It seems particularly apropos that when Anderson .Paak hits the stage at this year’s Grammy Awards, he will not only be up for Best New Artist, but he’s also been picked by event organizers as one of a handful of tried-and-true talents like Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Bruno Mars, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Weeknd who will all honor the late memories of luminaries Prince and George Michael.
This indicates both that .Paak may be relatively new for some music fans, but for others, he has already established himself enough as a lyricist, singer and musician that he warrants covering the aforementioned greats.
For those that want to know more about .Paak, we’ve pulled 10 obscure facts about his life and career in advance of this Sunday’s Grammy’s alongside an original shoot featuring clothing and accessories from Acne Studios, A kind of Guise, Burberry and Thom Browne.
He used to go by Breezy Lovejoy
Born Brandon Paak Anderson, the artist’s first introduction to the public as an entertainer came under the moniker “Breezy Lovejoy” – releasing two projects, O.B.E. Vol. 1 and Lovejoy. During the period, he described it as “making music and nobody cared.”
According to the LA Weekly, the Lovejoy moniker, he hoped, would make him sound more “dramatic or, like, romantic. You know, something for the ladies. I thought it was something that made it a little more star-studded.”
Ultimately, Breezy Lovejoy morphed into who we know as Anderson .Paak today in 2014 with the release of Venice.
The significance of “.Paak”
While the “Anderson Paak” clearly stems from his own given name, many questioned what the stylized “dot/period” in his name signified.
“I used to go by Breezy Lovejoy, and I just couldn’t see myself meeting people like Dr. Dre and being like ‘Hi, my name’s Breezy Lovejoy, and I do hip-hop, soul, trans-funk,'” he said. “I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take it serious. So I switched it up, did a bunch of music, and I got serious. Had a son, got my wifey, and I was like ‘You know what, it’s time to kick it up a notch and be something real prestigious and classic. ‘Anderson .Paak.’ And I put the dot there to remind me about detail, work ethic, and recording nude. Things like that. Things that got me here.”
.Paak further clarified the meaning in an interview with NPR, stating, “The dot stands for ‘detail’ — always be paying attention to detail. I feel that people take you as serious as you take yourself. I spent a lot of time working on my craft, developing my style, and after I came out of my little incubation I promised that I would pay attention to detail. And on top of that, I want to make sure that dot is always there to remind me and to remind others.”
Drumming was his first musical hustle
When Anderson .Paak performs alongside his band, The Free Nationals, he spends about half of the performance behind the drum kit and the other as the clear frontman of the eclectic ensemble.
This isn’t merely a ploy to make him seem more musical.
“I started playing drums in church in Oxnard, a church called St. Paul’s Baptist Church,” he said. “My godsister invited me to church when I was about 11 years old after I had learned to play a couple beats. She was like, ‘You should come to the church. You gotta see the choir and you gotta see the church band.’ I went, and I saw the choir and the church band and I was hooked. I’d never seen any kind of playing — I’d never been in a black Baptist church before that. I was just in love with the energy.”
.Paak honed his talents in Los Angeles while taking drumming classes at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood – with hopes of becoming a session musician.
Ultimately, he toured in 2009 with rock singer/songwriter, Mandi Perkins, where he opened up for her and also played drums in her band. He would then parlay that experience into playing drums for former American Idol contestant, Haley Reinhart, before choosing to focus more on his own work.
He grew up in the same town as Madlib
While the mention of “Los Angeles” evokes thoughts of a bevy of superstars spread out over multiple disciplines, “Oxnard” is synonymous with the musical exploits of producer/emcee, Madlib.
“In Oxnard there’s places where you’ll get got,” Madlib said on his hometown. “It was pretty rough. People had the mentality where they didn’t think they were going to live that long anyway, so they did a lot of things that eventually caught up with them. There were a lot of people living like criminals, selling drugs and clashing.”
The aforementioned producer notably produced “The Waters” on .Paak’s Grammy-nominated project, Malibu.
He had a difficult childhood
.Paak had a rather tumultuous upbringing. Born to a Korean mother and African American father, at a very early age he witnessed the violence that plagued all of their lives at the hands of the patriarch of the family.
His father would spend 14 years in jail and .Paak would never see him again before he passed away.
“Childhood was a little bit of everything,” he said. “There was luxury; there was poverty. There was happy times; there was extreme difficulties. There was a lot of craziness.”
Ultimately, .Paak’s mother picked herself up, remarried, and used her entrepreneurial spirit to turn a roadside strawberry business into a lucrative venture for the family. But the happy times wouldn’t last.
“El Niño hit and just destroyed everything,” .Paak said.
Following the devastation, Paak’s mother and stepfather went to prison for tax evasion. The big, six-bedroom house went into foreclosure. He and his sister moved around, staying with family and friends until they could graduate.
He worked on a marijuana farm
Following his parent’s legal troubles, .Paak and his pregnant second wife found themselves working on a marijuana farm in Santa Barbara, California. For those unfamiliar with U.S. law, marijuana for medical prescriptions has been legal in California since 1996 and it’s cultivated in a similar manner as if growing produce. Thus, people are always on the lookout for farmhands willing to engage in both the tedious nature of growing weed, but also the backbreaking labor that comes along with it.
“I remember looking out over the hills, and there were football fields of the shit, as far as you could see,” he said, adding “all these huge plants – bigger than you! It was the hardest work of my life, but it was 150 bucks an hour.”
He was homeless
After working on the aforementioned farm, .Paak was suddenly let go without warning – once again leaving he and his wife’s life in flux. With no other options, they found themselves homeless and forced to couch surf.
“There was a period of time where I was homeless, and I had a family,” .Paak remembers. “My son was a newborn. I just got married. That time of being homeless built a lot of character. That’s the foundation that I’m on right now. A lot of songs came out of that. I needed that shit.”
King Mez and Justus introduced him to Dr. Dre
Many people’s first introduction to Anderson .Paak came on Dr. Dre’s surprise project, Compton, where he appeared a staggering six times alongside the likes of other upstarts like King Mez and Justus. The latter would prove instrumental in getting .Paak on Dr. Dre’s radar.
“It was crazy, man,” .Paak remembers. “He didn’t know who I was, and was just trusting Mez and Justus that I was someone legit. I got in the studio with them, and before we got to the Dahi tracks, they decided to just play ‘Suede’ for Dre. He comes in, and I’m just sitting in the room, and I saw him play it over and over again. At the third time, he was ready to work. He played the beat for what is now ‘All In A Day’s Work,’ and man, I hadn’t heard a beat that dope in a while. I was like, ‘Yo I’m gonna spazz on this if it’s the last thing I do.’ Dre was telling us how the vibe should be, and so I just put the headphones in and recorded with a mic in the middle of the studio with like 15 people watching. I just closed my eyes and went off the top. After I finished, I looked at Dre, and he was just going nuts. He’s very involved in writing and getting a great vocal performance. I’ve never worked with a producer that can get that great of a vocal performance out of me. After that, we just kept working. One song turned into two or three, and then I gave him ‘Animals,’ and it was just nonstop. We have this crazy chemistry in the studio.”
His best life lessons
When you have Dr. Dre as both a mentor and musical peer, .Paak was wise to absorb as much wisdom as possible when interacting with him.
Specifically, he picked up two important pieces of advice.
“Don’t settle for less. Don’t just work with anybody, keep it tight – you can’t do features with everyone,” said .Paak. “Also, believe in what you have. Dre told me that when he was starting out no one wanted to invest in his album, but now look where he is. The wave will come around.”
His favorite songs
It should come as little a surprise that Anderson .Paak’s musical tastes are all-encompassing given his own stylings. From 2Pac to The Beatles, here are his 15 favorite songs:
1. 2Pac “Keep Your Head Up”
2. Maze ft. Fanky Beverly “Happy Feelings”
3. Sa-Ra “The Bone Song”
4. Aretha Franklin “I Say A Little Prayer”
5. Radiohead “Paranoid Android”
6. Stevie Wonder “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)”
7. Thundercat “Is It Love”
8. Clipse “I’m Not You”
9. Kanye ft. Nas & Really Doe “We Major”
10. Jay Z ft. The Notorious B.I.G “Brooklyn’s Finest”
11. D’Angelo “Africa”
12. J. Dilla “Like This”
13. Bilal “Sometimes”
14. The Beatles “In My Life”
15. Jay Electronica “Better in Tune With the Infinite”
Listen to the full playlist here.
For more on Anderson .Paak be sure to watch us take him vintage clothes shopping on Highsnobiety TV.
- Photographer: Robert Wunsch
- Styling: Chantal Drywa
- Photo Assistant: Robert Hammann
- Styling Assistant: Josie Danziger
- Producer: Jean Jarvis
- Casting Director: Anissa Payne