In line with their church-themed releases over the last decade, Southern California’s Pac Div is a holy trinity for colorful, relatable Hip-Hop. Since the mid-2000s, group founders Like, Mibbs, and BeYoung are pioneers to a movement that has since of Hip-Hop passion, accented by storytelling, in a quest for good times, girls, and gear. Five years removed from sophomore album, GMB, the trio reforms like Voltron to own their contributions and give music fans some daily bread with First Baptist.
“It just feels like thee most Pac Div record,” says Mibbs of the 2017 third album, following the time away. “It’s that raw energy from the beginning. It’s like the Gospel.” Like and BeYoung seem to agree that First Baptist is a return to the beginning, of a brotherly bond, a genuine love of the art, and a brand of energetic music that only the Southern California representatives can claim.
Once known as Pacific Division, the trio of brothers (Like and Mibbs) with friend (BeYoung) formed in high school. In addition to street wear and basketball, the multi-talented artists basked in beats and rhymes. The Div’s 2006 Sealed For Freshness (Blend Tape) became a cult classic, making its way across the coasts and beyond, and aligning the teens with a style of Greater L.A. Hip-Hop calling back to The Pharcyde and Freestyle Fellowship.
At the time, Gangster Rap and Trap reigned in the mainstream consciousness. Not an easy road, Pac Div stood out by being themselves. “We’re young Black males who make rap. That’s not new. But we’re here to give you a different perspective about loving Hip-Hop. That’s what First Baptist really gets at too,” admits Mibbs. “Kanye kind of gave us some hope that people could look at rappers as more than just thugs, with stories to tell. We took that and wanted to expose the world to street wear, and put it all in the music.”
It worked. From the streets to the blogs to the magazine rack to support from Questlove and Snoop Dogg, all took notice, as did the labels. Signed to Universal Motown in the late 2000s, Pac Div supplied the masses regularly with widely circulated mixtapes ahead of their 2011 debut, The DiV. Followed by 2012’s GMB, Pac Div created springboard space for peers ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Ty Dolla $ign. “In 2006 to 2011, a lot the stuff that we was rapping about and a lot of the guys we was bigging up and giving props to, they’re all poppin’ now. If nothing else, we know we have extraordinary taste,” says Be. “We were too early in a lot of ways, but timing is right at this moment.”
After the major label tenure, the two albums were welcomed on the charts. After early concerts and legs with Nas, Ludacris, Q-Tip, and others, Pac Div mapped their own domestic tour and took the album named after their combined initials on the road. After performing before thousands of delighted fans, Pac Div went offseason to focus on solo endeavors. For Like, that has included production placements on Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city (“Sing About Me”), as well as for Anderson .Paak, Curren$y, and Joey Bada$$. Mibbs would release Free Base projects with hit-maker Scoop Deville. BeYoung also pursued his own mixtape and feature work. The Div stayed busy, but never forgot their roots. The love never was in question. “Before the music even mattered, we was boys—crackin’ jokes, hoopin’, goin’ over to each other’s houses,” says BeYoung. “We know our parents, grandparents, and families. I don’t even want this if I can’t have success with my brothers.” Mibbs adds, “Taking that hiatus was definitely for personal growth.”
However, with that said, First Baptist aims to put Pac at the top of the division. “It’s about keeping the legacy and tradition alive. When people think of Pac Div, I want them to think of the raps and so much more,” says Like, referring to the sound he’s created as well as longtime producer affiliate Swiff D. DJ Dahi and new protege Huss join Like and Swiff in making this album rooted in tradition, with enhancements. The group focuses within vocally, celebrating themselves instead of just listing off features. “It’s like we never left. This is a blessing,” the multi-threat formerly known as Likewise says.
First single “Stoked” is a clear reminder to what Pac Div is all about. Mibbs set the video look off with his catchy chorus, while Like supplied the beat. He details,“It’s high energy. It’s like that original Div feeling when we came through with The Blend Tape and ‘Act Like U Chillin’,’ and so many records after that.” BeYoung compares the new music to original recipe, giving the masses the home-cooking they’ve missed for half a decade.