Twenty years deep in the music industry, rapper Pacewon took some time out to discuss with me his amazing journey through hip-hop and what is next on the horizon for him. A founding member of the New Jersey emcee collective The Outsidaz, Pace has continually embodied the essence of emceeing at its finest. From his energetic stage presence to his masterful wordplay hip-hop seems to leak from his pores and shine from his soul as effortlessly as he breathes. Having had the opportunity to work with The Fugees, Redman, Eminem and Snoop Dogg and countless others, Pacewon’s hip-hop journey has been and continues to be a haven of hip-hop history.
“I started out hardcore, spinnin’ on cardboard/
Run up with a TEC-9, open your car door…”
“Children Sing”- Pacewon
Illy Vish: Thanks so much for speaking with me. How are you today?
Pacewon: You’re welcome! I’m well, thanks!
Illy Vish: That’s good to hear! I remember the rap bug first bit me at 12 years old. I started writing rhymes, working hard on my flow and developing my skill set until eventually I was recording here and there with aspirations of being a signed artist. When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the music business?
Pacewon: I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the music business at about 10 years old. I wrote my first rap a year earlier when I was inspired by UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne”. Then at 10 I started writing more frequently after being inspired by Dougie Fresh and Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” and “The Show”. I was convinced I could rap for a living and luckily enough I do!
Illy Vish: How old were you when you started rapping?
Pacewon: I was about 9 or 10. Although I was already a huge fan by the time I was 5.
Illy Vish: One of my favorite parts of my experience as an emcee has always been the creative process. Some of the best times I’ve ever had have been in the lab. When did you have your first studio experience and was it like?
Pacewon: I had my first studio experience when I was 14. A friend of mine met a guy and booked a studio session at a local studio. However my dad had 2 turntables and a mic when I was growing up so I always recorded myself rapping. By the time I hit the real studio I already knew how to flow and how I wanted to come across on the mic.
Illy Vish: What was it like recording with a collective like The Outsidaz? How did you all come together initially?
Pacewon: It was great recording with the Outsidaz. I learned a lot, I had fun, I got to practice and compete with my peers which in turn made me a better MC.
The Outsidaz came about from me and my partner D.U. running around Newark, NJ battling. We met Young Zee that way. Zee and D.U. met Rah Digga. Slangton was in my high school homeroom. Young Zee and I met Bizarre Kid(D12) in DC. Then I flew out to Detroit to work with Bizarre and met Eminem and that’s how Bizarre and Eminem got down.
Illy Vish: One thing I’ve always loved about your energy, especially when it came to you vibing with The Outsidaz was your stage presence. The energy was always big and boisterous and I could tell performing was something you loved and put 100% in. Were you always so comfortable and expressive while performing? What was your first onstage performance like?
Pacewon: Hahaha! Thank you. No, I’m not always so comfy performing. Well, it’s like this. I always get nervous b4 a show but as soon as I hit the stage. The Fear goes away. I can’t explain it but I love it. My 1st onstage performance was in the 6th grade and I did very well but yet again I remember being nervous and then doing well so yeah… Hahaha!
Illy Vish: That’s wassup! You’ve worked with some amazing artists who has been your favorite emcee to record with and why?
Pacewon: Yes, I have been lucky enough to work with The Fugees, Eminem, Red and Meth, Snoop Dogg, etc. I would have to say my favorite to record with has been Redman and that’s because he’s one of the most dynamic rhymers of all time. It’s always a challenge for me to try and keep up with Doc’s humor and energy!
Illy Vish: Word! The Funk Doc definitely is a force to be reckoned with! Now you’ve also had the opportunity to work with some of the illest femcees ever like Lauryn Hill and Rah Digga. What is your opinion on the current contribution of females to hip hop?
Pacewon: The current contribution to female rap is pretty good. I love Nicki Minaj! And I like Dej Loaf. I wish there were more witty and energetic female rappers in the mainstream. I hope to see many more!
Illy Vish: So do I! How did you wind up working with the Fugees on “Cowboys” on their album The Score?
Pacewon: I was unsigned and working on my demo tape. My manager booked a session for me at the Booga Basement where The Fugees and Akon worked. I was recording. Wyclef walked in and after I finished the song invited me to cypher with him. After the cypher he said “Yo, I want you on my new LP.” I said cool and boom! 22 million albums sold! #HipHopHistory.
Illy Vish: Hip Hop History, indeed! As a Philly native I have to say it was always dope to me that you had a connection to my beloved city. I remember in your “I Declare War” video Colby Colb (his Friday night hip hop show Radioactive gave me life!) was featured as well as City Hall in Philly. Then there’s your “Liquor & Drugs” video with Mr. Green that starts out with you guys running up the Art Museum steps and then all around my city. So much love! You went to Cheney, right? How do you feel about your Philly connection?
Pacewon: Hahaha! Yes, I love Philly! I did atttend Cheyney University! The 1st Historical Black College in the US! My record label RuffHouse Records was out there too so I was always out there! I love it!
Illy Vish: So, you know all about cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, jawns and bouls, right?
Pacewon: Yeah, I know all about cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, jawns and bouls. You drawlin!!! The Chumpie’s too!!! Hahaha!
Illy Vish: Oh shit! You know about Chumpies! That’s wassup! Plus you get extra points for usage of the word drawlin’. Defintely up on your Philly slang! Now, most people are aware of your history with and connection to Eminem but for those who aren’t, how’d you first get to know Em?
Pacewon: I met Eminem in 1996. After the Fugees record. I met Bizarre in DC and I flew out to Detroit to work with him after that. Eminem came with Bizarre to pic me up from the airport. We got to kickin’ it and boom! Eminem and Bizarre became members of the Outsidaz! #HipHopHistory
Illy Vish: What’s your favorite moment you had with Eminem?
Pacewon: The Slim Shady Tour ’99. I will never forget it! It was incredible! Shout out to the Beatnuts!!!
Illy Vish: At one time there was a riff between you too that appears to have since been resolved. Em’s shout out to you on Fine Line and your subsequent Shady Corps project all nod to this. How’s it feel to have some resolve with the beef?
Pacewon: It feels great! When I heard Eminem mention me in “Fine Line” I felt closure to the problem that had been bothering me.
Illy Vish: I’m happy to hear there has been some resolve! 2016 marks your 20th year in the recording industry. Congrats! What do you think has been your favorite part of the recording process? Like is it the interaction with the producer, or collaborating with other artists or something else entirely?
Pacewon: My favorite part of the recording process is nailing my verse! After I get a beat, write the verse, rehearse the verse. Performing the verse to it’s fullest potential drives me.
Illy Vish: I hear you on that! What’s an important lesson you’ve learned about the creative process throughout the years?
Pacewon: Don’t leave out of the recording booth until your verse/performance sounds just like you pictured it in your head!
Illy Vish: Definitely words for artists to take seriously! Who are you most influenced by and why?
Pacewon: I’m most inspired by every good MC because my goal is to be the best MC ever!
Illy Vish: Word! Ok, just a warning in advance. I’m extremely random lol so the next few questions will be random in nature. What’s your favorite breakfast food?
Pacewon: Turkey bacon, cheese eggs, toast, and orange juice.
Illy Vish: If you could only choose between either being deaf, blind or without any limbs at all what would you choose?
Illy Vish: Well damn! Okay! How likely do you think it is that Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States?
Pacewon: Hahaha! Not very. Like maybe a 20% chance.
Illy Vish: I hope you’re right ’cause I am “unable to can” with Donald trump! One of my favorite songs of yours is “Sunroof Top”. How would you describe where you were in your artistic journey at the time you made that song?
Pacewon: I already had a major recording deal, I was driving a BMW, and I had a lot of money. So I was mentally healthy and artistically I was experimenting with Break Beats, and new styles of rhyming.
Illy Vish: What’s up next for you? Anything in the works with the Outz?
Pacewon: Next for me is an Outsidaz LP or EP, a solo LP, a new Shady Corps LP set for August and continuing to do features and shows.
Illy Vish: I’ll be sure to check for it all! What has been the best part of your contribution to and participation in Hip Hop over the past 20 years?
Pacewon: The best part of my contribution / participation to Hip Hop has been innovating the art while keeping with the tradition and integrity of the culture through the music I have released.
Illy Vish: You most certainly have done just that! Thank you so much for giving me some time and cheers to your continued success!
Pacewon: Thank you for having me!