PackFM: What’s My Name?

G raffiti artists must be patient these days because law enforcement agencies are cracking down on the craft. Urban Van Goghs have to wait in the shadows until they have a chance to use city streets, buildings and trains as their canvas. The process is challenging but worthwhile once the artist’s creation is appreciated throughout […]

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raffiti artists must be patient these days because law enforcement agencies are cracking down on the craft. Urban Van Goghs have to wait in the shadows until they have a chance to use city streets, buildings and trains as their canvas. The process is challenging but worthwhile once the artist’s creation is appreciated throughout their city.

PackFM, an MC who has a long history with graffiti, has followed a similar path in music. The Brooklyn-bred lyricist has been a mainstay of the underground music scene since 1997, tagging his name on the music industry by releasing 12” singles, mixtapes, and EP’s. After nearly ten years of peppering listeners with limited releases, the all-city MC is now hoping to go all-world with whutduzFMstand4?, his debut album.

Throughout his career, PackFM has heard that dreaded question numerous times. The mysterious MC won’t answer it, but he will mention his accomplishments as a member of Extended-Famm, the underground group that made respectable waves with 2002’s Happy F**k You Songs. What does “FM” stand for? No comment. He would rather discuss “Click, Clack, Spray,” his aerosol opus to graffiti that is featured on the soundtrack to Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure video game.

The questions surrounding his name may fascinate listeners, but for many MC’s in the northeastern battle circuit, answering PackFM’s rhyming abilities was a more difficult puzzle to solve. He won the coveted Braggin’ Rites tournament and was the undefeated champion of the 88HipHop MC Battle for four consecutive months. But for all the notoriety he earned, Mr. “F**k You, I Rhyme Better” gained even more skepticism from Hip-Hoppers tired of battle kings who can’t apply their gift in the studio. People have been left saying, “He can battle, but can he write a song?” Yet another question for PackFM to answer. How did you end up on the video game, Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure?

PackFM: QN5 Records had a showcase and a representative from Bad Boy – Lindsay, who’s now my manager – was there. Puffy was doing the soundtrack to the game, so it just happened to be a big coincidence that for my album, I was doing a song about graffiti. They told me what they were looking for and my song fit perfectly, so when I finished the track, I gave it to them. Don’t you have a background in graffiti as well?

PackFM: I was doing graffiti before I was even rhyming. I was always tagging up and that’s where I got my name from. Pack was my tag and FM was my crew. Before I was even in high-school, I was going around writing on walls. I’m trying not to get arrested, so I do it very, very seldom now. A couple of times out on tour, I’ll have the spray-paint on me and hit up a few walls, so graffiti is still in me. What made MCing become the top priority?

PackFM: It was just something I was naturally good at. In high-school, everybody heard my rhymes and said, “Yo, this kid is nice.” It wasn’t something I was going to pursue seriously until I got to college. In my freshman year, I was doing a radio show and I met O-Asiatic. He saw potential and put me in a studio to do some songs. From that point on, I said that this is something I can really do. Let’s talk about the yearly “rap-ups” you did. Will you continue recording one now that Skillz is doing them again?

PackFM: It depends on what the demand for it is. When I did it the first time, he said that he wasn’t going to do it and I thought it would be something cool to try. He ended up doing his shortly after I did mine, and I think he took a little shot at me in his rhyme, but I didn’t really care. I heard again he wasn’t going to do it [the following year], and I started getting requests on my website to do it again. I really thought it would be corny to do the same thing again, especially when it’s something I didn’t even start, so I figured I’d do it the other way around [and record a 2006 preview]. Then, lo and behold, he records a “rap-up” again. It was his idea to start with, but sometimes you got to take ideas and flip ‘em. Wordsworth said on a QN5 podcast that you should write more about your personal life. Did you take his advice?

PackFM: Yeah, one of the songs that he said I should do [“Lessons”], I actually did it two weeks later. You talk about being a high-school dropout on that song. What was the reason you left school?

PackFM: I wasn’t learning s**t when I was in school. Only classes I would go to was my art class because I love to draw and paint. Sometimes, I would go back to class just to take the test – after missing two months straight – and I would pass with really high grades. I realized that being in school doesn’t make you smart. People have to actually teach you. The teachers when I was in high-school – and it’s probably the same today – don’t teach; they just tell you to memorize stuff to pass the test. I just got fed up with the bulls**t, dropped out, took my G.E.D. without studying, took the SAT, and I got high grades. I’m not saying people don’t need to be taught, but I personally didn’t need school. My learning process is different from people, so it was really a waste of my time to be sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher tell me something that he told me yesterday. Another interesting track is “N***a Pass.” Is that skit for entertainment or are you trying to convey something?

PackFM: That was definitely to convey a message. The reason I did that skit was because I heard a certain rapper using “n***a” in conversation. I was going to name the characters in the skit after him, but I decided to keep it peaceful. I just wanted to send a message to people that it’s not so simple that you think just because you’re down, you can talk a certain way. It’s really a cultural thing. If you are mad cool with your sister, you can be like, “That b*tch is crazy.” But if some dude walks up to your sister and says, “Oh, what’s up with that b*tch?” you’re going to punch him in the mouth, right? It’s the same concept with the word “n***a.” You’re not one of us so you can’t really understand why it’s cool for us to say that. Don’t think it’s something as simple as, “Oh, I know a lot of black people, so I can be down.” What drove you to make an entire song about what “FM” stands for?

PackFM: It was because people kept asking me and I was like, alright, I might as well make that my theme. I’ve had that title for my album almost ten years because that was the question people asked me the most. The nature behind the name is something that I’m not going to tell. I’ve always kept it very secretive so I’m going to make this the theme and let people know through music. Why not just say what it means and get it out of the way?

PackFM: Because people are paying attention. It keeps people interested. One thing that fans gravitate towards is some sort of mystery. If you look at a cat like Jay-Z, there’s so very little things that you know about this man. The mystery is a really big part of it because people don’t know a lot of his personal details. There are a lot of artists who are like that and it’s the mystery that brings people in. I just kept that mystery going. Do you ever feel like it kind of overshadows your music?

PackFM: Definitely, cause a lot of people don’t even talk about the music. They just make “FM” jokes or ask the question trying to be funny. But they eventually have to listen to the music, so I think the music speaks for itself. In this Hip-Hop culture, be it underground or mainstream, music is probably the last thing people do pay attention to, so you have to play that game. I’m all about the music and I put my heart and soul into it, but I know what the people want, so you have to give it to them. If they want to keep asking me that and that’s what’s fun for them, I’ll let them ask. You say the “we love the ‘90s, bring it back” thing is a gimmick, but to be fair, isn’t QN5’s “New Hip-Hop” slogan a gimmick too?

PackFM: I guess you could look at it like that but it’s not really a gimmick; it’s just what we do. A gimmick is something you want people to feed into. We want people to be able to vibe off of and build off of it. We don’t want it to be just our thing; we want everybody to be on some new Hip-Hop s**t. We’re not trying to say, “Oh, we’re so different, we’re the only ones doing it.” That’s just what we’re dedicated to doing ourselves. We hope other people will catch on to it as well. Battling helped build your reputation, so why did you stop?

PackFM: I just didn’t have my heart into it anymore. What keeps your hunger alive when you’re battling is you have something to prove. You want to let everybody in there know you’re the dopest in the room. But after a while, once you’ve proved that to everybody, you start losing the hunger and people start asking what else can you do? I found that I had something else to prove – I had to prove that I could make music as well and that I could make songs that were relevant to the world. I was in the studio concentrating on songs, not what I was going to say to the next man. I had to just break down and quit it cold turkey; [battling] is like a drug almost. Do you think whutduzFMstand4? will help shed the battle rapper image?

PackFM: I’m hoping so. I just want people to know the many different sides of what I am. If you listen to the album, there’s maybe three songs where I’m just kicking battle rhymes. There’s a whole lot more depth to me than just [saying] how dope I am. If people can take that away from it and learn more about me as an artist, that’s a wonderful thing. But sometimes people just don’t want to see it and I can’t change people’s mind. I can only hope people listen and change their own mind.