As PackFM reaches the milestone of turning 40, the Brooklyn-based emcee says of his generation: “We are the Teddy Pendergrass-es of hip-hop.”
PackFM isn’t thinking about rapping right now.
He isn’t thinking about gripping a microphone, flowing over a beat, or even putting together a new album. “I’m just trying to live life, and see what life is like outside of hip-hop,” the Brooklyn-based emcee explains.
“I listen to hip-hop, but I’ve never been able to live where I don’t have the pressure of completing a project. For 20 years straight that was my life. Now, let’s chill for a minute, and just enjoy life: take walks, get that real balance in there.”
PackFM—who celebrates his 40th birthday this month—explains that when it comes to his music, the ellipsis has become a period.
His career resume is thick. With two solo studio albums released on the legendary QN5 label—2006 UGHH People’s Choice Album of the Year, whutduzFMstand4, and 2010’s I F*cking Hate Rappers — plus the 2002 Extended F@mm EP, Happy F*ck You Songs (with Tonedeff, Substantial, and Session) and a plethora of collaborative efforts, PackFM explains, “I’ve said everything that I’ve had to say.”
“I was doing music for 20 years,” he continued, “everything I went through, I put out, somehow, someway. So now it’s like alright, let’s experience some new things, so that in five years or so I’ll have some new stories to tell that people might want to relate to.”
On the subject of creating relatable music, he notes that being older in hip-hop means new topics can, and should, be tackled. He says of his generation, and the generation before his:
“There should be an adult-contemporary section of hip-hop. We are the Teddy Pendergrass-es of hip-hop.”
The Teddy Pendergrass-es of hip-hop, however—and the fan base that should be copping those albums—currently have their focus shifted elsewhere. “All they do is complain,” PackFM notes. “As if the people who are closer to what they do want to listen to (and are in their age range) aren’t making music anymore, when that’s totally not the case.” He continues, “A lot of them are still making music today, and it gets ignored because all people want to pay attention to is the music from young people that they don’t like … Did you know Ghostface put out an album like a year ago? Your favorite artist is still making music for you.”
Fans of PackFM, who’s been a key player in NYC’s indie hip-hop scene since the days of the infamous Tunnel nightclub, may one day get new music from him, but right now he’s excited to dive into endeavors outside of emceeing. “I have a lot of other talents I want to explore,” he explains. “Let me just really find my life in a whole bunch of other areas. Whether that translates into songs later on in life, who knows?”
Even if he isn’t recording, PackFM will still hit the stage, and he says the age of the songs he performs isn’t a concern of his. “Most of the songs I do I approach with the idea that I want to be able to listen to this in a decade,” he explains. “I’m always gonna want to do ‘Click Clack and Spray,’ because graffiti is a great art form that I have a great appreciation for. I love being involved in it, and the super amped up songs that I do, those are gonna be fun no matter what.”
Fun is something older hip-hop fans have always enjoyed, but as PackFM recently gleaned from an Uber driver during a ride, the new generation of listeners is almost solely about fun.
“It’s not, ‘He’s so dope, and he’s spitting fire,’ it’s ‘Oh, this song is fun, we all know it, let’s have fun to it,’” he says. “They’re just looking for that song they know to come on so they can keep having fun. It’s an entirely different approach to music, and entertainment, than we had. Ours was all about quality, and how good it is. There’s is just how fun it is to bug out to this song.”
This may sound like an older emcee griping about younger rappers, but PackFM actually has nothing against the younger generation of hip-hop artists, as he’s quick to say that just because he may not like their music, it doesn’t make them any less valid.
Using a sneaker metaphor (because he can’t not be hip-hop), he explains, “I love Nike sneakers, but I only like three or four pairs. I don’t like every shoe Nike puts out, but I don’t get mad because they put out sneakers I don’t like. I just don’t buy those sneakers.” For him, hip-hop is the same way.
“When it comes to hip-hop music, I don’t have to like everything that has the label of hip-hop,” he says. “And I don’t have to get offended because something that’s labeled hip-hop (isn’t my taste).”
One thing he’d like to see from artists of all ages is a little more authenticity; but he remarks that it has to start with artists, and fans, accepting, and embracing, who they really are.
“People know about the whole partying, and drinking, and smoking, and all this shit, and then you look at (an artist’s) Facebook pictures and they’re wearing fucking grandpa sweaters, and they’re at baby showers,” he jokes. “Why do you have to put on a costume to be accepted with your art? This is who I am four days a week, but when I rap I gotta put my hat on backwards, and wear a flight jacket from 1996? You should be able to be you, and put your art out there and have it be accepted … I think that’s something that needs to be tackled.”
Although PackFM admits that when it comes to dealing with this, he doesn’t have the answers, he has one suggestion: eliminate the age. “I just feel, in general, the hip-hop community needs to let go of this stigma they have of age, whether it’s younger, or older.”
Perhaps this will be something PackFM tackles when he decides to record again, but up next on his agenda are new life experiences. A recent eye opening one involved taking a real vacation, since so much of his traveling was previously for world tours which covered North America, Europe, and Australia. “I remember the first thing that really hit me was going on a real vacation, actually traveling and not having to rap,” he recalls. “It made me realize there’s a lot of life to be lived out there that’s a lot different than we do as emcees, when we do that as an occupation.”
PackFM will likely pick up a mic again, it’s in his DNA. However, he’s currently much more excited to pick his next flight to a destination with no stage. Hey, he’s earned it.