In the late aughts, the safe money was on L.A.-via-Palmdale trio Pac Div. They seemed poised to lead the burgeoning "New West" movement -- the pre-Odd Future crop of young rappers seeking to reclaim hip-hop for the Left Coast. They were the group everyone from industry suits to bloggers to party people could agree on.
In 2008, Universal Motown president Sylvia Rhone signed the act -- consisting of brothers Like and Mibbs and high school friend BeYoung -- to a roster that included Lil Wayne and Stevie Wonder. The next summer Pac Div released a slickly lyrical mixtape with beats for booming systems called Church League Champions, three tracks from which were in rotation on MTV Jams.
Their music glorified L.A.'s sun-toasted days and breezy, kush-clouded nights, with occasional bits of gritty realism. Their debut album, Grown Kid Syndrome, was scheduled to drop in the fall of 2009, and all systems seemed go.
"Pac Div's presence was incredible," Devi Dev, former on-air personality and promotions manager for KDAY, tells West Coast Sound via email.
But two years later, the work still hasn't surfaced. While they've since released other mixtapes and steadily toured, Pac Div's momentum has stalled. Recently, a picture making the rounds on Tumblr showed the boys burning a contract -- presumably theirs with Universal Motown.
"We've been off Universal for two or three months now; burning that contract was symbolic," Mibbs tells West Coast Sound in a phone interview. "Sylvia Rhone had faith in the group. But we just think she was gun-shy. They didn't think we had a No. 1-type record they could put their money on." (Rhone stepped down as president in May, dashing whatever hopes Pac Div still harbored.)
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"They weren't supported by their label the way they should have been during their peak," adds Devi Dev. The trio agreed, and so this summer their lawyer asked if they could be released.
But it's not all bad. The guys maintain their air of casual confidence, and they're clearly relieved not to have to worry about making big radio hits anymore. They've snagged an independent distribution deal with RBC, the same company that's pushed records by Tech N9ne and E-40, and are managed by Jason Geter, who co-founded T.I.'s label, Grand Hustle Records.
Though Grown Kid Syndrome seems unlikely to see the light of day (they "tore it apart"), Pac Div finally released their debut album, The DiV, today. And they're hard at work re-establishing that buzz they had a few years ago. "If people don't see you in a while, they're not gonna talk about you," Mibbs says.
Screw LL Cool J; Pac Div would love it if you called it a comeback.