All Photography by Far Fetched Future (@MrFarFetched)
Chicago Bulls versus Los Angeles Lakers. After a very long five-month lockout, it’s one of the big match-ups on Christmas Day for any diehard NBA fan to watch the season opener. So of course, LA rap group Pac Div, who shares a common interest in basketball, will be tuning in. Who do they have to take the W? Well, it depends on who you ask. Derrick Rose and the Bulls are a favored team for Mibbs and BeYoung. On the other hand, Like can’t see his Lakers walking out of the Staples Center with a lost. But even as they take sides, its homecourt advantage, so the Lakers will have a few more celebrities in their corner tomorrow night.
Talks about basketball, like using analogies of switching dribbling hands for their diverse music style, come pretty natural to them. As former players in high school, Pac Div knows a lot about how the game works. In fact, an important basketball fundamental (teamwork), is one they stick with when it comes to hip-hop. The group has gone independent, breaking ties with Universal Motown to become personally managed by co-CEO of Grand Hustle Records Jason Geter. Since the change-up, they’ve become more aware of the game, seizing new opportunities with major label experience under their belts. The teamwork comes into play by making executive decisions such as releasing new music.
Pac Div just released The Div in November to update fans on some new material. While the debut album is a solid offering of new age swagger, they have just finished touring with Mac Miller and Casey Veggies on the Blue Slide Park Tour. Settling down in LA for a moment, they have their sights on a major 11-stop European tour in January and possibly joining Curren$y’s Jet Life Tour. But before another wave of cities, Pac Div sat down with RESPECT. to address their hiatus album Grown Kid Syndrome, why some fans have labeled their music so-called “hipster rap”, the success of their mixtape Mania! and more.
Read the interview after the jump – Eric Diep
I saw you guys at the Highline Ballroom in New York. It was a pretty dope show, but it was really intimate. Do you guys like doing those types of shows, the small ones versus the big ones?
Mibbs: We like to rock in front of any crowd, pretty much. We’ll rap in a living room if you let us. [laughs] But, we prefer to have a house be packed out, of course, but if people just show up they show up. That show came with small promotion and they knew about that show for about a week.
BeYoung: Yeah, we had two in one night that was the second show of the night. That shit was cool because we got to be stand-up comedians. [laughs]
You guys dropped The Div in November. But what’s the story behind the Grown Kid Syndrome? It was a getting a lot of hype over the Internet.
Like: Yeah, just a lot of circumstances happened in between, us being signed to the label, and wanted to put out Grown Kid and then The Div. It lingered on for about three years; we’ve been trying to get Grown Kid Syndrome out since 2008. It was some road bumps in between, and we just thought it would be good to refresh our whole direction by titling the album, The Div. And The Div album contained songs from Grown Kid Syndrome. Who knows if we will revisit Grown Kid, or release any of the other records from it, but right now that’s not our focus.
BeYoung: We just tried to put Grown Kid Syndrome out for two to three years. Universal at the time was going through some changes, and they wasn’t ready. We didn’t want to prolong nothing, we want to put some fresh shit out, and we wanted to put it out now. You know, we independent again, we our own bosses, so we just wanted to put this out now. We wanted to give the fans something new to latch on too and we didn’t want to keep them waiting. We wanted to fresh.
On that project, you had Jim Jonsin, No I.D and Pharrell produce some of your records. When big names producers start to co-sign up and coming artists, how does the extra push help you as “underdogs”?
Mibbs: Well, it does give you a sense of credibility in the music world. Those people have a lot of fans; they have a lot of big work. The people that you named – No I.D., Pharrell, and Jim Jonsin – they have a lot of big artists that they work with. So definitely works for the credibility. But like I said, if you are working with those big name producers, and you are signed to a label, and the label don’t really put a push behind it, I think it goes kind of swept under the rug a little bit.
Like: At the end day man, we got our in house team of producers that we are comfortable with that are dope as hell. Swiff D is a monster. Dahi Live. No I.D. blessed us with a track, it’s on the The Div album. Pharrell knows what’s up, we’ve been on tour with him, we have a personal relationship with him, he’s cool. He wanted to give us some beats. Hey, man, send some through. [laughs]
So Swiff D shows up a lot on The Div. What it’s like working with him?
BeYoung: He’s a natural man like Lou Rawls. [laughs]. He’s an actual friend of ours from high school so we know pretty much everything about each other. So, it was simple. Natural, that’s when you make your best music, is when it’s natural.
Mibbs: We’ve known each other since we were teammates and shit. We know where his head is at musically, and he knows where ours is musically. When we come together, it’s always a specific brand and style of music.
What I love about your music is that it shows a lot of musical diversity. How do you differ from other trio rappers currently in the game?
Like: What are other trio rappers in the game?
[laughs] Fly. Union.
Mibbs: Travis Porter.
Mibbs: We fuck with every artist that pretty much has a name for them and have their own identity. But, what I think separates us from them is background. We all have our collective interests growing up and listening to certain things and we have our own ear for music too. So, I think that pretty much makes us different. I mean the subject matter and everything, that’s all opinion. As far as the sound, the sound is definitely Pac Div.
BeYoung: There’s not too many trios, but for the ones that is, they do their thing. But if you look around the industry, there’s a lot of LA influence, there’s a lot of California influence. A lot of people hearing a lot of different things and this is where we from. I think that’s our advantage up top. The place everybody wants to go to, we are actually from it.
Like: We don’t go with hot currently, and try to do that. We host a certain value of integrity and definitely influenced by the past, present and future for the most part. But we take that influence and we create our own element out of it as opposed to completely copy and paste. That’s been our thing.
The New West of young MCs is getting a lot of talk. You got Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies, Kendrick Lamar, Blu. How is Pac Div spreading themselves from everybody else?
Like: Them is the homies. Dom, Casey, all of them, they’re our homies. We respect our differences. Dom is a different artist, but we all hold the same integrity, the same values and its respect at the center of it all. We respect each other; we love each other, as friends, as locals. We encourage one another’s come up, but at the same time, we ain’t finna go make records like them. Like they not going to make records like us.
You mentioned that you guys were former basketball players and you played in high school. How was that transition into becoming rappers?
BeYoung: It’s actually one in the same. Both required that teamwork. First and foremost, it teaches you how to get the job done as a team. That’s what Pac Div is, it’s not one superstar, its everybody doing crazy things on the court at the same time.
Mibbs: I like to use our raps of Pac Div like they are the Runnin’ Rebels. We are like UNLV, out there just blowing teams out. Going wild, ankle breaking all day. And that’s the type of game we have on the court. When we were in high school, we were always into hip-hop and were always rapping. It just came to a point where we were like, “man we are definitely nice, and we should definitely do this for real.” Basketball is such a physical thing, it’s an active sport, and sports aren’t guaranteed for you to make it. Music is different because it s all about being creative energy, and putting your whole energy into it. It was way easier transitioning into it.
At one point, you guys were signed to Universal Motown. How were you able to still stay independent with your music?
Mibbs: Doing those things like my brother said. Our situation was cool because we never felt like we had to chase anything. [We are] in the music, just doing the music. We tried the label situation, to me it’s not a big deal that we are not with a label or signed with a label, in my opinion. Because numbers speak louder than anything. Fans are going to be with you even if you are not with a label.
BeYoung: When you don’t chase things, and you hold true to what you believe in, you avoid that burn out. When you chasing stuff, that’s when you get played, and you get burned out. The whole time throughout being sign we was always Pac Div, we still did things we wanted to do.
Do you think the major label politics affected you in a good way, bad way or neither?
BeYoung: Neither because we got a chance to peep the game. Who knows, the opportunity still might come up and we might be able to tell somebody to give us $100 million, we might want to do some major shit. But in the same token, we still got that experience, and way smarter because of that.
There are talks that you guys were signed to Grand Hustle. Are you guys still with them?
Mibbs: No, we were never signed to Grand Hustle. Jason Geter is our manager, he supposed to be sort of like a mentor, you know, a guy we talk to when we handle big business and what not. That whole Grand Hustle family, they just cool people, they served us as a safety net. That’s our muscle.
That’s not official or anything, right? T.I. didn’t reach out to you guys?
Young: Nah, we aren’t on the label or anything, but Jason Geter serves as part of our management team. He’s our mentor, advisor; he helped us do this thing called the rap industry. [laughs]
You guys are talking about being independent. Let’s talk about Mania! It reached about 500,000 downloads when it released. That’s pretty huge. How does that speak on your fans?
Like: They like t***y. [laughs]
Mibbs: And they like free shit.
BeYoung: [laughs] T***es and free shit.
Mibbs: Nah that was what the Mania! project was about, the attitude. We wanted attitude when it came out. So that’s why we named it Mania! We wanted motherfuckers to go crazy. They’ve been on it.
Another thing about your fans, they love your music, but how come some fans relate to your music as so-called “hipster rap?”
Mibbs: I don’t know. I really don’t know where that comes from honestly. I can’t even answer that.
BeYoung: It’s a cop out dude. It’s a cop out for real. If anybody listens to Pac Div music, they won’t find any hipster. If you called us hipster, we came up with the most gangster rappers. Kurupt was helping us putting together our first shows together. When people get this hipster stuff from, I don’t know where they get that from. It’s a cop out because they wanna put it in a box.
Mibbs: If they gonna call us hipsters, shit, label us what you wanna label us. We kick it with hipsters, we kick it with gangsters, and we kick it with everybody.
Like:Yeah, I agree with what Mike and B said. They can’t figure out what to name us. But whatever man, just don’t call us a poser. [laughs]
Since you guys are independent, what has changed since your commercial success? Both “Fatboys” and “Mayor” were popping off. And now you have “Top Down.”
BeYoung: just having that fair chance of it, letting people hear our music. Like you said, there are a lot of misconceptions that get brought out of nowhere. For people to actually have an honest ear to hear Pac Div, that’s what the aim is. I guess being more popular does that to a certain extent.
Mibbs: For the people who really know, and that’s what it’s about, getting people aware of the sound of music that we make. You can’t classify our music as underground, commercial or nothing because we just go based on how we feel anyway. The beats be slapping, our raps are hard, our stuff is catchy. We embody everything every hip-hop artist that successful. We just keep on going forward with it.
Now that you have wrapped up the tour with Mac Miller and Casey Veggies, what is your next move?
Mibbs: We got a tour in Europe that we are going to hit in January. We are hitting 11 different cities, 11 different countries. And then after that, there have been talks of the Jet Life Tour. We are paying attention and seizing opportunities.
The Div just came out, but do you have any new projects lined up? You have the unreleased track “Moment” that just released. Do you have any more songs hidden in the vault?
Mibbs: We got some stuff sitting around. All three of us have to come to an agreement on whatever gets put out. But we are always working, always be expecting some new shit, every week in a half.
BeYoung: We ain’t gonna tell you exactly what it is yet, but just know it’s going to be a whole lot of other shit, very soon.
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