A handful of albums over the years have made you want to upgrade your speaker system. It might have been Dr. Dre’s 2001, Non Phixion’s The Future Is Now, or the criminally overlooked Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde from The Pharcyde. And now Pac Div, with their sophomore release GMB, will have you scouring the interweb for an uptick in bass. As BeYoung told 90.5FM KSJS during an interview, “Everybody gonna need some new speakers. . .on this one.”
The West Coast rap trio, consisting of members Like, Mibbs, and BeYoung, take their cue from the hip-hop that has come before them. Their influences include EPMD, Onyx, Wu-Tang, and the already-mentioned The Pharcyde. Though, for anyone with a hip-hop encyclopedia handy, they most resemble De La Soul on Stakes Is High (1996), as both groups found themselves searching for a different sound, and came out on the other side with a plate of sonic variety. Pac Div also takes the name for GMB from its members’ real names (Gabe, Mike & Brian)―a perfect reflection of the bond that has kept them together since high school.
That bond is no more apparent than on “Cross-Trainers,” where they, along with star subs Blu and Kendrick Lamar, proclaim their hate for emcees that are “as soft as mom’s lingerie,” as well as their love for cash. As Like raps after an orchestra intro, “Don’t talk to me if money ain’t the subject.” Instead of batons, all five emcees pass off the mic with increasing dexterity and devotion to hip-hop amenities (cash, clothes, and girls from casting calls), until arriving at an introspective K-Dot who drops rhymes with Sierra Leone shine: “And I’m watching the critic critique/ When I’m climbing the valleys and peaks/ And aligning myself/ While I’m riding Orion’s Belt.” As Mibbs stated during the same interview with 90.5FM KSJS, “You need to have a purpose [in hip-hop].”
Pac Div was hoping to achieve a harder sound with GMB, and when it comes to the tongue-in-cheek “Bank,” “Sneakerboxes,” which features Chip Gnarly & Big Silk, and “Debo,” they certainly get there. But it is when they take a more casual approach to their sound, as on “Slow,” which sounds like a club anthem lost at a children’s party, or the aimlessly catchy “Can’t Help It,” that they reach heights only attained by Superman. On “No Superman,” they joke that they get confused for a member of Da Bush Babees, which might not be too far off considering how much “It’s All Love,” seems like a Native Tongues throwback. It also might be one of the strongest tracks of 2012.
At 17-strong, and with limitless cross-over appeal, Pac Div will still get hip-hop fans across the hip-hop spectrum to “want that GMB.” —Bogar Alonso (@blacktiles)