A bird with the word came to me
The sweetness of a honeycomb tree
And now my luck was taking over me
Couldn't fake it if I wanted to
I had to wake up just to make it through
I got my patience and I'm making do
I learned my lessons from the ancient roots
I choose to follow what the greatest do
These are the first words of Anderson Paak’s 2016 album Malibu, making it clear just how many hours he’s put in, with the end result being music that shines almost as brightly as his septum piercing. Paak has had to work hard for his well-deserved fame, sacrificing home comforts (he literally sold his house) and the happiness of his family along the way. After years of couch surfing with his wife and son in tow, doubtlessly destroying his soul drumming for an American Idol contestant, and working as a writer for Shafiq Husayn (Sa-Ra), he got his break. There is of course, no Kit-Kat break comparable to the one extended his way from the one and only Dr Dre. He picked up on Paak’s soul and raw talent, and got him to sing on six songs on Compton in 2015, giving him the space to shrug off his previous moniker of Breezy Lovejoy, and become the man we call Anderson Paak. Now nestled snugly in the bosom of Aftermath Entertainment (Dre’s label), Paak is strongly supported by the godfathers of 21st Century hip-hop and neo-soul. This has given his genre-defining, irresistibly delicious music a strong foundation, and his ‘work experience’ with the top dawgs has catapulted him into the highest respected echelons of the industry.
How could you not fall in love with that cheeky grin...and that pair of OG Cortez
And now let’s talk about the gem in all this hype – the music itself. Listening to Malibu, which I do often, is like being led through a forest of funk trees, inhabited by stone cold soul foxes and hiding a giant goldmine of R&B nuggets, worth millions on any market. Paak has managed to throw out the rulebook, whilst learning from the magic of those who have come before him. In his own words; ‘I choose to follow what the greatest do’. The self-understanding at the heart of his music exudes confidence, enough to create a musical journey everyone wants a piece of. Paak also leads his band The Free Nationals, who fit around him like a fresh pair of heat-tech leggings. Watching his live shows, like at NXSW this year, show the true mastery of Paak, where he keeps the crowd engaged and happy from the drum kit.
His musical career, pre-American Idol, was in church, playing drums for the choir. The sweet and soulful memories from that time chime through on songs like Heart Don’t Stand A Chance and The Dreamer, adding to his appeal and avoiding any of the faux-gangster bullshit that many of his contemporaries are guilty of. Both Paak’s father, mother and step-father had been in prison by the time he was seventeen, and he kept out of murky waters by using music as his outlet. The music he gives us is the definition of holistic creation, and every life lesson learned, or hurdle jumped can be heard throughout.
Word on the street says Paak is the new D’Angelo. This doesn’t sit that well with me. I go to sleep every night looking at D, in poster form, at the end of my bed. But it has to be said, Paak’s level of multi-instrumentalism, and sheer soulfulness in the spin of every line makes him strong competition. D’Angelo is a giant, and Paak doesn’t have the height yet, but I would put a fistful of notes down at Ladbrokes knowing that Paak will get there in the years to come. He has a versatility that is rarely found in contemporary music – he’s everywhere – from Kaytranada’s new album to a song with Mr Ariana Grande aka Mac Miller. And now with the release of Yes Lawd! from Paak’s collaboration with Knxwledge under the name NxWorries, we have another nineteen songs to obsess over, delivering at every turn Anderson’s self-assured, unique brand of neo-soul goodness.
Words by: Imogen