There’s commercial rap, then there’s rap commercials. Case in point, the teenage Bay Area rap group the Pack’s underground hit “Vans.” From San Diego to the Bay, everyone is singing the song that celebrates the legendary skate shoe: “Got my Vans on, but they look like sneakers/You wearin’ coke whites, ’cause my Vans look clean.”
When the record first started spinning on Cali radio, most people wrote it off as a gimmick, but for the group, the lo-fi banger was their golden ticket. The four young’ns—Lloyd “Young L” Omadhebo, 18, Keith “Stunna” Jenkins, 18, DaMonte “Uno” Johnson, 16, and Brandon “Lil B” McCartney, 16—came together in high school through their common love of music and skateboarding. They released Wolfpack Muzik Vol. 1 in 2005 and Vol. 2 last March, but some hyphy fans felt the Berkeley, Calif., skate crew was just a novelty. “I was born in the hyphy era, so why can’t we help lead the movement?” asks Uno.
Regardless of the haters, the Pack was able to impress one legendary rapper from the Town. Too $hort, who went on a Bay-wide hunt to find the group after hearing one of his partners bumpin’ their music, signed the Pack to his Jive-distributed label, Up All Nite Music, this past June. “These kids grew up on people like Mac Dre and Keak Da Sneak,” says $hort. “So if anyone knows how to get hyphy, it’s them.”
Now with $hort Dog in their corner, the Pack is ready to prove they’re no soft-shoe act. “We didn’t get signed because of ‘Vans,’” says Young L, who also serves as the Pack’s resident producer. “That contributed to it, but we got over 100 songs that we’ve done in the past year. At least half of them slap on the level that you would be like, Them cats go!”
The Pack’s major-label debut, Vans, which should drop later this year, will further prove their hyphy/skateboard mash-up is not just a clever marketing ploy. “It’s not like we’re just some straight skaters out of the suburbs or something,” says Young L. “We go dumb just as hard as anyone else from the turf.” Yaddamean.