Anderson .Paak Chronicles His Sonic Journey Through LA From Homelessness to Critical Acclaim

By Joey Lopez

Anderson .Paak moved from couch surfing to crowd surfing in 10 short years, becoming one of this decade’s most important and respected hip-hop and soul singers. His star continues to rise as his latest stacked world tour demonstrates with appearances from acts like Thundercat, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt.

.Paak was homeless, bouncing from couch to couch just a decade ago while pursuing his music dreams, relying on relationships he built in the LA music scene to keep afloat. Never having a place of his own but always a place to go, .Paak was given the support to go from being an unknown musician to a Grammy-nominated superstar.

“My close friends were always letting me use their studio or letting me use their couch. If I didn’t have those relationships I don’t know if I would’ve been able to get over that bridge,” says .Paak, soft spoken and clearly drained two weeks into his Best Teef In the Game tour.

Although he’s exhausted, that doesn’t keep .Paak from enthusiastically running with every question; delivering each answer with excitement and humble honesty. On his life before fame, he doesn’t speak of himself, but of the people who loved him.

“When I didn’t have a spot of my own it was the people around me who were like, ‘You’re super dope, we love you. You can stay here and what I have is yours.’ I think that’s what determines if people are going to give up or keep going, those relationships.”

If not for the support, .Paak wouldn’t have released his debut album Venice, which earned him the attention of his longtime hero Dr. Dre. After hearing an impromptu freestyle from .Paak, Dre featured him on Compton (2015). Three years later, Dre was producing .Paak’s outstanding back-to-back acclaimed releases. Oxnard was a banging hip-hop record that allowed .Paak to experiment with his own unique rap flow, dropping the soul grooves for a gritty hip-hop production. Ventura, a return to form with a heavy focus on soul and beautiful instrumentals from his band, The Free Nationals.

The process was a loaded one with help from legends in the game, including the prolific André 3000. .Paak’s laughter breaks through a yawn when talking about 3000.

“There’s so much that goes into one verse because that’s not just a verse to him, it’s like a whole album. Even after we got it, it wasn’t over because he called and was like, ‘I don’t know if I should be on the song. I don’t know if I did a good job.’ and I was like, ‘The fuck are you talking about?’ We had to have a little pep talk and even when it was about to release he still was doubting it and I had to reassure him, but now it’s done.”

Getting a single verse from 3000 was a year-long process, but .Paak says it’s one of the craziest verses he’s ever heard. Viewing him as a hermetic legend, .Paak felt lucky despite the ordeal.

Big name collaborations have been a part of a series of goals .Paak set for himself. Back when he was living in Kentucky, he laid his dreams out, making a promise to himself that with his debut album he would sell 10,000 records, buy the clothes he wanted, a new car, make a million bucks and then make it big. He’s taken the time to look back on his accomplishments and says he’s realizing it’s time for the next logical step.

“I had all these things working out and I turned around and was like, ‘What the fuck? You did all of this shit?’ So it was time to make a new goal: After this tour, I really want to hop on the production shit, helping other artists; helping them write and helping them produce.”

He measures his words, falling silent between answers to give each one proper thought. “I feel like I’ve just been putting out music, so now I just want to lay low.”

In particular, .Paak wants to help his band, The Free Nationals, in their journey to becoming a powerful entity and breaking out on their own. The band has been a huge source for his signature soul and groove sound.

Beyond the artistry, the touring, the Grammy nominations and critical acclaim he is Brandon Paak Anderson; father of Soul Rasheed Anderson and Shine Anderson. His two sons are his biggest inspiration to take a step back from touring and songwriting.

“Touring and putting on shows is great, but I also want to be my best self, so that’s what I want to keep building on and not just being a performer. I also have to get that family time. I have two sons back home and they’re absolutely beautiful, man.”

.Paak began humbly with nothing but a pearlescent smile and an undeniable talent. Now famous for both, he is one of the most exciting acts in music today. The happiness and contentment is apparent in the way he speaks; knowing he has a story he’s enthusiastic to tell.
There might not be any new music from .Paak in the near future, but expect to see his name plastered on producer credits between now and his next highly anticipated release.

Wednesday, June 19
PNE Amphitheatre (Vancouver)
Tix: $59.50, ticketmaster.ca