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Anderson .Paak Stays Smiling

The Oxnard native on what not to wear to Coachella, nurturing his friends, and his new album ‘Ventura’.

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Anderson .Paak is one of those people who forever has a smile on their face. When he called me on a Wednesday morning—presumably in the midst of a million back-to-back interviews—I could feel that damn smile radiating through the phone. Given that he’s achieved so much in the five years since his debut album Venice, the 33-year-old has a lot to be happy about. He’s worked with everyone from Dr. Dre to Flying Lotus to Smokey Robinson, performed at just about every festival on planet Earth, and last year he took home a Grammy for his track ‘Bubblin’ with Kendrick Lamar.

In between two Coachella weekends, the Oxnard native is still the same happy-go-lucky, chilled out dude he was back in 2014, albeit a little more introspective. With half a decade in the game and four studio albums under his belt, Paak is maturing in both his sound and his identity. We jump on a call between Los Angeles and Melbourne to chat about his new album Ventura, what not to do at Coachella, and our mutual love for Johnny Vulture aka Andre 3000.

Anderson, how you doing man? You’ve been busy huh?
Yeah I’ve been a little bit busy but it feels good.

Congrats on the new record, I’ve been giving it a good spin the last few days.
Thank you bro.

Ventura comes less than six months after your previous release Oxnard. What did you want to do differently on this record and what was your approach?
The lyrical content mostly, the approach was the same but I wanted to collaborate with writers and producers, old and new, to create some content that was outside what I was usually doing. With Oxnard, I wanted to do a project that was more hip-hop and rap influenced. Oxnard is excess, it’s gettin’ money and feelin’ good. Ventura is like a love letter, it’s me having gone through everything, from the come up where I was desperate, at my most vulnerable, telling the stories from my life. I’m appreciative of it all: love, respect, growth, wisdom, and family.

There are some pretty amazing features on Ventura. You’ve got Brandy, Nate Dogg, and Smokey Robinson to name a few. Are you at a point in your career where you just pitch pipe-dream features and see what happens, or do you write with people in mind?
It depends, for example on ‘Jet Black’, I had written the hook and everything but I wanted someone that could touch all the harmonies and ad-lib over it to give me that luxury R&B sound, that LA swanky ‘Full Moon’ vibe that Brandy has. She was one of the first people to get back to us and she killed it! I just got to link with her recently and meet her finally, it was just like meeting a long-lost family member, it was great.

Then there are features that are on your bucket list, like, of course I’ve always wanted to do fuckin’ anything with Andre! I never thought it would be something this grandiose and this perfect, to the point where it’s like “Boom, this shit is gonna be track one! Fuck outta here.”  We met a while back, 2016 I think, and we’d talked about working together. Eventually he came to chill with me in the studio for a couple of days and we listened to all the records. He came back to me with that verse, god bless him.

Do you remember the first time you heard Outkast?  What’s your favourite Andre song?
I think it was the video for ‘Player’s Ball’, my stepfather was playing Outkast and Goodie Mob and all that because he was from Atlanta, I was hearing all of that since I was a little kid. My favourite Andre song is probably ‘Prototype’ but it’s tough, all of The Love Below album. ‘Spread’ is another one. He’s crazy.

So you’ve just come off the back of two Coachella weekends. How was it for you? Any highlights?
Yeah, Coachella was great. You get to see the up-and-coming artists you’ve been listening to and see how excited they are when it’s their time, and see them execute their moment when everybody is watching. It was great to see artists like Weezer, H.E.R., Tierra Whack, and SiR. I got to just mob around and hang out with my gang. The first time we went we could walk around wherever but this time it was a little bit harder to do that, there was a little more panic, so it’s crazy to see things come full circle but I loved it.

I’m really proud of my band too, it wasn’t about who we brought out this time. The first time we brought out Dre and Kendrick and everybody, so this time around we just wanted to show us, you know? Just to play some good music and give people the right vibes.

Some of the most talented performers were on this years Coachella but the crazy shit is, since I’ve been on this break I got to watch the Beyonce one again and I’m just like, they might as well just retire the festival because what the fuck! [Laughs] That performance? Man, they have to have a whole Beyonce museum there, they’ve got her stage still there and I don’t think motherfuckers can move past that. So it was great playing the festival that Beyonce burnt down, for sure. [Laughs]

The ashes of Coachella.
Yeah we’re just playing the ashes of what remains. [Laughs]

Do you have any tips for Coachella first timers?
Just wear comfortable clothing man, get the fuck out of here with all these tight ass jeans, hiked up jean shorts. All the suss dudes, keep your shirts on, the dudes walking around all ripped with the bandana over their face, man. Everybody needs to chill, just relax. You guys aren’t Native American [so] quit it with the headdress shit. Just go with a fun attitude and chill out, go experience some music. It’s a nerve-wracking experience as a performer, it’s a festival where a lot of eyes and influential people are watching you, so when the crowd’s energy is good it helps the acts work through their technical difficulties. [Laughs]

We’re a good way into 2019 now, aside from having two new albums under your belt, what has changed for Anderson Paak since 2018?
Well I’m a daddy of two now. I’m getting a lot more confident in who I am as a person, and getting older. That’s enabled me to meet a lot more people. There’s things I can’t do anymore and that I don’t want to do anymore so I just want to grow up in a sense. I think my music is reflecting that more but I’m excited about that more. Every year I’m just thinking about the next move and how that’s going to affect my children and my children’s children.

I’m trying harder to nurture relationships and to check up on people, I don’t want nothin, just to say what’s up. This industry can wear you down, everybody is just hitting you up because they want something so when you’re reaching out just to check up on people and just having friends, that’s helpful. So I’m trying to put more into my bandmates and looking after their longevity, just been putting more time into thinking that way, you know?

That’s what’s up. Ok last question, speaking of growing up, I know you grew up in the hardcore scene so I just wanted to know if you still get a chance to go to shows and do you ever get in the pit anymore?
You know what, someone I am going to see when I have a chance is JPEGMAFIA, I feel like he’s kind of a good representation of a maturation of the scene and kind of blending that with hip-hop. I got to meet him last week, I’m hoping to go see that and maybe jump in the mosh pit or something.

Thank you man, congratulations again on the new record and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of you real soon.
Fo’ sho man, thank you!

Check out Anderson Paak’s new album Ventura below:


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