Pacific Division

posted February 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 34 comments

This writer’s phone interview with Pacific Division was the first time interacting with them, but a bystander would think that he knew the Los Angeles rap group for years. Answers to questions are interspersed between references to obscure basketball players (“Shout out to Rik Smits, I see you! Detlef Schrempf, Chris Mullin!”), shout outs to old school actor/athletes (“Carl Weathers was one of our biggest influences,” Like flatly quips), and side-splitting descriptions of themselves (“Niggas who wear diamond earrings and live in apartments. Niggas who spend they last $5 on a beer, and not get no food.”).

But Pac Div’s resume and skill set is nothing to laugh about. The trio of Like, Mibbs and BeYoung have been putting in work on efforts like their heavily-praised Sealed For Freshness blend tape, and their combination of old school awareness and new school sensibilities have garnered praise by everyone from The Roots’ ?uestlove to Pharrell. An interview with DXNext delves into their come-up, their strategy and their future.

On Getting Started: "We got started back in 2000," says Like. "We all went to the same high school and we played basketball, but we also rapped, so it was a marriage, man. Pause. It was a marriage in that we all shared common interests in hoops and Hip Hop music. Coming from the west, our similarities in taste in music was different from what was around us, so that made it even more special. The first time we connected, it was like it was already meant to happen. We just started making fly shit. Well we thought it was fly then, but you know how you go back years later and you’re like, 'Man, that was real wack.' We had our growth process. At first it was a gang of members, like a Wu-Tang, nine or 10 members. … We started recording at the homie’s house, and it was cool, but we started to look into it as big plans, so we had to downsize the crew. From nine to four, then four to three, and here are the three of us now, holding onto it."

On Musical Tastes Within The Group: "One time we were at a high school basketball game, sitting in the bleachers waiting for the game to start," remembers Be.Young. "Like and Mibbs are brothers, they were like, 'What you listening to? What’s in your CD player?' I’m like, 'I’ve got some Ghostface in here.”'They were kind surprised to see I had Ghostface in my CD player. I had “Camay” in there; I didn’t even have the whole album, I had “Camay” the single. “Daytona 500” was on the b-side! From then on, we just had a lot of similarities with the music. We were just into the same type of thing." "BeYoung has an older brother that put him onto a lot of stuff, like east coast rap, rap all across America, like down south, OutKast and stuff," says Mibbs. "We would all share the same interests, and as lyricists, we grew up listening to people like Wu-Tang, Nas, Jay-Z, Redman, Ras Kass, a gang of lyricists. We figured that was the true art of the music, and we felt like making the group, we all feel the same way about keeping the art alive, and that’s how we came about. We kept true to ourselves. But we’re still us at the same time." "Basically, we had two older cousins from different sides of the family," begins Like. "And one of them was into west coast gangsta rap, during the time when gangsta rap was running shit. He always put us on to Kurupt, to Daz, Dogg Pound and shit, and that was fly. DJ Quik, we were into all that real heavy. Then we had another cousin that we looked up to a little more, and he was kind of on the wealthy side, so his musical tastes were a little more different…more lyrical, and it was Ras Kass, maybe The Roots, it was OutKast. He had a wider spectrum of music that wasn’t just one coast. We were more intrigued by that, because that wasn’t what we were used to hearing. It just seemed right to us, that’s what we wanted to get into. It was kind of setting a statement, because nobody else around us was doing that, and we like to stand out, naturally and when we’re just doing our thing. When we’re doing it now, it’s good, ‘cause a lot of fools don’t expect us to do that. A lot of east coast cats will hear us, and they’re like, 'Damn, what you know about that?' If we were to take a quiz or a test, we’d probably ace it more than east coast cats, based on our music background or whatever. From Hip Hop from everywhere—east, south, north, whatever. We just like this that’s fresh.

On Old School Appreciation: Be.Young: "What it is that we talk that influence from back then, but you’ve got to be observant to what’s going on in the whole music world and the whole culture that’s rap music. You’ve got to keep your ears and your eyes open to see what’s going on; you’ve got to stay in touch to what the kids are into, just what everybody’s digging at the time. All the great artists can change with the times and adjust. We take that influence, and we make it what’s going on right now, we just adjust it and put our own spin on it. 'Cause we feel like we’re the only ones doing it like this." Like: "Plus, we study rhyme patterns. We know what a relevant rhyme pattern and an outdated rhyme pattern, if you follow what I’m saying. We’re not going to get on Gang Starr and rap exactly like Guru. We keep it current, and we know when to fall back on multi-syllables sometimes, we know when to kick it hard with multi-syllables. A pointer is, this just goes in rap period, if you know how to ride a beat with your flow and it sounds current, then that’s all good, you’re going to win. If you don’t understand that, then what you’re going to get is a lot of shit that don’t sound right. It might be a tight beat that you’re rapping over, but if you have an old school flow, then we don’t really thinkin you’re going to win. That’s just our perception."

On Individual Roles Within The Group: "I’ma speak for the fellas. BeYoung delivers the hoes! [Laughs] Nah, I’m playing. BeYoung is the quiet, more savvy, he’s more like the AZ. [Laughs] Nah, he’s not AZ. He’s more real savvy, quiet. He’s smooth, laid back, he’s a mystery, we call him the Quiet Assassin. He’s a man of few words, but he definitely delivers a punch when he spits. Mibbs is the more animated: he’s the Redman, he’s like a Busta Rhymes. He don’t look like Busta Rhymes, his neck is thicker than Busta Rhymes [laughs hysterically]. He’s more animated, but not animated like Jim Carrey, he’s more colorful, he’s got the vocal presence. I’m like the thinker I guess. Like is the more observant. I kind of feed off of what’s going on, the reaction of everything, and I can kind of blend. … I can be quiet, and I can be vocal. But I guess I’ll be more the introspective," says Like.

On Branding The Group Early: Like: "Going off of what Mibbs said, you can’t neglect the youth. You’ve got to stay fresh, you’ve got to stay relevant to what’s happening. We as a group feel like, 'Okay, instead of complaining about the state of Hip Hop, it’s dying, all that shit is wack, it’s dying and there’s no art,' and all that, we just feel like that’s a cop out. The reason that people are really saying that is that one, those people are old and their sound is no longer relevant, they’re not creative enough. Or two, they’re just not seeing the big picture in this. You’ve got to really blend in, but stand out at the same time, if that makes sense. Ultimately, the youth dictates what the older Hip Hop generation is going to like or dislike, and it’s always been that way. So we feel like with the blogs, and pictures, and visuals and all that, that’s very necessary to stay fresh. In this new age, you have to find new ways to market and preserve your image, because that’s the new formula now. You see a lot of artists that you would think are tight in your heart, but they really aren’t marketable, and then they ultimately don’t do as well as someone who’s less talented but has a more appealing look, or who’s catchier. My thing with Pac Div is that we know how to blend it, man. … We know how to be complex and simple at the same time. It’s ultimately balance."

On Major Cosigns: Like: "It’s crazy, because we got a call from Pharrell like a month back. I guess what they see is, for one, they come out to the west. He was in a session with Snoop, and he was really stuck on what kind of beat to make. He’s like, 'Man, Snoop, what’s out here in the west? It’s wack out here, to tell you the truth. I don’t know what’s going on.' He was actually talking to Snoop’s manager, Ted Chung, who we deal with. So Ted was like, 'I’ve got some boys you need to listen to.' Ted directed Pharrell to the MySpace, and he loved it so much that he personally called me and was telling me for seven and a half minutes how dope we were, and how we were a breath of fresh air. He was comparing us to the likes of a Pharcyde, Heiro, all these fools, Tribe. I was trippin’, because I didn’t think that Pharrell knew about these people like that. I’m like 'First, I can’t believe I’m talking to Pharrell, and second of all, how do you know about all these people that we grew up on too?' … We chop it up with the The Cool Kids a lot about different things. 9th Wonder hit us up and he was wondering what was going on, how he can be down. ?uestlove. Murs fucks with us real tough. Even Snoop shouts us out on a record. Just knowing that lets us know that we’re in the right direction, and we shouldn’t take it for granted, because if these successful, multi-platinum Grammy-nominated artists are telling us this shit, then we’re in the right direction. That adds fuel to the flame for us to continue."

On Working With J. Dilla: Like: "Nah, well, let’s clear that up. We actually didn’t work with Dilla. We have a mutual friend, and he sent the beat over and told us to bless it, and we did do that. He passed, and it was already recorded. We recorded it and it was fly. But as far as other work with Dilla, nah we haven’t. Everybody and their mama has a beat tape from him now, so it’s kinda like... it’s kind of upsetting, because you can’t really come out with new Dilla because all new Dilla is out already, at least to the people who search and dig for it. And we’ve been playin’ so many Dilla, but he knew about us, he sent the beat our direction and gave us the beat to rock it, though. I wish we would’ve met him. tapes that I don’t even think we can come creative with them beats. We never actually were in the lab with "

On Deals Offered: "[ABB Records was] interested, but we weren’t about to do that. We didn’t do that, and that wasn’t in our plans. A couple other independent labels reached out to us, and that didn’t go through. … Right now, we signed a non-exclusive independent deal with Snoop’s manager Ted Chung with Two Tone Elephants. So it’s still not exclusive, so we’re technically still searching for a deal with a major. Right now we’re still in the independent lane, because it’s crazy, the music industry is changing so much. We’re looking at what’s happening now, and these cats be signed to the major label like they’re locked up in prison, and not really getting the love that we’re seeing. … Plus there’s so many online marketing strategies that you really don’t need a major label for. So we’re just going to work it that way. We’re going to continue to build our movement strong, and have them come to us. But we definitely have their interests, we have a lot of interest from major places. They’re waiting, and we’re waiting," says Mibbs.

On The Album: Like: "[Releasing it in March is] the plan man, but we may push it back, depending. We just shot the video for "Fat Boys," it’s crazy. We’re going to work the singles first before we start the release date, just to continue to build the movement. But we’ve got some fresh joints. We’ve got some production from DJ Khalil, Swizz Beatz, Illmind tossed us some joints, he did Little Brother’s record. Frequency was on Snoop’s last album, Exile did Blu’s Below the Heavens and Mobb Deep, 50 Cent [songs]. JakeOne sent us some joints, shout out to JakeOne. … Swiff D is our in-house producer, and he’s sweet. He’s on Snoop’s album that’s coming out, he’s on Talib’s album that’s out now. I wouldn’t even call him and up-and-coming producer, because his name is sorta buzzing right now. He did our first two singles (including “Fat Boys 08”). … We’ve got some bangers on our album, I’m not even going to lie to you."

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