Not many rap groups sign a major-label deal while still in high school, but then, The Pack is unlike most crews. Their story unfolds like a fairy tale: childhood friends Lloyd "Young L" Omadhebo and Keith "Stunnaman" Jenkins were high school kids into hip-hop but also part of Berkeley, California's skater scene; joined by Damonte "Uno" Johnson and Brandon "Lil B" McCartney, they formed the Wolfpack, deriving the name from a Dipset lyric, but soon shortening it to The Pack, to avoid copyright conflicts with various organizations. With Young L producing all their music, The Pack evolved their own sound in the midst of the hyphy era, taking its uptempo grooves and techno-influenced texture to new extremes, while building their Berkeley fanbase.
"Being in Berkeley was a big part of that," Stunna says, "being around so many diverse things, real eclectic sounds. We always tried to do things we thought was ill."
"People were talking shit about us for wearing Vans," he continues, "but that was because me and L skate."
The group's response began as a joke; over an unforgettable sliding bassline and minimalist snare, The Pack laid down an ode to their footwear that instantly caught on in Berkeley in early 2006, through mixtapes and cd singles, and eventually clubs. "Vans" grew so popular, the godfather of Bay Area hip-hop, Too Short himself, couldn't help noticing one day as he drove through B-town. Short signed the still-in-high-school crew to his Up All Nite label, bringing The Pack to Jive Records as "Vans" became a massive hit on Bay Area radio that summer. A remix featuring Too Short and Mistah FAB soon followed.
"A major label signed us at an early age," Stunna remarks, "because they didn't have to develop us."
By the end of the year, The Pack had their first major-label release, Skateboards 2 Scrapers, an EP whose title captures the group's cultural blend. Entirely produced by then-19-year-old Young L, Skateboards brought The Pack's unique sound to the rest of the United States.
"When you have to work with other producers, you have to have different sounds," Uno explains. "L already knows what sound we like. He doesn't have to ask; he just makes a beat and puts it on.
Receiving airplay on BET, the video for "Vans" was unfortunately excluded from MTV due to its usage of a name brand. The Pack's follow-up full-length release, Based Boys (2007), was poorly promoted by the pop-focused Jive and the label and the group soon parted ways. Undaunted, the Pack soon landed at San Francisco's independent powerhouse, SMC Recordings, home to such acts as Rakim, Killer Mike, Capone n Noreaga, and Murs and 9th Wonder. Now the group is hard at work prepping their new, as-yet-untitled album.
"We're trying to break the barriers we created with our own music," Young L says of the upcoming disc. "We felt like we could only make a certain type of music. We kinda got stuck in our own fame. We're trying to cater to the fans who have been liking us and at the same time make new music that's going to turn heads, like 'Damn, I didn't think the Pack could make a song like this!'"
"We brought the tempo down a notch on some songs," he continues "because sometimes people just like to bounce; they don't like to dance hella fast. We also changed some of the themes we talk about, some stuff that would be more sensitive to touch different bases."
The members of The Pack have been seasoned from a young age, and, with their evolving sound and maturing lyrics, the group has clearly only just begun.