On The Record: Cory Pak
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Cory Pak isn’t about to claim he’s the best rapper in Hawaii — but he firmly believes Hawaii hip-hop can benefit from his presence.
The 26-year-old represented the local scene last weekend when he was among the opening acts for A$AP Ferg at Hawaiian Brian’s. He’s hopeful the experience will help set the tone for bigger and better things moving forward.
Highlighting the hungry artist’s resume are two mixtapes, both of which were released in 2015 with legitimate co-signs. The first, “Larger Than Life,” was released in March and is hosted by Bizarre of Detroit rap collective D12.
His current project, “Deadfish,” released last month, is hosted by Lil’ Wyte, a Memphis-based rapper with three albums in the top 5 of Billboard’s U.S rap charts between 2004 and 2009.
Stoked as one might expect on the endorsements of two prominent artists, Pak said the most important validation will be the responses to his musical output.
“My lyrics are stories and scenarios based of real-life situations that sometimes may depict violence or negativity but in most cases have an underlying uplifting moral message,” he said. “I generally like creative writing or anything that makes you think. I have hundreds of unreleased songs.”
Growing up, Tupac, Eminem and The Game were Pak’s rap role models. His rhyme style can best be described as honest, very rugged and in your face. His quick flows attack the listener in a relentless fashion with a sound reminiscent of the hip-hop landscape of the early 2000s interspersed with hints of the familiar grimy, trap sound of today.
“In my hometown (in) Southern California, there are no Bloods, only Mexican gangs and they all wear blue,” he said. ”I’ll never forget 50 Cent was poppin’ and G-Unit was poppin’ then I remember (when) The Game came out and thinking no one is going to like him but as soon as that song ‘Westside Story’ dropped, it was like time slowed down in California.
“I think hip-hop is getting older. I mean the people who I grew up listening to are still really dope in my opinion. I want to listen to someone who has had lived long enough to have had some life experience and has a perspective on life. Not some teenage puppet rapper.”
Pak, whose parents are divorced, was born in the Bay Area and lived with his mother in Santa Barbara. During summers and winter breaks he would live with his father on Oahu. Although he attended school in California, he was able to maintain relationships and make music with artists from the islands before returning to Hawaii on a permanent basis in 2012.
“I used to hate leaving Hawaii to go back to school,” he said. “People feel like you have to prove yourself to them when you move somewhere. I have family all over the islands; this has been my home. I used to live right behind Camelia’s.”
Pak said a shared passion for hip-hop culture coupled with his let’s work together mentality will help strengthen connections with old school heads and current members of the local scene.
“I feel like people of the same nature gravitate towards each other naturally,” he said. “I guess I’m just now really getting into the scene of Hawaii and changing my focus a little. I’ve always kind of just done my own thing and made music as art.”
In an effort to promote himself and the scene, Pak posted a video on YouTube called “History In The Making: Hawaii Hip-Hop.” In the three-minute clip posted two weeks ago, he serves as sort of an advocate for a collection of artists and musicians who often go overlooked in local music and media circles.
“I’m trying to shine light in a dark corner to provide a platform for the Hawaii hip-hop scene,” he said. “Ninety percent of the popular music in Hawaii stems from hip-hop but ticket sales are low. There (are) roughly 1.5 million people on the south shore of Oahu (and) I promise you a good majority of them listen to rap. Roll your window down in your car, you hear it. We need to communicate our product better.
“The Hawaii hip-hop scene is so dense with talent, I feel like with a little more organization we are going to turn it into something much bigger than it gets credit for.”
Although he’s still in the process of gaining a full perspective and feel of the Honolulu scene, he has been treated fairly and recent interactions have been positive. Gaining feedback on his music has been a little tougher to come by, but he believes props and criticisms will ideally come with time.
“I feel the love, at least to my face,” he said, half-jokingly. “I’m just doing me and I’m always open to work with new people. Making music makes me happier than anything else I’ve done in life. It was a long struggle to get to where I am today and I feel if I can get here I can easily get to the top of the rap game.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.