by Omar Mazariego
Back in the early 90’s the god Grand Puba had a record called “360 Degrees” that was so off the hook and murda, if you looked in the mirror and said “Candyman” 5 times this record would start playing (I just went over the heads of a bunch of teenagers and I’m proud of it). The chorus to the joint was simple, catchy and honest: “What goes around comes back around again (Alamo is ya wit meee!?).” Can’t argue with that, right? Well, at the time Grand Puba was the man, but the west coast was on the rise and about to take a chokehold on the game in a way that had never been done before. From the early to mid 90’s Southern California began its reign on the game and churned out its share of classics, bangers and one-hit wonders. Since then the reign’s become regional and has moved from LA to NYC, ATL, Chicago, Houston, Naw’lins and most recently Miami. Basically if you see Fat Joe in someone’s video that means that man’s region is currently on top. Now me being who I am, I keep my ear to the concrete to get my fix of real hip-hop and at the same time to avoid the mainstream crap that’s floating in the airwaves. Recently I’ve been noticing that some of the dopest and most gully hip-hop music is coming from the Left Coast. From Jay Rock’s homicidal demeanor to Diz Gibran’s jewel droppin’ like Jacob steez, it seems more and more like the wessssiiiide is taking it back to the essence and coming full circle with some of the tightest and most original hip-hop music I’ve heard in a hot minute.
Part of the recent resurgence in the west should be credited to the three-man group, Pacific Division a.k.a. Pac Div. Lucky for heads like me, these talented basketball players decided to forgo a chance to play in the NBA to get on in the hip-hop game. And the results speak for itself. For the past few bullets these 3 MC’s; Like, Mibbs (they’re brothers) and their homie, BeYoung have been making nose in California and the result has been crazy love from fans, receiving respect and praise from their mainstream peers and ultimately a record deal with Universal Motown Records. Their conceptual music is reminiscent of a time long and gone when rappers were MC’s and MC’s were teachers. Ok, I might’ve got too deep with that, but y’all know what I’m trying to say. They’re latest mixtape, Church League Champions, is nothing less than a banger. Beats, rhymes, basketball and life is the basis and these Palmdale representatives know how to break down and build on each and every subject using diverse flows meshed with creative rhymes and lyrics. Recently I got a chance to throw a few quick questions their way and they reminded me of two very important things: 1. Entertainment groupies are way funner than Journalism groupies. And 2. Shaquille O’Neal is the greatest rapper of all-time…who came out the NBA.
SLAM: Before becoming MCs y’all were doing y’all thing on the court putting up decent numbers. Why take a gamble on a fickle music industry instead of going into a league where the average annual salary is $5 mil??
Like: Well flat out, I wasn’t tall enough for the League. I mean, with the exception of Muggsy Bogues, Nate Robinson, Spud Webb and Earl Boykins. I’m only 5-8 and I wasn’t dunking like that. Plus there’s mad politics in hoops—there’s politics in everything, but it was waaay too overwhelming in hoops and it kind of chased away my dreams.
Mibbs: There was a time in my senior year of high school, where I realized I wasn’t highly recruited and didn’t have any scholarship offers. I really took my time to think about my life and what I was going to do with it. I accepted the fact that hoops wasn’t going to pay my bills anytime soon so I let go of the idea of working to get to a super competitive league. The sport wasn’t my life completely.
BeYoung: If you not dunking from the free throw line basketball can be a gamble too. It’s 6-10 12 year olds now…I had to smarten up before I got my shot blocked!!!
Like: Both equally. I averaged about 20 in high school, and I usually write 24’s, so that should tell you what’s up.
Mibbs: Scoring 16 points comes more naturally than writing 16 bars for me. Most organized games are about 40 minutes and 16 points can easily be scored in 40 minutes whereas writing a dope verse is harder to do in that amount of time.
BeYoung: It can be the same thing. If the defense on the other team plays me in a zone I know my spots; may be some deep 3’s and jumpers. If a beat has a certain bop to it I know the spots to rhyme in and focus on the rhythm, roll my sleeves back a little bit.
SLAM: To me y’all music sounds more similar to old school east coast Tribe Called Quest type of hip-hop than your everyday west coast sound. What would you say your style of music is like?
Like: We definitely had an east coast influence, but also west coast. Doggpound was dope because Daz was so dope at being versatile. He made west coast and east coast sounding heat. Plus growing up, we listened to the Alcoholiks, Ras Kass, xzibit, Saafir, Pharcyde, Heiro, Living Legends, Dilated Peoples, etc… All those guys were west coast but had an east coast vibe to me. A “conscious” vibe ultimately.
Mibbs: I believe our music is a combination of what we love from every region and every era in hip-hop. Our rap styles and some beats may have a east coast native tongue feel to them because we were heavily influenced by those artists such as Tribe, Leaders, De La etc… I do believe that the west coast in us is easily heard, just from our accents, pronunciation and how we roll on the beat with our flow.
BeYoung: Our style is definitely unique to us 3 as individuals first and foremost, but you can definitely see the influence of those who influenced us and the ones we hold that admiration for like N.W.A,Tribe, Dogg Pound, Naughty By Nature, De La, Slum Village, you know, 2Pac, B.I.G. all those guys. It’s like how you may see some element of Magic and Jordan in LeBron, but you know LeBron is trying to bring his own new game.
SLAM: To me the New West sound in itself sounds like early to mid 90’s hip-hop. I’m loving it right now. From y’all to G. Malone, Jay Rock, Omar Cruz, Blu, Diz Gibran—everyone is rippin the mic in their own way with their own identity without dick riding the “formula.” Would you say that the west is leading the hip-hop Renaissance?
Like: Hell yeah, we are a big collective of a hip-hop renaissance. We just making dope music and ain’t thinking about a formula, especially no “industry formula.”
Mibbs: I would say yeah to that because there’s strength in numbers and there are a number of groups/rappers that are doing it right now.
BeYoung: I think you definitely would have to take note of what’s going on out here in the west, there are a lot of up and coming artist (as mentioned above) putting out good material and building a solid fan base. You will find a lot of these artists are a lot more musically diverse than you think also.
SLAM: What exactly is the New West sound to y’all?
Like: We don’t necessarily like the term “New West.” It puts a box on hip-hop by separating music as a whole. I think when people regionalize music, separating genres, it creates room for dissention. We are music.
Mibbs: The “New West” sound is the newcomers from the west who have been grinding and been putting out quality material. For a while Cali has been hibernating and emcees are developing their own sound. It’s a progressive sound.
BeYoung: What’s been dubbed as the new west sound is pretty much just artist not being afraid to express their music without any barriers, Anybody who’s willing to do there own thing right now embodies what you would call “New West”.
SLAM: Are hip-hop groupies better than basketball groupies or is it the other way around? Why?
Like: Basketball groupies are better to me because they are fucking with you without even knowing your personality. So you know they are straight to the point with it—haha.
Mibbs: I’d say that it’s pretty much the same, groupies are attracted to fame and power so it works both ways.
BeYoung: 10 times out of 9 they’re the same groupie!!!…It might just depend on who’s weave is tighter on the given occasion or who’s body is looking the most bubbly in that dress on that given night.
SLAM: Favorite rapper(s) in the game and why?? And y’all can’t say “me” or each other. No cheating.
Like: Common and Andre 3000 are my favorite rappers in the game. They brought another level of awareness to the game in my generation and their track records are solid to me.
Mibbs: Andre 3000, Scarface, Jay-Z, Kanye, Blu, Common, Cube and there’s more, I just can’t name them all.
BeYoung: I don’t have any favorites right now, there are a lot of artists putting out good music right now.
SLAM: When it’s all said and done what would you want people to remember y’all by?
Like: I want people to remember us by our honesty, and our enthusiasm to rap music. We love this art form and never want to see it diminish.
Mibbs: Making classic records and helping to make the world be a better place.
BeYoung: Honest and Original.
SLAM: Who’s better? LeBron or Kobe? And yes you have to factor in the fact that Kobe blew up Shaq’s spot during the police interrogation and LeBron had “The Dunk” tapes confiscated by Nike.
Like: Haha. Kobe is better than LeBron as of right now. Until LeBron wins, Kobe will be. I enjoy watching LeBron more though.
Mibbs: I think LeBron is a better player to start a franchise with but Kobe is a better closer.
BeYoung: At this point you would have to give it to Kobe because of his accomplishments thus far, but I also think LeBron may have a more “original” revolutionary game than Kobe does, LeBron has that Hulk strength and explosiveness.
SLAM: Which basketball player would you make a song with and why: Shaq, Kobe, Tony Parker or Ron Artest? I mean they’re all pretty much trash, but you have to pick one.
Like: I would do a song with Chris Webber, because he makes beats too, and he has good taste in hip hop. HAHAHA remember Cedric Ceballos video? Haha I would do one with him.
Mibbs: I’d do a song with Shaq, he’s the only one on that list with some hits. He made “I’m Outstanding”!!!
BeYoung: I mean they’re all pretty much trash, but you have to pick one. Shaq hands down, Shaq got on songs with B.I.G. and kept a decent flow, he use to have some ok beats too.
SLAM: Lastly, in y’all personal opinions, which break-up was the most devastating to hip-hop and why: N.W.A, EPMD, The Fugees, Death Row, Rocafella, or Dip Set?
Like: All of those breakups were bad, but The Fugees was the most confusing. I still don’t know what happened.
Mibbs: I think the Death Row split was the craziest because that label produced the some of the biggest names in rap history.
BeYoung: I think that definitely depends on where u grew up at mostly, Everybody around me was going wild when it was all the inner beefs with NWA and when Death Row started to fall apart.
Learn more about these guys at itspacdiv.com.