Anderson .Paak’s Music Excited Dr. Dre & DJ Premier. His Story Is One Of Paid Dues. (Interview)
Although he was born Brandon Anderson Paak, most people who are close to the Southern California artist know him best as Breezy. A nickname that has stuck throughout most of his life, this association eventually became .Paak’s handle as an artist, and thus, giving birth to the first chapter in .Paak’s musical career as Breezy LoveJoy. As Anderson’s musicality developed and flourished, eventually Mr. LoveJoy, the artist, outgrew .Paak, the man. Even though he is still known as Breezy in his day-to-day life, the L.A. resident is now officially recognized within the music community as Anderson .Paak.
If there is one thing that those who still don’t know Anderson can quickly discover, it’s his diversity. .Paak’s range extends across genres beyond Hip-Hop thanks to his multi-dimensional skill set. His musical influences began early and in bulk, with interests in Soul, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Punk Rock, and church choir music. This reach has expanded exponentially into his art since then, as .Paak can be heard tackling everything from the Chicago House (“Milk and Honey”) all the way to the jazzy, Soul musings (“Suede”) and even a Postal Service cover. Clearly, there is no terrain .Paak’s voice and music cannot reach.
In order to continue burgeoning his career for today and into the future, Anderson chooses to live in that uncomfortable space between contentment and fear of the unknown. In celebration of his recently-released Anderson .Paak EP with Blended Babies, Ambrosia For Heads discussed the path Anderson has forged for himself before he foots onward in a brilliantly colorful journey.
Ambrosia For Heads: For those who don’t know about you, can you tell the people a little bit about who is Anderson .Paak?
Anderson .Paak: Yeah. I’m a musician. I’m a drummer. I’m from Oxnard, California. I moved to [Los Angeles] 10 years ago and started drumming for different people and simultaneously, I started writing music for myself. I did that for about six to seven years under the moniker Breezy LoveJoy and then about two years ago I started going by my government name; my last name, which is Anderson and Paak which is my middle name, and I started putting out new music under that moniker.
Within those two years, I’ve gotten to work with a lot of different producers, [Dr.] Dre, and different artists like ScHoolboy Q and The Game and Kendrick Lamar and whatnot. I put out a project called Venice a year ago, this time last year, and also a project called Cover Art. Now I’m gearing up for a new project called Malibu. I also have a side project with a group called NxWorries, with myself and a producer named Knxwledge, and we’re signed to Stones Throw [Records]. Our project should be out sometime early next year as well.
Ambrosia For Heads: So you grew up in Oxnard and that’s about an hour or so away from downtown L.A., which you said you moved to about 10 years ago, but in your youth, how did your community, parents, and family foster or influence your musical growth?
Anderson .Paak: My parents were very supportive. My mom was into Soul music and so that was all the first music I grew up to coming up. When she found out I was interested in music, she supported any way she could. When I was about 12 years old, my step-pops bought a drum set and I started playing on it and I just kinda started learning by ear. He taught me a few things, but it was about a few months after I got the kit, my god-sister invited me to come to church. I went to church and I saw the church band and I was just obsessed with that, the choir and all of the music that they were playing. I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever seen. It was like a Black Baptist church so I had never experienced anything like that. So I wanted to play drums for the church after that. A couple Sundays went by and they started putting me on as a secondary drummer and that’s pretty much where my first schooling was. I played drums in church from about 11 or 12 all the way up until, I mean, I think I finally had to stop last year. I got a little too busy and I don’t play at church anymore, but I do play in my live shows. That was a huge influence on me, just the music that was going on in church and simultaneously listening to Hip-Hop and Dre, and Snoop, Jay-Z and Kanye [West] and all that stuff. My older sister was into [A] Tribe Called Quest and all that stuff, so all these different were a huge factor.
And then the fact that I grew up in Ventura County which is about an hour away and a smaller town, so I feel like the perspective is a little different than if I was to have grown up out here doing music. There’s less people doing it out there and it’s less of a frenzy and we’re kind of looking at L.A. as like, you know, the big city, and we’re outsiders looking into the scene. I think the perspective is just a little different. I had different influences around my way, a lot of Rock and Punk Rock influences. People were into that and a lot of spheres that I grew up with were a huge part of the [local] culture. I think all of those things had a part in the way I make music now and the things I listen to, but I had my parents 100% support. I mean, I was playing drums in church making a little money and I would save my money and then they would match it and they’d give me whatever I want. So one year I want a drum set—get a drum set. [The] next year I want a turntables and then I got an [Akai] MPC and then a mixing board. By the time I was a senior I had a full studio in high school and I was making demos and DJ’ing.
Ambrosia For Heads: When you first got into drumming, producing, and using music as an outlet, what changed within you personally or emotionally that triggered the thought of “this is what I want to do.”
Anderson .Paak: I think it was when I seen the reaction that people were having. When I saw that art can affect people in a good way and that I can cause people to move and have fun. In church, people would come up and say, “Man the way you played those drums, you healed me. You touched my soul,” this and that. And when I started seeing that what I was doing with my talents was affecting people like that, that’s what really moved me to pursue this and feel like I found my purpose. I thought that this was what I wanted to do. It made me happy. I really liked to do it. I was going to do it regardless of money. I was doing it regardless of whether I was getting paid or not. When I chose to do it full time, and it may not have been professional then, but then the business side became a factor. But even still, there’s times when I think I could completely stop doing this and just move somewhere far and just do, you know, be a farmer or something, but I’ll still be playing drums and doing music too. It’s just one of those things I love. Once I’ve seen that it can really get that reaction out of people at a young age, I was just set on it. I wanted to do it all the time.
Ambrosia For Heads: As you were doing that and building your own musicality within yourself, when did Breezy LoveJoy first enter the scene? Is Breezy still around and how does he influence you as Anderson .Paak?
Anderson .Paak: My friends that know me, I’ve been Breezy since I was 11 years old. It’s just a nickname that I have. All my close friends and relatives call me Breezy and they’re probably always going to call me Breezy. I think that’s where it lives at for now. It’s a part of the story of my artistry and I think people that are into my music are naturally going to find that chapter, that Breezy LoveJoy chapter. It’s a great chapter and there was some great material released under that name. I just recently was able to get the Twitter handle changed to @AndersonPaak, so now it’s pretty much all official. But the process was, and it still- I didn’t know what it was going to be because I went by that name for so long, but I kind of just trusted in it and committed to it and I’m glad I did because some people can go back and find it. A lot of people now know me as Anderson .Paak and that’s it. That’s pretty much what I wanted.
Ambrosia For Heads: You mentioned that Breezy is kind of left there for people to look back, but how has Breezy blended himself into Anderson .Paak, or is your redefinition of yourself as Anderson .Paak leaving Breezy just where he is?
Anderson .Paak: Evolution. It’s just evolution. I don’t believe in just staying the same and doing one thing or replicating or duplicating what you’ve already done. I don’t believe in being comfortable with anything. I believe in trying to get out your comfort zone and try new things and pushing to do new things because once it’s boring to me, I don’t want to do it anymore. The Breezy part, it starts there and now we’re at where we’re at now with Anderson .Paak. I feel like it’s the evolution of an artist and some people you don’t get to see grow right in front of their audience, but I don’t think that’s the case with me. I’ve had to grow in front of my audience and evolve in front of the audience It’s been a process, a learning process. I think my true fans have a lot of trust in me and a lot of patience and I really appreciate that. That’s all I can say about it, it’s just a natural evolution of an artist.
Ambrosia For Heads: So as you’ve been evolving into the man that is Anderson .Paak today, if you could, knowing what you know today, what advice do you wish you had when you were Breezy that a wiser Anderson .Paak could have told him?
Anderson .Paak: I would’ve just told him to get your ass up and work. I would’ve tried to push a work ethic on myself if I could say anything to my younger self. I thought I had a lot of talent that I could just rest on and that things would just come to me easily because of that. I didn’t think I had to really work for anything or develop any kind of work ethic or any kind of routine to get where I am now. That was something I learned way later and now I’m making up for lost time. I also think that everything happens for a reason. I think it’s all worked out and it’s all working out how it’s supposed to, but that is one thing I would have told my younger, lazier self.
Ambrosia For Heads: Many people who are discovering Anderson .Paak may know a lot about your recent work with Dr. Dre on Compton, but you recently just dropped a self titled EP, Anderson .Paak, with Blended Babies and a four pack of songs where you are front and center. What was your experience working with those guys and what was your favorite record from the project?
Anderson .Paak: It was real smooth, real easy going man. It was really cool man. JP is a really dope musician and we just got together. We vibed, we smoked, we drank some brews and it was just a real comfortable place for me to record. They ushered in that kind of atmosphere for me to write some material that was personal to me and also some stuff that was more light. I enjoyed the process a lot. My favorite song on that is probably “Cheap Whiskey.” I love “Make It Work” too.
Ambrosia For Heads: How and when did the name for the EP come around and where did you guys record?
Anderson .Paak: We recorded it all at their place in West Hollywood. I was just going over there and recording music. I was just helping them write for a different artist that they were working with. Every time I would go over there I would record a song or two or an idea. And before we knew it we had a handful of material and I wanted to try to maybe put some of it out on Soundcloud, but we finally came to the agreement that they would put it out under Blended Babies and it would be their project basically and I would be a featured artist. I have a lot of projects that were in the nest and I didn’t want to have it be my project or put it out as another Anderson .Paak project, per se, just because I had a lot going on and still do, just with NxWorries, and Malibu, and I dropped a project with TOKiMONSTA, this and that. So I still wanted this music to come out so I thought that was the best way to go about it. They were already putting out music on their own too and I thought it would be pretty cool to have them drop it and I would be the featured artist. That format is something they could do with anybody.
Ambrosia For Heads: When you first started listening to some of the music that they were throwing around, how did that, if at all, influence your writing process for that project?
Anderson .Paak: A lot of stuff they deal with has a lot of Blues and Soul elements, a lot of guitars and stuff. That was huge for me. It took me exactly there and that was kind of the mode I was already in and it was a good fit for that. I got introduced to them by Bradley Herring and I think he was spot on with their production as it just suited my tone. A lot of their tracks were open and had a lot of space for me to think of different melodies to put on top. That was important to me too. I think it was their blues and soul that really spoke to me and helped me write these songs like “Make It Work,” and “So Slow,” and stuff.
Ambrosia For Heads: What was it like to write alongside Asher Roth, Donnie Trumpet, and King Chip, and how did their work influence or complement yours?
Anderson .Paak: Well I didn’t get to work with any of them as far as recording with them. I met Asher after and he’s a really, really cool dude. I’ve spoken to King Chip and he’s really cool as well. I’ve met Donnie, but you know, those guys were the cherry on top for some of those songs. I thought they added to the songs instead of taking away and it fit. The way I had “Make It Work,” I had what I had for it and Asher had heard it, they played it for him, and I think he was like “Yo, I gotta get on this shit.” When I got back and heard it, I was like “Oh this is dope.” And then same thing with King Chip. I cut it, and Blended Babies they just know a lot of artists and they were just playing it for people. I think every time somebody heard it they just hopped on the shit.
Ambrosia For Heads: That’s great that the music from you and Blended was able to speak to them right away. But along with the Anderson .Paak EP, you worked with, as we spoke about earlier, Dr. Dre, Game, and DJ Premier. If you could, what was your experience like working with those guys and what impressed you most about each of them individually?
Anderson .Paak: Well, I mean Dre is like a part of my musical DNA. That’s the dude that [made me stay] up all night learning their music. His production was always some of my favorites with the quality and the detail of his records is some of the best Hip-Hop out. When I was asked to work with him it was almost like too good to be true. I didn’t think it was really going to happen. But, low and behold, when I got to the studio, he was there. He’s someone I felt like knows about Soul, Funk and stuff so I knew off top he was someone—like Blended Babies—that I could bring out a good tone over some really good production. I thought that was just a perfect fit. For some reason when we got with him, I wasn’t star struck or anything like that. It felt real natural and he made it real comfortable, just like the same I mentioned about Blended. He was another one of those producers that when I get there I’m like “Yeah, it feels good.” You know, of course I felt like “Okay, I need to execute and make this happen,” because I knew I only had one shot to make a good impression and I wanted to continue to work with him. I was glad I was able to execute when it was time to and I enjoy working with him and making music with him. We got more music coming.
DJ Premier, when I met him, he was the same way. He just has so much knowledge and so much time spent in the game so when you get around him and you have these conversations with him you can just tell he’s seen so much and seen so many artists. They’ve been apart of so many situations so when they’re telling me that what I’ve got is special and they love it and they love the sound and everything, it just means a lot to me and it gives me a boost of confidence. So working with him was awesome. I got to sit down and watch him chop up beats and all kinds of samples. He’s just like Dre. He’s very hands on even with the vocal production. So when I wrote my song with him, the first one, in Russia when we wrote “Til It’s Done,” he was in there telling me how he thought I should do different parts and do things over and maybe try this. I was surprised about that too that he had such a great ear for vocal production as well because a lot of producers don’t have that. That was awesome and they’re both perfectionists and good at paying attention to detail.
The Game is awesome as well. He’s another one of those artists that who’ve come up under the schooling of Dre and I think everyone who has worked with Dre extensively, you can tell because of how they get down in the studio. It was just tremendous. When I was with Game, he had a lot people in the studio. It was like a party. It was like 15 women, fuckin’ alcohol, drinks, it was people dancing, his cousins, his family, it was everybody. It was a good time man. It felt like when you got in the booth in front of all those people it was like, “Okay, you better fuckin’ spit some shit ’cause you’ve got all these people in here.” so I was in there for about two weeks with him just going. Some days I would just party and drink and some days we would just make some music. I probably recorded about like eight-10 songs with him and only two made the album. That was a really fun process especially after coming out of Dre’s sessions.
Ambrosia For Heads: As you were saying too, you felt like you really had to spit something. Did you feel any pressure at all? You did say that it went smooth for you, but was there any underlying pressure that you put upon yourself?
Anderson .Paak: I just wanted to keep it consistent, you know? I wanted to make sure that every time I worked with these people they were saying the same thing. I wanted my reputation to be consistent on these tracks and I wanted to be able to execute well. So, I guess there is a sense of pressure, but I spent a lot of time and I still do spend a lot of time just writing and preparing so that when I am in these situations like this that the probability of me executing is very high because now it’s kinda like a habit. What was that song, stunting is a habit? Winning is a habit. I feel like when you are prepared and you’ve developed a routine and you are always in the mode that it shouldn’t be like you have to rise to the occasion or you have all this nervousness because this is what you do and this is what you do. Now there might be some pressure. Sometimes, like with Dre, I would go in for the first time what I did was with something he wanted to work with, and we had to try some different things. Maybe there’s some pressure sometimes because you want to wow people the first time around and this and that, but honestly it might not go down like that and you might have to work for that shit. So, there was no pressure. I just wanted to keep it consistent and make sure that I was killing shit on every record. Every record. Whether it was Game, Domo [Genesis], Busdriver, I don’t care who the fuck. If I’m on it, then you know he’s gonna kill it. I want it to be like that.
Ambrosia For Heads: So now we’ve talked about your work with Blended, Premier, Dre, and Game, but you have Malibu coming up and before that was Venice. What can people expect from the transition between the two and what’s the growing process been like?
Anderson .Paak: I think Venice was an exploration in range and we had a lot of fun playing with different styles and different modes and different scenery within Venice. Now, Malibu, we are still having fun and exploring but I feel strongly that it’s a maturation of what’s been going on. I feel strongly that this album is a little bit more broad and universal than Venice. the type of music that we’re doing I feel like it’s sexy, it’s grown, and I don’t think I’ve ever had this many features before. I mean it’s not a whole lot, but usually it’s maybe one feature, two features. But, I’ve been able to work with some producers that I idolized growing up and I’ve gotten to work with some artists who are incredible that I’m big fans of. I feel like this album is a true maturation of where I’m at now. Like I said earlier with my name, it’s the natural evolution and growth of an artist.
Ambrosia For Heads: I know you’ve done some production for other people, a la Watsky, but are you producing for yourself on any of these projects or are you using strictly outside sources?
Anderson .Paak: I think on Malibu there were about two or three that I produced with The Free Nationals, my band. I know on Venice there was one I produced, “Miss Right.” But this one, yes I had more of a hand in the production and but I also got to work with different producers as well.
Ambrosia For Heads: May you discuss the other artists and producers that are going to appear on the new project?
Anderson .Paak: Some of the producers I worked with are KAYTRANADA, LO_DEF who now goes by Callum Connor, 9th Wonder, Hi-Tek, Likewise of Pac Div who produced a really dope joint with Game, Dem Jointz who did a large part of Compton album. I have ScHoolboy Q, Rapsody, BJ The Chicago Kid and I think that’s it, as of today.
Ambrosia For Heads: I’m excited to hear all of that man and I’m guessing the Rapsody joint is with 9th?
Anderson .Paak: Yes it is.
Ambrosia For Heads: Right on. Well, to wrap up with you here, we’ve talked a lot about growth. As artists, bloggers, and as humans in general we are constantly growing, molding, and changing to better ourselves. Where is Anderson .Paak going into the future and what do you expect from yourself going forward in your career? Where do you see yourself?
Anderson .Paak: I just want to stay inspired and I want to keep getting better. I take it day to day, but I want to stay inspired. I don’t want to get comfortable and be the dude that’s been doing the same thing and thinks that it’s great. It’s just not what I’m into. I want to continue to do what some people say I couldn’t do. Some people have said I couldn’t do records with The Game, and do records with Watsky, and do records with Busdriver, and then do records with Dr. Dre, and do records with Knxwledge, and do records with so and so.
My dream was always to be this radical that you could put in any place at any time and you will always have a common thread but he can go into any room and shine. So I want to continue to do that but just on a bigger level and to be able to partner with people who can help get my ideas across on a bigger level as well. But, I think most importantly, if I’m inspired then I can put good work out and that’s what’s going to make everything good. I want to continue to be around people who can inspire me and be in places that I’m inspired and I can continue to write new, fresh things that resonate with people. That’s where I would like to be in the future and that’s where I would like to be now.