Compton not only marked the arrival of Dr. Dre’s first album in 16 years, the West Coast opus also serves as the inauguration of several new voices to the Hip Hop conversation. One of those young performers Dre crowned on Compton is Oxnard, California vocalist Anderson .Paak.
With credited features on six songs and appearances on two others, Paak’s soulful vibe soaks into the core of Compton. The migration from underground indie artist to joining Dre’s esteemed family tree of music acts was not an overnight expedition.
Paak first fell in love with making music when regular visits to his elementary school principal’s office were halted by the discovery of drumsticks. At 11 years old, his godsister invited him to play drums at church, and Anderson almost instantly became addicted to the art.
Nearly a decade and a half later, Paak released Violets Are Blue followed by Lovejoy, O.B.E. Vol. 1, and Cover Art. His most recent solo project, Venice, hit the internet in 2014. Anderson also joins with producer Knxwledge as the duo known as NxWorries.
AllHipHop.com spoke with Anderson .Paak to discuss his contribution to Compton, his own artistic output, and his intriguing life journey.
Do you remember your earliest memory of making music?
I remember being like 5 or 6 writing raps with my older cousin. Coincidentally, my earliest memories are of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. My sister had a record player, and she was playing Snoop and New Edition.
I remember memorizing the lyrics to “Nothin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” and “Dre Day.” I remember looking at those videos along with Kriss Kross, ABC, and Immature. I wanted to rap and break dance. I just wanted to be in Hip Hop. I loved dancing, beat boxing, anything that had to do with Hip Hop.
You originally started performing under the name Breezy Lovejoy. Why did you start using Anderson Paak?
It was just a lifestyle change. I was going through different things, and my world had been upside down for a while. I was tired of that sh*t. I was just letting life throw me around. I didn’t have any direction.
There was a time where someone sat me down and said, “You should try this for a few months.” I sat down, regrouped, and got things together. Something cliqued. I wanted my artistry to reflect that. I wanted people to have a chance to rediscover me as an artist.
I read that you were once homeless. Can you talk about how that happened?
I didn’t want to f*cking work for nobody else, and I’m not a great businessman either. I just didn’t want to go to a job, work for pennies, and still be homeless.
I just wanted to stick around people that was doing the same thing I was. Thank God I was around people that believed in me and didn’t want to see me out in the street, so they took me in. I was with a group of people that put our pennies together to make something happen.
There was a period of time where I was homeless, and I had a family. My son was a newborn. I just got married. That time of being homeless built a lot of character. That’s the foundation that I’m on right now. A lot of songs came out of that. I needed that sh*t.
How did you connect with Dr. Dre and Aftermath?
I connected to them about four or five months ago. They heard the song “Suede.” They had been playing that sh*t for weeks, and DJ Dahi sent some beats for the project that they thought I would sound best over.
They called me up. I met Dre and D.O.C. the first night. We started working on “All In A Day’s Work.” From there, every other day I was over there.
Were there any songs that you recorded with them that didn’t make the album?
Damn near everything I cut made it. If it didn’t make it, then it was for Mez’s album, my album, or something else. I was blessed to have damn near everything make it.
Is there any talk about you and Mez officially signing with Dre and Aftermath?
We’ll see what happens. I’m just really grateful that I’m on the project and that the art is out there. We’ll see how that manifests into the business.
How would you describe your own musical style?
It’s just Soul, Funk, pain, Blues, Black music. It’s f*cking church. Modern Gospel is fusion. If you hear these Gospel artists, they’re doing some crazy arrangements. I’m a product of that.
Even the vocal approach. Even how I sound on the Dre album and the music I’m putting out. I’m reaching for that feeling I used to get playing drums in church.
You know n*ggas come in crying on Easter because they get hit with that: Oh my god, what am I doing with my life? That’s the emotion we’re giving people. I don’t even care what you believe in. When that music hits you, you’re going to feel it.
What inspired the concept for the “Miss Right” video?
That was from [director] Jay Ahn. That’s just how he thinks. He was very passionate about the song. So I was like, “F*ck it. Do whatever you want. Just make it look good.” He came back with that crazy ass treatment. At first I was like, “I don’t know.” But then I said, “Let’s do it. I think it’s cool.”
It would have been easy to do your standard R&B video, dance in front of a white background with a pretty girl. Those videos are tight too, but I rather do something different. He put everything into that with very little to work with. I don’t want to put him on blast, but I gave dude $300. Now he’s doing Jhené Aiko, Chris Brown, and Omarion’s video [for “Post To Be”].
What separates your brand as a solo artist from your work with NxWorries?
I’m working with one producer with NxWorries. With my solo stuff, I’m producing and working with musicians and different producers. NxWorries is us coming together as our own respective artists. This is us coming together to do something we’re not used to doing and making something new.
I don’t think Knxwledge has worked with one artist as close as he’s worked with me. I haven’t worked with one producer top to bottom either. It’s us coming outside of our comfort zones, creating something natural.
It has a big impact on how I’m making music on my solo thing. For this project, I’ve gotten to develop my tone from working with him. So it’s seeping into my own stuff as well. It’s helped me a lot.
So you have another full project on the way?
Yeah, Malibu. It should be out this year.
You’re currently on tour with Earl Sweatshirt. How’s the road life treating you?
I love it. I’ve been on tour every year since 2012, and this has been the coolest for me. I’ve been able to bring my childhood friend with me. I’m out with Knxwledge. Everybody is cool as hell.
You’re a songwriter. There has been a lot of discussion about ghostwriting the last few months. What are your thoughts about that?
I welcome it. You got a hit song for me and I like that sh*t, I’m singing that sh*t. That’s what they did on Motown. I don’t give a f*ck.
I guess rapping is a little bit more particular, because you’re supposed to write your own sh*t. The art of rap is different, but I ain’t no rapper. So I could give a f*ck.
There are a lot of talented songwriters and producers that I’d like to work with. And there are a lot of artists that I’d love to write for.
Have you written for anyone?
I’ve been writing with Omarion recently. I’ve written with Watsky and Dumbfoundead. Not too many people. I guess it takes a certain type of person for me to write for, because I’m so used to doing just me.
I’m not from that school of writing for other people. I’ve tried it at different times, but it just doesn’t work. I’m too raw to write for females, and when I write for males – I guess I have too much of a particular sound. I’ve done some writing here and there, but it takes a certain type of artist for me to pull it off. But I’m working on it.
You went from being homeless at one point to appearing on songs with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eminem. What advice would you give an up-and-coming artist that may be going through a tough time?
Don’t be a little p*ssy. Don’t be afraid to be homeless and dusty. That’s what I see. People are afraid to be dusty, especially in LA.
Perception is everything, and that’s how people get caught up. They want to look the part, but they’re not really in the studio doing sh*t. They’re out there looking the part, but when they get in the studio they don’t have no chops.
There were a lot of years where I was dusty and not the coolest person. I was awkward and nobody gave a f*ck. That’s what you got to go through sometimes.
Some people get in quick, and they don’t have to go through that sh*t. But then some people also burn out really quick too. That’s not what I want. Nothing came easy to me. I had to f*cking fight. Like Kendrick said, “All my life [I had to fight].”
So even this Dre sh*t. It’s a blessing to be on these records with all these dynamite people, but I’m still doing shows where nobody could give a sh*t. I’m still out here busting my ass.
I’m out here trying to give performances and deliver good music, because that’s what it’s all going to come down to. You still have to put out something people are going to care about. What are you going to do? Do you.
[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Aftermath A&R Coordinator Andrew Corria Talks Working On Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ Album]
Download Dr. Dre’s Compton on iTunes.
Stream Anderson .Paak’s Venice below and purchase the album on iTunes.