Anderson .Paak doesn’t fit easy categorization
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Anderson .Paak doesn’t fit easy categorization

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    Though Anderson .Paak was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist and subsequently lost last month, he is both optimisitic and reflective on the experience — two key traits found in his music. The singer/songwriter/rapper/drummer is actually about five albums into his career.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Anderson .Paak, left, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, from A Tribe Called Quest, performed at the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 12. .Paak guested on A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 album.

Anderson .Paak, the songwriter, singer, rapper and drummer who was born Brandon Paak Anderson, didn’t mind being nominated for a best new artist Grammy — even though his 2016 release, “Malibu,” placed him about five albums into his recording career.

“I think it’s cool,” he said by phone from Los Angeles while tending to his son, Soul, in an interview before the awards ceremony. “For people who don’t know, the music speaks for itself. I never thought I’d be a new artist at 31 years old.”

ANDERSON .PAAK & THE FREE NATIONALS

Where: The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $35

Info: 941-7469, seetickets.us

.Paak is not yet as well-known as best new artist award-winner Chance the Rapper, who has taken off in popularity, performing arena shows around the country. But he’s been on a rising trajectory, touring midsize venues and concert halls. And .Paak is about to embark on a stadium-sized tour of Europe with Bruno Mars.

Though he didn’t win a Grammy on Feb. 12, he made an impression at the awards ceremony, playing drums with A Tribe Called Quest during that outfit’s impassioned performance. (See the performance at 808ne.ws/PaakGrammys.)

Still behind his kit, .Paak sang the lead on “Movin Backwards”: “I’m two heels from the top tier, what it take to be boss? … Maybe the answer’s not up there. Maybe it’s on the ground somewhere. I don’t want to go backwards.”

He appears at The Republik on Thursday, in between appearances at the House of Blues in Southern California and an arena date with Mars in France.

The Grammy appearance was a natural for .Paak. He appeared on A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 album “We Got It from Here … Thank You 4 Your Service.”

.Paak has recorded as a guest on dozens of songs, singing and rapping. He performed on six tracks on Dr. Dre’s 2015 album, “Compton,” which got him nationwide attention.

Throughout “Malibu,” he sings and raps amid the utopian grooves of 1970s soul; the woozy flux of current alt-R&B; the brittle sound of trap; the low-slung swagger of Los Angeles hip-hop; and hints of psychedelia, new wave, gospel and electronic dance music. All the genres and techniques are put in service of his own complicated story.

Anderson .Paak is the son of a South Korean woman and an African-American man; he grew up in Oxnard, Calif.

Although “Malibu” was also nominated as best urban contemporary album (a category Beyonce won with “Lemonade”), Oxnard wasn’t particularly urban. It’s famous for its soil, and his mother supported the family growing organic strawberries.

“Mama was a farmer/papa was a goner,” he sings on the album. His last glimpse of his father, he told LA Weekly, “He was on top of my mom, there’s blood all over the street.” His father, now dead, was jailed for assault.

He started playing drums in his church band at 12 and was rapping in high school. His musical tastes were broad, and he was already resisting pigeonholes.

“People didn’t always understand a drummer that was leading the band,” he said. “People wanted to box me in. ‘Is he a rapper?’ ‘Is he an R&B dude?’ ‘We can make him like this.’ No.”

AT 21, he moved to Los Angeles and worked his way into a nurturing local scene. He did himself no favor by choosing the name Breezy Lovejoy, which he saw as a cheerful, romantic R&B moniker. But he assembled a band, the Free Nationals, and built a following. In 2012, he released two albums as Breezy Lovejoy.

By 2014, he had renamed himself Anderson .Paak — the dot symbolizes attention to detail — and he released “Venice,” an album full of lighthearted tales of smoking dope and hanging out with women by the beach. He also had a project, NxWorries, with the producer Knxwledge, and in 2015 their single “Suede” became an online phenomenon, with millions of streams and video views.

That got Dr. Dre’s attention, which led to .Paak’s prominence on “Compton.” He released “Malibu” independently and was signed to Dr. Dre’s label, Aftermath.

“The last year has been the best of my life,” he said. “I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve actually gotten to make some money from my music and help be a provider for my family. But simultaneously, I feel like the world is kind of crumbling around me, and people are going through hell.”

.Paak hopes to release a new album this year that will feature string arrangements and orchestras. “I just want to go for a bigger overall sound,” he said.

And while he’s not finished exploring his own past, he’s also thinking about a broader perspective.

“Some people can really home in and make political songs about the problems that are going on and still make them good songs,” he said. “That’s where I want to get at with this project.

“I’m a groove-based artist. But I want it to be high art, and I want it to still reflect the times. And I want it to help people get through these times.”

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