Anderson .Paak is on top of the world right now. Following his recent Grammy Award win for “Bubblin’,” the multi-talented artist helped launch the #LoveThyBar campaign with Jameson Irish Whiskey, while simultaneously touring overseas.
Armed with his signature smile, the Aftermath signee exudes an air of confidence wherever he goes, something he credits to his mother.
“I feel like I came up in a confident household,” he tells HipHopDX. “My mom was an entrepreneur coming up. She had three girls and I was the only boy. My mom was the boss. She didn’t even have to tell me. I just watched her and watched how hard she worked to get all of us where we were at. I didn’t know at the time, but I was just absorbing all of that.”
But Paak didn’t always feel that way. He admits he didn’t grow up with that kind of assertiveness. It was music that ultimately provided a well of self-esteem.
“I was very shy coming up, but I think where I gained my confidence was in my craft,” he explains. “Once I got into music and found my purpose, and I started learning how to play drums, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t cute [laughs]. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t funny. I knew I was putting everything into that and that was my foundation. I was confident in that and that just spilled over. The more I developed that, the more comfortable I got.”
He continues, “Naturally, I think I’m probably more shy and I have more of a goofy side and more of a look on life that’s like ‘always see the funny parts.’ I think that’s where maybe the confidence comes from too. When I see people that are really cocky or have a big ego, that’s an incentive to me in itself. When I came up, people used to make fun of me all the time. We used to make fun of each other. I was just chubby with braces. I didn’t think I wasn’t gonna get girls. I still felt like that was what made me, me and that was it. As I got older, well, I’m 32 now so you can’t tell me shit. Being in your 30s was like even more in tune with girls. You’re more confident with who you are and where and what you are.”
With Oxnard out, Paak is focused on releasing his next effort, Ventura, which will mark his second album executive produced by Dr. Dre. When Paak was in high school, he actually told himself he would work with the N.W.A legend one day.
“I even had this vision in Seoul, [South] Korea that I’d work with Dr. Dre,” he says. “I didn’t know until now how like-minded we are and how much the same we are, but I knew in the back of my head that I was going to get there. It’s crazy because all I paid attention to in my life then was Dr. Dre, Hip Hop, music and sleep.”
When Dre and Paak initially hopped in the studio together to work on Oxnard, the Doctor wasn’t even aware the ambitious artist wanted to do two albums.
“Ventura is a blessing,” he says. “I told Dre when we were maybe about 80 percent into the Oxnard record that I wanted to actually do two records and he started scratching his head. I was like, ‘Trust me, I got a gift.’ I knew we couldn’t have 30 songs on one album. But we couldn’t come to terms.
“I was like, ‘Let me do two, man. One will be gritty, one will be pretty. I gotta tell both sides again from my upbringing. Since I went to high school and pretty much grew up in Ventura, I was going back and forth between Oxnard and Ventura. My schooling and where I was actually living was in Ventura. They are two different environments, at least when I was living out there.”
Paak says Ventura will differ from Oxnard in terms of lyrical content. Based on what he describes, it sounds like it will be much more introspective.
“I started to see there were two different sides of this story,” he explains. “There was a group of songs that were more soulful and another group of songs that still had the soul and the funk, but they were just more gritty. I’m getting head in the car on songs [on Oxnard] and we’re talking about ‘Sweet Chick’ or we got ‘Tints.’ We got a lot of risky topics on that one.
“It was still a lot of fun and both albums were amazing. Both albums were made with a lot of ambition. I wanted to be able to tell the other side of someone that’s a little more vulnerable on this album though. I made a song ‘Love Air’ talking about ‘Yo, is this just a feeling?’ And I’m still talking about relationship issues and talking about social commentary and political things. We needed that side too I felt like.”
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On Ventura, Dre also loosened up the reins and let Paak take more control.
“Dre had a lot of trust in me with this one because I felt like he wanted to be really hands on with Oxnard, which he was, and I’m glad he was,” he explains. “I was able to learn a lot and allow myself to be really produced by one of the best and trust a lot with him. That was that. And he was like, ‘Cool man, you can do your thing on this one.’ He gave me a lot of leeway and trust.”
There’s a sense Paak is bursting with pride that his first album with Dre even saw the light of day. The Aftermath CEO has a history of shelving albums, which wasn’t lost on Paak.
“I’m ’bout to put a whole album out again,” he says. “It’s gonna be not even six months apart or something. When I signed to Dre, everybody said, ‘You never coming out. You gonna miss your chance.’ But I’m about to go back-to-back on them and everything keeps going. Of course, he’s still Dre and if it has his name on it, you know he works very hard on it.
“You know it ain’t leaving and getting his stamp without him approving everything. But it just so happens that we see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. We’re damn near birthday twins and I get it. He gets me, I get him. We give each other our space when we need it. Like I said before, we’re all about working with each other to make something that we both respect.”
Paak and his band The Free Nationals are embarking on a sizable North American tour next month. It includes a stop at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado, which will mark his first headlining show at the historic outdoor venue.
Like Thundercat — who will be along for the ride — Paak was a good friend of the late Mac Miller. He says he could feel Miller’s spirit enveloping him while he was working on his albums and “absolutely” feels it all the time.
“I heard one of his favorite songs today and then I just automatically felt him,” he recalls. “It always just puts a smile on my face. He had such a great sense of humor and I know he’s around. I know he’s been hollering. I know he’s seeing all the funny shit that’s happening in my life right now. I know he knows that I can handle it and I know he’s just crackin’ up. And I hope that he’s proud.”
Ventura is expected to arrive on April 12.