The sun may set in the West, but when it comes to L.A. hip-hop, the light is shining brighter than it has in years. In October, Compton’s Kendrick Lamar dropped his major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, an album-of-the-year candidate that sold a surprising 241,000 its first week. Earlier this year, fellow Black Hippy members SchoolBoy Q and Ab-Soul released their own stellar albums. Odd Future dropped its debut LP, The OF Tape Vol. 2, and headlined major festivals filled with rabid fans. Right over the L.A. county line, San Bernandino’s Hit-Boy made a compelling case that he’s following in Kanye’s footsteps with his inaugural mixtape, Hitstory. And now, veteran trio Pac DIV is putting a solid exclamation point on a banner year for L.A. hip-hop’s new generation with GMB, the group’s power-packed second album. It’s the latest triumph for the blue-collar, hard-touring trio, who along with Blu (who was signed to Warner till last year), was the first of L.A.’s emerging vanguard to ink with a major label, Universal Motown, in 2009. In all-too-common story, the deal wasn’t a good fit, and Pac Div didn’t manage to release a proper album, 2011’s The Div, until last year, when they left Motown. This year, after an uncharacteristically long 12 months without releasing any music, Pac Div is back to doing what they do best. Their new album, GMB—released Tuesday via their own label, The Div, and RBC Record— features clever mic interplay, bold-face names (Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar, Kurupt, Scoop, Chuck Inglish, Deville) and lots and lots of bass. They’re about to embark on a heavy December tour that will see them criss-cross the West Coast and Rocky Mountatin region, including three shows opening for Snoop Dogg. Here, in between packing their suitcases, Pac Div’s Mibbs and Like (the third member, Be Young, was unavailable) sat down with XXL to talk flipping samples for Kendrick, their grandmother’s swag, and why the West is best. —Alex Gale (@apexdujeous)
So what does GMB stand for?
Like: It’s an acronym for Gabe, Mike and Brian.
Mibbs: Our government names. This album kind of takes that spin. We felt like it was just us and our essence—something that we would be proud of, with our names behind it instead of just our aliases. We wanted to let the world know where we was at. We also felt like the title Gabe, Mike and Brian just set it off because we’re all going into it doing a bunch of different things in the future too—we’re still Pac Div, but we’re all going to be working on our own projects as well. I have a project with Scoop Deville coming out in January. It’s like a nine-song EP, just something to slap ‘em with.
Like: And I’ve just really been on the beats heavy; I might put out some instrumental albums. I did Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst”—I produced that the first half of that record, so I’ve been trying to get more placements with more artists. So I’m gonna be in the studio with different people. Pete Rock hit me up and was like,”‘Yo, man—dope-ass joint.” I was like, “Man.” It kind of had a Pete Rock feel when I made it.
I love the drum/rimshot sample from Bill Withers’ “Use Me” you flipped on that song—it’s a slept-on break.
You can’t deny that break! The thing is, it’s not so much how used the break is, it’s what you do with it—what you’re going to do with the sample, how you’re gonna chop the sample up, if you’re gonna play some keys over it. It’s just a marriage. You can’t deny it. Every time I hear those open drums on the Bill Withers song I’m like, “Oh my God.”
How did you end up landing that beat on Kendrick’s album?
Like: Kendrick is a good friend of ours, and we were on tour with Mac Miller last Thanksgiving, and I made that beat on Thanksgiving night. And I sent it to him, just because I send him beats normally, and he hit me up that same night like, “You don’t understand, man. I got the room with the lights down and the candles goin’ and I’m creatin’ right now.” Then he called me again, like, “Dude—give me the stems for that and like three other joints.” So I sent him a batch of records and he recorded like four or five of them and that one ended up making the album. I didn’t know the album was going to be as big as it is—you know? It outsold Ross the first week. I’m glad to be a part of it.
So he was returning the favor by spitting a verse on “Crosstrainers” with Blu from your new album?
Like: He’s been working with us, we’ve been doing shows together, for years now, before any of the buzz. He was actually opening for us; him, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy [Q]—all those dudes. We’ve done many shows with those guys, so when we see them its all love. Originally, we wanted to have Blu, Kendrick, and Dom on the song. We didn’t get to Dom in time, so we ended up just having Blu and Kendrick on it. We kind of just figured it would be the crème de la crème of this rap shit on the West for this generation. You know, Kendrick, Dom, ourselves, Blu—in my opinion, those are some of the premier spitters.
NEXT UP: PAC DIV TALKS COLLABOS WITH MAC MILLER AND KURUPT