna come. This was super last minute," said IAMSU (who, full disclosure, learned music production at Youth Radio, and who is still the homie. But I digress).

(Photo by: Grady Brannan of FilterlessCo)

The planning of HBK Day was last minute, with only about a week of promotion (aka IG posts of the flyer), but by 9 p.m., the 500-person venue was packed with real fans of not only IAMSU, but the Heartbreak movement.

(Photo by: Grady Brannan of FilterlessCo)

Following a grassroots indie band formula, HBK releases music, performs and sells merchandise without any outside assistance. It also sort of operates as a label. Which means not everyone in the Gang is a musician. Some are personal managers, security guards, and others handle merch... but the various pieces being in place allows the HBK Gang to operate like a well oiled machine.

(Photo by: Grady Brannan of FilterlessCo)

You can't really define HBK as pure indie, with platinum-selling artist Sage the Gemini signed to Republic Records (whose artist roster includes Taylor Swift and Drake, just to name a few).

The savviness of HBK's model is that it's leveraged the status of its artists, and the devoted fanbase, to gain the freedom to move however they see fit. For now, catch IAMSU in a city near you, starting next month.