California hip-hop group Pac Div (short for Pacific Division) is a group that’s always eager to get their stuff out there. And if you get in the way of letting them get their stuff out there, you’re going to suffer the consequences.
That’s what Universal Motown discovered when the label signed the Palmdale-bred, Los Angeles-based trio – Brian “Be Young” Young, 28, and brothers Gabe “Like” Stevenson, 27, and Mike “Mibbs” Stevenson, 29 – in 2008. Despite the fact that they released several mixtapes during their time at the label, they never dropped the full-length debut that was supposed to take them to the next level.
“We were just on the label for three years wondering like, ‘OK, man, are we gonna put out an album or what?’ ” says Mibbs, on the phone from Detroit. “I mean, we were making jams. Like, we had mixtapes out and everything.”
In October of 2011, the boys asked to be let go from the label. A month later, they finally dropped their debut album, “The Div” on RBC Records, the same label that also released their recent follow-up, 2012’s “GMB.”
The guys insist they don’t have any residual bad feelings toward their former, major-label home.
“It was just like, ‘OK, you guys oughta do something with us or y’all just let us go and we’ll figure it out ourselves.’ So that’s what pretty much happened. It was no bad blood.”
From the way Mibbs tells it, Pac Div feels they need to use their time bettering themselves as artists, continuing to release distinctive hip-hop that’s filled with inventive, bounce-heavy beats and urban yet urbane rhymes, rather than holding on to bitter, petty beefs.
“Any career that you choose to be in, you go through cycles in your career,” he says.
“You always want to be better every year and you always want to come with more every year. And you always want to have more for what you do. I mean, we put in a lot of work. So you know, of course, we expect a lot of those things – not in the sense that we’re searching for that stuff, but we expect a lot of stuff. I mean, it’s like LeBron – when he plays, he wants rings. He don’t wanna just play!”
Even when Pac Div started more than a decade ago in high school, back when they were 11 members strong, they knew they had to cut down on personnel to be fully accepted by the industry.
“It’s definitely easier for people to digest, you know,” says Mibbs. “Unfortunately, nowadays, people’s attention spans are very short. So, you know, there is definitely a lot for people to digest. People are still digesting the fact that it’s three members.”
Thankfully, Pac Div is now releasing albums and touring when the Golden State is getting a hip-hop resurgence, thanks mostly to heavily hyped, Compton-born MC Kendrick Lamar (who appears on a track on “GMB”) and his acclaimed album from last year, “good kid, m.A.A.d city.”
“I mean, California – we’ve been doing it for a long time,” says Mibbs. “The rappers that are getting the recognition, including ourselves, it’s only right. Because it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of hours and a lot of, like, building and building relationships that came into it all. So, yeah, man – California is at a point where it’s happening and it’s gonna stay there for a while.”
Pac Div is certainly making some noteworthy moves in the hip-hop world. They’re the latest rappers to appear in an ad campaign for clothing label LRG. (Previous hip-hoppers who have modeled LRG clothing include Wale and Durham’s own 9th Wonder.)
“We’ve been in contact with LRG a lot over the years,” says Mibbs. “They always reached out and they’re very supportive, not to mention, even back in the day when they were just first getting started, we were some of the only cats who were up on them at the time, probably like 2002 and early, early days like that. So, it’s just kinda cool to see it come full circle.”
Mibbs will also be doing a side-project EP with producer Scoop DeVille, who produced a couple of tracks on “GMB,” called “Freebass.”
“It’s real bassy,” says Mibbs. “It’s 808. I just do whatever the bass tells me to do in the song pretty much. That’s it.”
The bottom line is, Pac Div will always continue to do what they do. Says Mibbs, “That’s the one thing we harp on, a matter of fact – we’re just doing us and making sure that is what we do.”