(Left to right): Michael "Mibbs" Stevenson, Gabe "Like" Stevenson, and Bryan "BeYoung" Young
Today, Pac Div kicks off a nationwide tour alongside Asher Roth and Kid Cudi, which times nicely with the group's sizzling free mixtape titled Church League Champions (download it here), which dropped last week. The 13-track collection is inspired by (but not bitten from) boom-bap and the flavor of the Golden Era. The trio—which consists of Like, 26, BeYoung, 24, and Mibbs, 24—developed a fan base over the last few years with a slew of eye-catching videos ("FAT Boys '08"; "Women Problems") and head-nodding singles.
Pac Div stands out because it represents that perfect balance between so-called "hipster rap" and real rap—meaning, although they rock snapbacks and streetwear brands, the group still makes the kind of music that true hip-hop heads will appreciate. It offers the vibe that Souls of Mischief and Project Blowed used to put out—cool, Cali, fun lyrical raps. "Like anything, more quantity means less quality," BeYoung claims. "In the end of the day, good food takes longer to cook." While in NYC, Pac Div spoke with Complex about the new breed of West Coast rappers, their upcoming album, and several personal anecdotes (from break-ups to worst job experiences). Read on for the interview and check out their latest video along with key tracks off their new mixtape...
Interview by Jaeki Cho
Complex: You guys have been signed to Universal Motown since last June. What's the hold-up with the album?
BeYoung: Well, you got to gather your weapons before you rise to prominence. So we are building up this nuke we're about to let off.
Mibbs: It's like... you know in video games? Where you got that fireball that you've been charging up. That's how it feels.
Like: Yea, it's better to come out prepared than just, "Hey! I'm on a deal. Put me on now!"
Complex: So are you guys directly working with the label a lot?
Like: Well, for our mixtape Church League Champions we kind of took the in-house approach with most of the production from our producer Swiff D. We shot a couple videos with our own loot. Yea, but we've been keeping close contact with the label in terms of major releases. Coodie & Chike shot the "Mayor" video.
Complex: How did you guys get to work with DJ Khalil on the joint "Taste"?
Mibbs: He's been a personal friend of ours. We met him with our old management back in the day. And he was a fan of our shit before we even met him. So he gave us like one of the best batches of his beats. Like some of the stuff he sent over to 50 and stuff, some of the stuff they didn't use. That's how we got the "Taste" joint.
BeYoung: He's also like our advisor. Teaches us regarding beats. Whatever we need.
Complex: He's becoming one of the biggest producers in hip-hop right now.
Like: I don't really think he considers himself big yet. I don't even think he's big yet. That's what he's gifted to do. I'm sure he has goals of where he's trying to be at.
Complex: So who else is working with you guys for the debut album Grown Kids Syndrome?
Like: We got Pharrell coming up. We're going to spend a week with him in Miami. Hopefully, we knock out some records. We got some good concepts with them.
Mibbs: We're just trying to keep it in the family. I think Swiff D is one of the most talented producers among the young, up-and-coming producers.
BeYoung: On top of that, it's three of us anyways. So by the time, we get off on what we got to say on the record, we mostly covered the basis.
Complex: What's the concept of this mixtape Church League Champions? What stories are you guys focusing on?
Like: The theme of Church League Champions is from an underdog perspective. It's basically a basketball metaphor. Church league isn't the NBA; there are people who still love the sport pretty much. It's kind of like saying, "If you got the love for something you do, never feel afraid to start from the beginning." A lot of people overlook church league ballers [laughs]. Just like a lot of people overlooked us in our time. And they're going to regret it because we got a lot of hidden jewels, man.
Like: We've never been the types to really exploit ourselves. Like, "Hey! We're Pac Div! We're this, we're that!" Just let the music speak.
Complex: So you guys are against overly exposing yourselves. Like dropping a mixtape every other week...
Like: That'll come and bite you in the ass!
Complex: Right, Charles Hamilton has been kind of known for doing that. He's been caught up with a lot of controversy lately.
Like: [Looks at Mibbs] Watch out.
Complex: This dude...
Like: Because we know cats be slick with these interviews, man!
Complex: I'm just saying, do you think that because of his overexposure it hurt him, basically?
BeYoung: I guess for different rappers, it depends. And that's his approach, and that's fine. Different folks, different strokes. As far as us, we don't even like to be in front of people's faces, and try to force people, or shove people with something down their throat.
Mibbs: That's just the L.A. mentality, man. We just put it out there. Ya'll just take it for what it is [laughs].
Like: It shouldn't be like taking cough syrup. The human ear isn't as dumb as people think. For example, Salvatore Ferragamo doesn't have to do advertisement or commercial to sell their shit. And that's what make the brand stay longer, and last longer.
BeYoung: We're trendsetters, not trend sweaters.
Complex: You guys apparently met through basketball teams?
Mibbs: This is my brother [points at Like], so we met BeYoung through hooping in high school. And we had to check his temperature on the music, and once you link on the same kind of interest on music, and sports? It's just like a no-brainer, you just got to hang out.
Complex: Pac Div had great visuals even before a major deal. From videos to brands of clothes you guys are rocking...
Like: The cool thing about The Hundreds, Diamonds, Huf, and Black Scale---they make sure to keep it very personal. They go out to the same events we go out to. It's not just, "You guys are signed? Here, wear our shirts."
BeYoung: Like we know Ben and Bobby from Hundreds pretty well. But we don't come out with our hands out like, "Please, can I have some clothes." If they say, "Come by. You guys got something coming up?" And they'll hook us up. Nobody is trying to use nobody.
Complex: Now I got to flip it though. What's the most embarrassing piece of clothing you've worn?
Like: When you look back three or four years after you wore some shit you'll be like, "What the hell was I doing?" Sizes of shits were bigger.
Mibbs: When I was 11, I had a pair of Paco jeans [laughs]. Those were bad.
BeYoung: [Laughs.] I had a Dada shirt somebody gave me.
(Left to right): BeYoung, Like, and Mibbs
Complex: You guys never wore anything that you guys got clowned on? Like plaid suits or something?
Like: Oh, maybe at a job interview.
Mibbs: [Laughs.] Niggas had loafers and corduroy pants.
BeYoung: You know those pants swinging too much in the bottom? Looking like Magic Johnson or Steve Harvey pants.
Complex: I saw the video for "FAT Boys '08." You guys are sneakerheads?
Mibbs: I think it's in every young male's nature. It's not a big deal. I just think for people to jump on the whole bandwagon is just...
Like: I don't even think is hopping the bandwagon. Sneakers have always been cool. Nike existed before we were born.
Complex: Then what's your favorite sneaker of all time?
BeYoung: The Jordan IIIs and the XIs.
Like: Yea, the XIs. I'll love to play basketball in the XIs.
Mibbs: The XIs, and the high-top all-black Air Force with the gum bottoms.
Like: But it seems like the designs were better in the '80s and early '90s though. I feel like after he retired, [Jordan brand] just got lazy.
Mibbs: Even Jordan's son. We met him, and he was like, "Man, I don't know what they be doing with these shoes."
BeYoung: They started putting out too much work and they weren't good quality.
Complex: You guys are often categorized with Blu. Can you expand on that relationship?
Like: Blu is a very good friend of ours. He was introduced to us through a mutual best friend of mine. We were always fans of each other's music, so we're like brothers from another.
BeYoung: What's crazy is not until a year ago I didn't know that he was my cousin. I already knew him for about four or five years now. Our parents were talking, and they found out that we were actually cousins after all this time.
Complex: He just got signed to Warner Music Group right? That's great how you guys all got deals at similar times.
Like: Yea, man. Lakers won.
BeYoung: All the energy is in the city, man.
Mibbs: Nipsey Hussle is on the rise. He's a homie too. Dom Kennedy...
Like: I mean it's just a lot of positive things going on in L.A. Like how the south made that movement go, that's what is happening in the west.
BeYoung: There's no separation, there's no box. It ain't put them in a gangsta box. Put us in a hipster box.
Like: Yea, we're not advocates of any forms of segregation. I hate to even call rap, rap. I just like to call it music.
Complex: How'd you guys ended up in the same tour with Asher and Cudi?
Like: [Chuckles] Universal. Shout out to the label! They had their advantages.
Complex: What you guys are bringing to the table is very different from the current trends. Even in comparison to some of your label mates.
BeYoung: It kind of feels like Hov [helped us out] with "Death of Auto-tune." I mean I ain't got no problem with people eating off auto-tune, but that's not what we do. What Jay-Z did was just like, "Man, is this nigga trying to help us out?" [Laughs.]
Like: Yea, he just gave us one of those no look help. We're going to catch "[D.O.A]" and windmill that shit.
Complex: You guys are very open about your relationships in your songs. What's the worst break-up you've ever had?
Mibbs: My only break up was with my ex-girlfriend. It was bad because she put the pressure on me, man. She watched a lot of those newlywed shows. It was around the time Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey was together and shit. So she was seeing all the nice things he was doing for her like, I was like "Girl! I'm still living with my parents."
BeYoung: Me, due to circumstances, I ain't really allowed myself to get into a relationship. I'm straight up like, "I'm going to put you through more shit than you're going through. So if you're still around, you're supposed to be with me." Unfortunately, nobody made it that far yet.
Like: I had a couple bad ones [laughs]. The worst one was when I caught this girl at Six Flags Magic Mountain with another dude.
Mibbs: I was there! [Laughs.]
Like: [Laughs.] He was telling me like, "Yo, chill." So I was like, "Whatever. I ain't tripping." But the inner me was like, "Go over there, and start some shit!" So I turned right around, I damn near got kicked out of Magic Mountain.
Mibbs: He was bagging at her shoes like, "Why you wearing Converse!" [Laughs.]
Like: I couldn't eat for like two weeks. It's funny though, people are trying to get back in your life now that things started to pop off.
BeYoung: Yea, girls are slick, man. We got to watch out because they can break you down, man. They'll leave you one sock. Like she would be cute back then, now she looks like a turkey. I see a lot of girls from my past, and I'm just like, "Man, you looked good, but now you look like a walrus right now."
Complex: What were the worst jobs you guys had before the deal?
Like: I worked at a supermarket. The first day I wore church shoes with slacks. It was just a rough day, man. After taking out the trash, and putting boxes together, this whole pile of mayonnaise just spilled, and my whole wardrobe was covered in mayonnaise for the whole day. It was just a culmination of bad things that day, and then I got fired.
Mibbs: I worked at some delivering job where we put together vitamin boxes. It was minimum wage, and I had to wake up six in the morning to ship out boxes of vitamins to different parts of the country.
BeYoung: My worst one was working at a Telecommunications Company selling Nextel accessories. Not even the phones. Terrible.
Complex: [Laughs] I heard you guys worked at an insurance company while doing music?
Like: It was actually an insurance consulting firm. So we didn't actually sell insurance, but we sold insurance filing to competitive insurance companies.
Mibbs: So we played the middleman between State Farm, and Allstate. I don't know how they made a business out of it, but we were getting paid.
BeYoung: Paid very nicely.
Mibbs: We were there for like two years. Came in late everyday, dressing like this.
Like: We were good workers, but I remember last year when we first came here to this office, we were still working at that job. They were just like, "Man, don't even come back!"
VIDEO: Pac Div, "Mayor"