Artist: PackFMTitle: whutduzFMstand4?Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Andrew Kameka
Subterranean vet answers doubters with well-rounded broadcast.
The call for rappers to return to their New York sh*t is growing louder, but not everyone wants to answer. Emerging from Hip-Hop’s Mecca with his own ambitious style is the cocksure (pause) PackFM. The Brooklyn-native avoids the labels placed on NYC’s current MC’s, but there is one brand he can’t escape-his own. Even before his group Extended Famm debuted with 2002’s Happy F*ck You Songs, PackFM’s on-stage moniker has raised more questions than The Da Vinci Code. Fans and journalists keep asking what the last two letters in his name mean, but inquiring minds will be at ease after hearing his appropriately-titled debut album, whutduzFMstand4? (QN5/Avatar).
Mr. FM packs the confidence and lyricism that New York MC’s are known for, but he does not subscribe to any other notion of how he should sound. The mystery man treads his own path and seems uninhibited on the literally ground-breaking “Stomp”. His boastful lyrics and hard-hitting punchlines over a Middle-Eastern influenced beat should connect with both backpackers and club-goers alike. Forget being on his New York sh*t; PackFM is on some other sh*t.
The QN5 stable of in-house producers, including Elite, Deacon the Villain, Domingo, Kno, and Tonedeff, gives whutduzFMstand4? a balance between consistency and variety. Tone channels the upbeat swing of Cab Calloway on “Suzie”, while the graffiti-appreciative “Click, Clack, Spray” features a shadowy setting courtesy of Deacon. “I Can’t Win” is one of the rare occasions that the MC-producer combination fizzles. Elite’s dramatic creation deserves more than predictable rhymes about struggling to escape industry politics. Topic woes also appear on “Excuses” when iCon the Mic King and FM try to justify being late for work, dates with girlfriends, and studio sessions. The song is neither clever nor funny, so the duo should come up with a few reasons to explain this misstep.
Listeners will continue speculating about what “FM” stands for because Pack refuses to answer the question. On the title track, he asks why people focus on his name rather than his message, rapping, “I find it hard to do better when I’m giving you my heart and all you ask about is two letters.” The display of vulnerability is a respectable change from the battle MC that listeners mistakenly assume him to solely be.
whutduzFMstand4? shows PackFM as an MC capable of capturing both the audience’s attention and imagination. Overall, the mix of pensive and cocky rhymes mesh well with the stirring beats, making this debut an intriguing riddle. Hip-Hop fans may not discover what “FM” stands for, but at least they will know what the man behind the name represents. The album proves that the search for an answer can be more rewarding than finding one.