Overnight success is often ten years in the making and this is definitely the case for 30 year old LA native Anderson .Paak. But success comes in the form of the allegiances he has been able to carve out in the industry, having recently signed to Dr Dre’s Aftermath label. Just who is Anderson .Paak though? Chances are you haven’t heard of him.
If you’re thinking “I’m sure I know that name!” then you might recognise him as a frequent feature on ‘Compton’, the momentous return album of Dr Dre, where he lent his vocals to tracks such as “All In A Day’s Work” and had people calling him the new Nate Dogg. High praise for someone so unknown.
It started at Stones Throw Records, where .Paak and Philly producer Knxwledge formed the duo NxWorries. They still have a deal there, despite being with Aftermath, and .Paak seems to have a habit of being part of labels with great hip hop heritage; Stones Throw had both Madlib and the late J Dilla on their books at one point. Unhappy with the slow process of record labels, NxWorries dropped a live version of single “Suede” online in 2014 and it blew up. Stones Throw were quickly on the phone, they wanted to release it as a record, but on the condition that the duo took the song down.
The latest album “Malibu” was always the goal, but .Paak’s manager pushed him to find his artistry and he decided to have fun and try his hand at other genres. This came to fruition on the eclectic mix that was his first album “Venice”. Noise for this album was created by early single “Drugs” – a trap-style banger – being played at LA club night Low End Theory – and “The City” which was an early favourite of Zane Lowe’s Apple Music show.
Venice itself features elements of trap, hip hop, soul, funk and even house. It is so beautifully all over the place that it has a song for every mood and .Paak’s unique and memorable voice glides from track to track, crossing genres effortlessly. You could hear his voice on a Disclosure track and then feature on a Kendrick track and not think twice about it.
Where Venice developed an underground buzz and showcased his ability to change styles, Malibu zeroed in on .Paak’s skills at combining soul and hip hop into an album that will perhaps go unnoticed against ones that his peers have released this year. Featuring LA rappers Schoolboy Q and The Game, both known for hard-hitting rhymes, the album journeys through the highs and lows of .Paak’s life with positivity and grit. However this doesn’t take away from the feel-good, beach vibes of the albums namesake. Standout tracks include “Am I Wrong”, “The Season/Carry Me” and album opener “The Bird”. Put the album on and you’ll be lost in it from start to finish.
The period in front of .Paak serves as a reminder for him to never abandon detail and is a shrewd way of making sure others pay attention too. Let’s hope more do so with this talented artist.