For a hot minute–really the entirety of 2000s–there’s been a proliferation of doomsayers and pessimists bemoaning the decline of hip-hop. According to this huddled mass of Chicken Littles, The South ruined everything, New York fell off, and the West looked like something from the imagination of Robert Kirkman. In the midst of all these gloomy proclamations it’s been easy to overlook a dope new act that comes out and defies the groupthink belief that it’s all downhill from the 90s on. And while Kendrick Lamar is presently at the forefront of a (potential) Left Coast resurgence, Pac Div has laid the groundwork by studiously putting out good music since their first blendtape Sealed For Freshness in ’06. Six years into the game the Cali trio is blessing ear canals with their second LP GMB (the letters in the acronym standing for the first letter in each member’s government handle).
Like, Mibbs, and BeYoung‘s hip-hop is informed by their predecessors, but the joints they crank out are far from contrived or stale throwback ish. They’ve taken elements of the Cali hip-hop template and refined it to the point that they can appeal to fans of Westside Connection and Freestyle Fellowship. First and foremost, they rap over beats that BANG–stupid hard. In addition to in-house producer Swiff D, Pac Div received stellar contributions from Thelonious Martin, Scoop DeVille, and DJ Battlecat. “Bank” is a Scoop DeVille heatrock in which the theme is only loosely based on robbery, instead mostly just providing a pretext for three MCs to say a bunch of clever fly shit. With ominous synth effects and bass heavy 808s, it’s a face-scrunching excursion complimented by plodding snares that may indeed lead to the listener to raise their right hand and testify: “I blame hip-hop.” On “Cross-Trainers” past meets present as Blu, once annointed as hip-hop’s savior ‘round these parts, teams up with the current heir apparent Kendrick Lamar, combining with Pac Div for a sick posse cut. Swiff D laces the crew with a joint that sounds like vintage Coast to Coast-era Alkaholiks and everybody spits hot magma.
GMB also has a number of songs tailored for the ladies. Kinda. There’s at least four tracks in which the fairer sex are the principal subject matter, but there’s nothing sweet here. There’s only so many ways you can talk about getting broads naked, fellatio, and fucking somebody’s daughter, wife, or girlfriend. If you like that kind of thing, cool, but if not the beats save the day. “Faircrest Heights (Interlude)” and “Can’t Help It,” for instance, both have an Ummah-esque vibe (this is the type of sound D’Angelo should rock to when he finally makes his comeback). Pac Div emphatically show their Cali colors with “The Return.” It’s an ode to L.A. life and the artists that they have in their creative DNA. Mars of 1500 or Nothin’ takes his cues from Volume 10’s “Pistol Grip Pump” and Ice Cube’s “Friday” providing a backdrop heavy with bass kicks and simultaneous slaps and clacks but switches it up with some sunny keys capturing the City of Angels’ steez; equal parts beautiful and dangerous.
Swiff D goes all the way H.A.M. on the boards while Pac Div save the best for last with the Mac Miller and Raven Sorvino feature “Black Acura”. ‘Swag’ is a red herring for emcees who’s pen game is weak but Like’s verse on this track is a clinic in delivery-he styled the shit out of his lines. Surprisingly, Mac Miller did too. Harder fare like this is definitely not in his frat party comfort zone but he had some laugh out loud punchlines and more than held his own.
GMB is Pac Div’s best and most consistent work to date. The production knocks and Like, Mibbs, and BeYoung are more proficient at killing shit on the regular than Rick Grimes, with nary a weak link to be found. The best way to describe Pac Div is fact is to say they’re an Okayplayer-y version of Tha Dogg Pound; more lyrical, less gangsta, but with a comparable degree of charisma, trunk-rattling bass and skirt chasing. This is their Dogg Food.
– T. Love