Illustration of rapper Anderson .Paak.
Anderson .Paak rose to the top of the music industry with raw, unadulterated passion and talent, as well as an unforgettable personality. (Illustration by Amber Duan, Pratt Institute)

Anderson .Paak Continues To Show the World His Groovy Greatness

How an artist, who is almost as likable as he is talented, found a natural home in the music industry with his raw passion.

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Illustration of rapper Anderson .Paak.

How an artist, who is almost as likable as he is talented, found a natural home in the music industry with his raw passion.

Four years ago, within the confines of four walls and coffee tables, Anderson .Paak casually delivered a performance for the ages. In this NPR Tiny Desk concert, Paak and the Free Nationals jammed in a cozy space that was decorated with small tidbits of character. Records and books lined the bookshelves, a Led Zeppelin poster laid behind a calendar and a stuffed animal moose hung off the walls, along with a pair of socks. Paak sat in the center of it all, comfortably plopped on his throne behind the drumkit, wielding two sticks and a beaming smile. Donning a silky jacket and glistening sunglasses, Paak showed how naturally he could steal the show.

The Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk concerts are renowned for demonstrating an artist’s true musical abilities. Paak took advantage of the broken-down set to show off his triple-threat skillset: He’s a soulful singer, an elegant but dirty rapper and a timeless drummer, all at the same time. He and the Free Nationals started the set with the upbeat and catchy groove “Come Down,” a song that Paak jokes is definitely not about partying — “Coming down off of what? Substances?” Throughout the whole song, Paak plays with impeccable feeling and timing (as a fellow drummer, it’s mind-blowing), all while spitting clever and melodic rap lines. His precision is almost perfect, but the combination of his drumming with his lead vocals is what places Paak above many other musicians. His smile never falters, either; it’s obvious he is exactly where he should be.

Although the whole set is top-notch, “Put Me Thru” emphasizes his multitasking musical abilities. Playing this song on drums is not easy, so combining it with melody and rap is incredible. His drum fills are tasty, his time-keeping skills are tip-top and his voice has just enough of a rasp to deliver raw and soulful energy. He plays it so effortlessly, smiling the whole time, and swaggers his way through the song. Watching him bounce back and forth to the rhythm is amusing, especially when he starts dancing around like it’s his birthday party. His playfulness is contagious, to the point where the bookshelves and records seem like they’re in the room with you.

While Paak’s Tiny Desk shows his versatility and raw talent, his other performances show he isn’t limited to broken-down acoustic sets. In another YouTube video, Paak delivers a completely different rendition of “Put Me Thru,” now a grand and epic showcase. He is no longer lowkey jamming around bookshelves and coffee tables; instead, he’s showering the viewers with elegant style and gusto. Wearing a white tee with “don’t be a d—k” sprawled across the front, Paak raps, drums and sings his way through a tremendously blunt message to an ex-girlfriend. It’s entertaining, to say the least. Paak shows off his versatility as a musician — Tiny Desks and Rock Revival Showroom Sessions are quite different — but still leaves room for plenty more.

Beyond the Music

Paak’s charisma and humor are clear as day, but nothing demonstrates it quite as well as his series on Promark’s YouTube channel. The drum manufacturing brand put together a series focused on Paak and his bassist giving tips for how to groove, or “layin’ it .Paak.” The series is entirely satirical and looks like it could be a scene in “The Wonder Years.” Despite the humor, Paak actually gives some very insightful tips. He teaches the lesson all while playing the drums (I’m convinced he speaks better when using all four limbs) with a crispy and precise groove. It’s simultaneously funny, enlightening and rife with musical talent. While this sense of levity seems to be a trend, Paak’s character is far more extensive.

On Juneteenth 2020, Paak released his song “Lockdown,” a testament to the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic events that sparked racial fury and a fight for humanity. Paak delivered a message far beyond the politics of the situation. He sets the scene with “they opened fire” and “bullets was flying,” dropping the listener right into the protests and violence that ran rampant throughout cities across America. The song won a Grammy for best melodic rap performance. The combination of rhythm and sincerity makes the message all the more powerful; only Paak could make such a serious topic so groovy. Rapping about controversial yet vital topics wasn’t new for Paak, however — his song “6 Summers” is a “definitive political anthem,” conveying his take on sexism, gun violence and politics in American culture. Even so, the song maintained his flair and passion for music, providing the groove that flows through his veins.

Beyond a Solo Career

As a young musician, Paak’s talents were not ignored. He was first “discovered” by the mainstream scene with his feature on Dr. Dre’s 2015 album, “Compton,” propelling the popularity of Paak’s debut album, “Venice.” Since then, he’s collaborated with plenty of other big-name artists, such as Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Schoolboy Q, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross — need I say more? Paak also won a Grammy for his song “Bubblin,” an almost disrespectfully hard-hitting rap song. His achievements speak for themselves, especially when they’re flaunted all over each side of the music industry.

Paak is what one could consider a “goated” feature. One of my personal favorites is “Dang,” a groovy track off Mac Miller’s album “The Divine Feminine.” Trumpets and a fat bassline tickle your ears, while a soft and fluttery keyboard floats over the heavy beat. It’s one of those “stank face” songs, to be frank. While the beat is bumping and Paak’s chorus is catchy as hell, the sense of vulnerability and raw emotion transform this song: “I can’t keep on losing you.” The song is no longer just about a girl; it’s a romantic gesture and an attempt at emotional connection. Paak’s sensibility combined with Mac’s almost sassy verses bring out the artists’ casual sides, showing off their comfort with inserting their true characters into their music.

Most recently, Paak and Bruno Mars have joined forces to create the super duo Silk Sonic. The announcement hit social media back in the spring, shattering everyone’s minds. Two accomplished, loved and incredible artists were bringing their styles together. The group dropped their first single, “Leave the Door Open,” a few months ago, which blew up the pop music scene. Along with this came an announcement for their upcoming album release over the summer. The feeling this created inside of me … wowza. “Leave the Door Open” set the bar and shattered all expectations, showing how the two artists are like freaking power rangers when they combine their skills. A few days ago, their album (finally) dropped. Listen to it, please. I won’t ask again.

Here To Stay

As a musician, Paak’s skills are more than remarkable. Everything flows out of him so naturally, so effortlessly and with so much joy and passion. Seeing his smiling face above the drumkit reminds viewers that music isn’t just his hobby; it’s his home. Paak’s always having fun and cruising through life to the beat of his own whimsical and groovy drum. Whether it is Grammy-winning singles or big-name features, we are constantly reminded that Paak is here to stay.

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Jacob Sanders

Rhodes College
English, Minors in Business and Education

I’m an aspiring educator and freelance writer. I appreciate soft-filled Airheads bites and informality.

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