One can’t talk about the height of blog era raps and Los Angeles’ growing alternative Hip Hop scene without mentioning Pac Div. BeYoung, Like and Mibbs proved the Internet offered unlimited possibilities since they released their debut mixtape, Sealed for Freshness: The Blend Tape way back in 2006. The Cali trio toured the world, gained a significant fanbase and made some heavy collaborations without mainstream even knowing it. Though they signed an eventual deal with Motown, the group found themselves indie again and dropped their 2011 full-length debut album The DiV, once again pleaseing their fanbase.
After rolling out their follow-up GMB a year later, they all went in interesting directions despite remaining a group.
Like started earning himself some serious producer credit with Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak among others. That doesn’t even count the fairly dopebeat tape releases. He even took a while preparing his own solo debut Songs Made While High during an extended DJ residency in Ethiopia, which was unleashed today (September 30). The project produced entirely by Like also features guest appearances from Paak and Kali Uchis.
Getting time with Like at his studio in Los Angeles’ Westwood district, nostalgia was at an all time high. A small tube television with a built-in VCR centers a mix of vinyls, VHS tapes, 8-bit Nintendo, original Playstation as he works on his fairly intricate studio setup.
Clearly, he’s is at home by just creating.
Speaking with HipHopDX, Like explains producing the “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” track for Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city album and other notable beats, Pac Div’s success and making Songs Made While High.
Like Envisioned Using The “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst” Beat For Himself Before Passing It To Kendrick Lamar
HipHopDX: Not only is Pac Div coming out with a project at the top of next year, but you just released your debut solo project today.
Like: It’s a nervous feeling because I’ve never put out music without the rest of the group besides a couple of beat projects. I’m rapping, singing and making beats. This album is one of those albums that I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. I just got the confidence to put it out because I was going to let it sit. I had to tell myself that I was making the music and not hold onto things so much. Just put it out and make more. That’s what this album is. I smoked a lot of weed, traveled a lot and got a lot of inspiration from life experiences.
DX: Between the last Pac Div project and now, you’ve been getting it in on the production tip. The first major placement you got was on Kendrick’s Good Kid,M.A.A.D City debut through “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.”
Like: That record was made when we were on tour with Mac Miller sometime in 2011. It was on his Blue Slide Park tour. It was Thanksgiving I remember making that beat because my homie took a picture while I was making it. One of my dreads was standing up like an antenna. I made that beat and I emailed it to Kendrick and he hit me within two hours like, “man this is crazy I’m writing right now in a room full of candles.” I didn’t think anything of it. At that time, he didn’t even drop good kid, m.A.A.d city and Section.80 was still circulating. He’s the homie and I was like cool cause I was going to use it for myself. I just thought who fit the sound aesthetic and Kendrick popped in my head. I knew he would appreciate this type of shit so I sent it to him. Some months later or even a year later, I got hit with the lawyers about paperwork. They wanted to go through with the track and I was like cool. I still didn’t think the album was going to do what it did. It ended up making noise.
DX: Did you expect for him to do the more surprising moments with the verses to your beat?
Like:Naw, I didn’t know he was going to do that. It came out cool. What I envisioned? I don’t know how I would have rapped on that. I probably would have done something different, but his concept worked for him and that was cool.
Like: That’s a special album because we grew up with Blu in Long Beach before Below the Heavens came out. We were all cramming studio time in the homie’s garage working on music. I met Blu through my best friend GB who was an artist at the time was signed to Sound In Color. That whole thing came about because Blu had reached out about hopping on a record. He said he was doing an album with Madlib and I said, “Oh shit that’s ill.” I’d known MED before too. I started my verse right away. I don’t think Phonte had a verse on there yet. It was just MED and me. Then, Blu and Phonte dropped their verse. That was an all-star line-up on that project. You got Anderson, MF Doom, Aloe Blacc, Hodgy Beats and a host of others. That one with Jimetta Rose is really tight.
DX: Yeah man, “Burgundy Whip” is a banger.
Like: As you can see on the wall, the record has some wear on it because I’ve been playing that record a lot. I still want to hang it up because I want to do that with all the records I’m on. It’s tight because my album is coming out on vinyl too. It’s actually shipping now from Germany and coming next week. I’m doing a little release party soon as well.
Like:Malibu is another one, man. He played drums for us during our live shows. We always had developed a friendship. He would send me his albums and songs all the time in email. Sometimes, he’d get lost in the emails. I’m not going to lie. There was a couple of times I heard some shit and I was like, “oh my God, this guy is amazing.” I started sending him beats through email. We just sent stuff back and forth and he ended up recording to that I made. The beat was named “Light Work” and he ended up recording “Room in Here” to it. He sang the same kind of melody with the piano. I thought that was really dope. That’s another thing. I didn’t think the album would launch the way it did. Malibu is still taking off. It’s still being discovered by people.
“I feel like it’s something divine that’s guiding me because to be a part of these celebrated projects and then being in such a legendary group like Pac Div lets me know I’m in the right space.”
DX: How have you taken everything you’ve done with Pac Div and placements into your first solo project?
Like: It’s called Songs Made While High. Dude, I’m just taking it all in. I feel like it’s something divine that’s guiding me because to be a part of these celebrated projects and then being in such a legendary group like Pac Div lets me know I’m in the right space. I’m in the right space mentally and creatively. It’s a blessing, but I want to keep getting better and progressing. Hopefully, my album does just that. If not, I’ll just make more. It also shows me, I’m like minded with other prominent contemporary artists right now. So, be it Anderson, Kendrick and even being on Joey Bada$$’s next project. I did a joint with Damian Lillard who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. He has a dope album coming out and has some ill production. I laced him with a dope beat. I’m working with Chaz French. I got a project I’m doing with Iman Omari. Then, I have some local homies I’m curating for too. I’m still sending music over to Anderson as well. All of this happened organically. I have relationships with these guys.
DX: You guys were once signed to Motown too and experienced life within the machine.
Like: Right, we do. We got the real inside scoop on all that when we were signed. We were independent first and then we signed to Motown and went back independent. Therefore, we met a lot of people and seen a lot of how the game works from all aspects being marketing or branding. To be honest with you, I wanted to step away from all of that. Music, I couldn’t escape that though. Whether it was BS business or the industry stuff that I wasn’t into, the music kept me grounded. That’s why I would go directly to artist. I would make music and not deal with all the hoopla. I was like, “here Kendrick or Breezy, hopefully you like this.” They already fucked with our music and legacy.
DX: I remember Pac Div as like a part of the new wave of alternative acts from the West Coast in the mid to late 2000s.
Like: Yeah man, Dom Kennedy, Iman Omari, U-N-I and a whole lot. That’s just L.A. Dude, even in Chicago, I remember a young Vic Mensa coming up to me. I don’t think he was even 18 yet. He just wanted to express his gratitude to Pac Div. Chance The Rapper and his little brother. In New York, we had artists that were rocking with us and Joey Bada$$ was one. Even Mac Miller, he wasn’t even 18 or 21 when he snuck in a performance in Pittsburg. Like who is this little white kid. He had like maybe 20 or so thousand Twitter followers and boom, he blew up. I saw it coming because he played me his video and I thought he was mad tight. He was mad young. Odd Future, Tyler and Earl, everytime they see us, they big us up and show respect. We don’t worry about that type of stuff. We just keep pushing because we love music.
DX: I see you guys everywhere around LA. What even keeps you out here considering there’s a whole bunch of outer towners making their way into the city?
Like: Everything happens in cycles and waves. I just try to continue to do my part and do what I can. If I concentrate on what other people are doing, I’ll never get shit done. Let me just leave my mark and just be inspired by that. It’s ever changing. There’s always going to be a new layer, people and trends. I just try to stay grounded in what I do.
A Large Chunk Of Songs Made While High Debut Was Made In Ethiopia
DX: A bulk of Songs Made While High was made while in Ethiopia.
Like: I did most of the album in Ethiopia. I was originally out there deejaying for this nightclub three nights a week. My cousin’s baby mother put me on. She’s Ethiopian and had family out there. She set it up. I went out there, brought my equipment, set up shop and recorded. I didn’t know anybody out there and at the time, it was summer here and winter there. They have a different calendar there too. I forgot the name of the calendar, but it’s a whole different year out there. It was a learning experience from the jump. There were power outages every day. It was a real third-world country. Stray dogs, no street lights, dirt roads, leopards, hyenas and people riding bikes without helmets. Beautiful people though and there weren’t any violence or crimes like that. I didn’t see a bunch of cops rolling around. The men would hold each other’s hands and they weren’t gay. It was all love. It was love and a whole country of black people getting along. It was all inspiration. It let me know there’s hope. I was out there and got a hold of some good marijuana.
DX: What’s that Ethiopian weed like?
Like: Man, it looks like some weak weed, but once you light it up, it’s pretty good. They give you a lot for a little too. This one guy was staying with us from Australia and he didn’t necessarily like it too much. There aren’t many options like there are out here. It was potent enough for me to get my ideas off.
DX: Did you notice anything in regards to how people receive Hip Hop out there?
Like: They didn’t grasp Hip Hop out there unless it was Top 40. They like Dancehall and Caribbean sounds. They like a lot of EDM which was a shocker to me because that was the last thing I thought they would get down with. They loved it and I’m talking about the Las Vegas type of EDM. They like mega-stars like Rihanna and Justin Bieber. They went through a huge dictatorship in the late 70s till early 90s. They were even allowed to have music imported there so they missed a lot of that era. Plus, they didn’t have a lot of record stores out there, but they’re really big on acoustic sounds. It’s the motherland, so they have percussions, flutes and all of that. Their native music was interesting.
DX: What’s that like to come back to America from that experience and witness everything that’s happening here culturally from police brutality to the upcoming election?
Like: I got to see America from an outside perspective. When I was out there, I saw my objective viewpoint from a different side of media. Not Western media, but Eastern media. So, I got to see what their perspective of America was. At the time, there was a lot of stuff going on. I think globally, there’s a shift happening. With the police brutality and things that are going in our country right now, I think it’s necessary for a revolution or evolution to happen. These things and issues need to come out and be addressed. We need to see who the real enemies are so when they show their hands, we know that there needs to be some change. We know it’s not going to happen if they don’t stay quiet. This is an important time.
Coming back home, I was able to work a lot faster than I realized. I was about seventy percent done. It was cool, because I had nothing but time to work on music. I mixed the album myself too. I produced and mixed everything. I wanted to make sure it’s right.
DX: How is this leading into the next Div project?
Like: We’re going to just flood the gates. This is a different type of age where content is rapidly. It hasn’t changed much. It was happening then back in the day. It was more concentrated blogs and now, you can bypass blogs and go directly to artists. Soundcloud wasn’t that big then. There wasn’t a website concentrating just on music. MySpace had the little window and stuff. Everybody’s formula is different. Today’s age, it’s not so much about the content, but the quality as well. It’s about both. We figured, why not give them content as opposed to holding on to music. We’ll give it to them more consistently. We want to make sure we’re consistent with releasing music. We have the talent and we’ve already given people so much music before. We just took a little break in between. We never broke up. We just took the time to grow as individuals and get experiences. Sometimes, it takes a couple of years. Sometimes, it takes more. We don’t force it. Everything is always organic with us. If we’re not feeling it, we’re not going to do it.
DX: Must feel good to be in the position of just making music when you want.
Like: That’s the great thing about not being bound to a contract. We don’t feel that pressure. When we were signed to a major, it was unwanted pressure. It was things that didn’t feel organic. It wasn’t as organic as being our own bosses. This time gives us the freedom to think with clarity, make moves with clarity and enjoy what we do.