In November 2014 I went to see KYLE, a California rapper, at Union Transfer. He was opening for Watsky, a rapper I had heard of but never checked out before, but I had a psych midterm in the morning so I wasn’t planning on sticking around. I got there early only to find out that Watsky was letting his tour drummer play a set before KYLE got to go on. Annoyed, I decided to give this dude with a septum piercing and a strange name a chance. That would be the last time I ever slandered the name Anderson .Paak again.
.Paak took the mic, and in only two tracks, he displayed his immense versatility. First, he hit us with a smooth R&B ballad “Miss Right,” then followed it up with an absolute slapper called “Drugs,” a song so wild that the entire backstage crew, including KYLE, had to run out on stage and play hypemen. In about seven minutes, he showed the crowd that he could sing, dance, rap and play the drums with such talent that if he went through mitosis twice, his asexually–produced offspring could have knocked Simon Cowell out of his chair in four separate X–Factor auditions.
I went home that night and downloaded his album “Venice” instead of studying for that psych midterm, knowing this would not be the last time I heard his poorly–punctuated name. Sure enough, when legendary full–time headphone guru and part–time rapper Dr. Dre showed off the tracklist for his long–awaited project “Compton,” .Paak was all over it, appearing on six of the album’s sixteen tracks. After stealing the show there, he found his way onto The Game’s “Magnus Carlsen” and (former J&> artist!) GoldLink’s “Unique.” As a solo artist, he paired up with Philly’s own Knxwledge (most famous for producing the standout track “Momma” on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”) to form the duo NxWorries, which dropped the dope “Link Up & Suede EP” to top off a spectacular 2015.
This past month, with eyes finally drawn in his direction after years of hustling in the music business and working on marijuana farms in California to feed his family, he dropped his album “Malibu” to rave reviews and a coveted “Best New Music” spot from Pitchfork. It’s difficult to pick a standout track given how many directions he takes the project in without losing sight of the goal. He shows off his pop sensibilities on “Parking Lot” and plays a cool California MC on “The Waters” and “Without You,” which features an excellent guest verse from Rapsody. My personal favorite, “Silicon Valley,” is a cleverly–named funky ode to finding the heart behind a pair of implants that switches up halfway through with a choir sample and a modern R&B flow that comes and goes so quickly you’ll have to play the track again to figure out what just happened. The whole project is soulful, psychedelic, funky, surfer–core and a hell of a ride.
I’m lucky I got to that concert early or I might have missed out on watching .Paak go from a tour drummer to a bonafide star in just a little over a year. Next time you go to a concert, give the opening act a chance. And if they suck, put your headphones in and put “Malibu” on.Nxworries - Anderson Paak & Knxwledge - Link Up by Stones Throw Records