Artist You Should Know: Anderson .Paak

This month’s Artist You Should Know may seem like an obvious pick, as it’s an artist that has been a mainstay of our weekly Headphones column.  Undoubtedly the breakout artist of the year, Brandon Paak Anderson, better known by his stage name Anderson .Paak, did not take the quick route to fame like some of our earlier featured artists. .Paak’s path to fame has been a hard fought 10 year journey.  So how did 2016’s biggest new name go from being homeless to being branded Dr Dre’s “Golden Child?” Let’s take a look.

Anderson .Paak was born in Oxnard, California in 1986.  At the age of 7, .Paak’s father was incarcerated for domestic abuse.  He spent the rest of his childhood being raised by his single mother and developing an interest in music that blossomed throughout high school.  At this time he started recording music in his bedroom, while also learning to play the drums.  By the age of 17, .Paak began recording rap demos, which received notice from record labels and agents.  He began taking trips across the country to meet with various labels, several of which extened offers.  .Paak ended up turning them down however, as the industry at the time was looking for Club/Hip-Hop music, not an artsy, R&B/Hip-Hop rookie.  Not willing to compromise on his artistic interests, .Paak went back home to California.

While the end of high school marked an exciting time for .Paak, he also saw his mother sent to prison for tax evasion.  With no parents to support him, he began to bounce from house to house, often in between jobs.  While he still played gigs here and there, most of .Paak's income came from working an assortment of jobs, from bagging groceries to eventually working as a farmhand on a pot farm.  While he was doing this, .Paak was already in his second marriage with a child in tow.  When he was suddenly let go from his farming job, .Paak’s life stood at a crossroads.  It was then that he decided that he would go all in with music.  While he stayed in a friends house, working more odd jobs, .Paak put together his debut project O.B.E Vol 1, under the stage name Breezy Lovejoy. While it didn’t bump .Paak as much financially, he began to accumulate a respected following in the L.A. community.

In late 2012, singer Haley Reinhart, fresh off placing 3rd in American Idol, was in need of a drummer for her tour, and .Paak pounced on the opportunity.  With a stable job once more, .Paak was able to produce the funds necessary for more studio time.  When he finished up the tour with Reinhart, .Paak decided that he was ready for some new music and direction.  It was then that he came up with his current stage name Anderson .Paak.  In 2013, .Paak put together a new LP titled Cover Art, and it was here he began to show his potential as a breakout artist.  The EP’s concept was based on taking songs from white musicians and flipping them into R&B/funk records.  His covers of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and The Beatles’ “Blackbird” were just a few of the standouts that helped he gain even more recognition in the music community. 

In 2014, .Paak released his first studio debut with the album Venice.  The album found him exploring many elements from Jazz and R&B to Hip-Hop and Rap.  Already, .Paak began showing his wide range not just vocally but artistically.  His raspy voice plays perfectly in so many genres that he can seamlessly go from one to the other.  His vocals also allows him to unload an array of emotion on the listener, whether its a gritty take on a hip hop track or desperate cry on an R&B/Jazz sample.

In the midst of recording material for a follow up new album, Anderson .Paak received the opportunity of a life time: a meeting with Dr. Dre.  The Hip-Hop legend, who was in the middle of recording his later Grammy-nominated album Compton, heard a sample and invited .Paak to the studio.  Upon hearing his vocals, Dre immediately ran with .Paak as one of the main themes of the album, using him on an impressive 6 tracks.  The new wave of recognition immediately elevated .Paak into the public eye, and made him a hot commodity in the music community. 

Anderson .Paak began his explosive 2016 early, releasing his sophomore effort Malibu in January.  Initially, the album wasn’t a commercial smash hit, but critically it was a bombshell.  Anderson .Paak had matured from Breezy Lovejoy, working on a pot farm to pay for studio time, to a full fledged artist in Anderson .Paak.  Malibu did an ever better job exhibiting his range in a wide array of genres than Venice ever could.  The tracks dance from R&B (“The Waters”, “The Bird”) to Rap/Hip-Hop (“Come Down”, “The Season/Carry Me”) to funky synth jazz beats (“Lite Weight”.)  The showcase of talent led to his signing with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records just two weeks after its release.  .Paak’s career has seemingly taken off since then, and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. 

When he wasn’t traveling the world on his own tour, .Paak was racking up invitations left and right.  While in South America, .Paak was called back to the states to open for Florence + The Machine on a string of dates.  In June, he made his national television debut, where he performed his hit “Come Down” on the BET Awards show.  After the show, Anderson .Paak found his name trending on Twitter, with the public and celebrities alike raving about his stage presence and sound. This also attributed to his addition into XXL’s 2016 Freshmen Class, an annual list of the best up and coming rappers to watch out for. 

He spent the rest of the summer either touring in Europe or back in the studio, before returning to the States in early September. At this time, his feature on the Mac Miller track “Dang!” was also making a strong showing on the charts. As he was traveling back from the end of his tour, .Paak received yet another invitation, this time to open for Beyoncé’s Formation Tour stop in L.A.  Everybody wanted to work with this new rising star.

In early October, .Paak announced that he would be releasing an album with longtime collaborator Knxwledge under the group name NxWorries.  The album, titled Yes Lawd! was released on October 21st.  While Yes Lawd! received the same critical praise as Malibu, it commercially surpassed its predecessor due to .Paak’s newfound fame and recognition. 

As you can see, it’s been a busy year for this month’s Artist You Should Know.  While it may seem quick shot up to the top to the public, his successful year was the result of a vision that started over a decade ago.  Despite his career facing roadblocks at every corner, Anderson .Paak managed to weather the storm, believe in his craft and become one of the best music industry success stories in recent memory.  With the success he’s had in this short period of 2016, it’s scary to think what he can do over the next decade.