When the raspy-voiced Anderson .Paak rose to prominence in 2016 following the release of his highly praised sophomore album, Malibu, it was a much-needed win for the singer/rapper/drummer/producer, who at one point in his career was homeless. It earned him Grammy nominations for best new artist and best urban contemporary artist earlier this year. It was a longtime coming for the 31-year-old performer, whose underground roots stretch back to 2009, when he went by the moniker Breezy Lovejoy.
If you’re just now getting hip to the “Come Down” singer, then you’re in for an audible treat of soulful crooning, eclectic covers, slick pimp talk and turn-up-inducing bangers as we share seven essential cuts from his catalog.
“K-Town Girl” (as Breezy Lovejoy)
Before he adopted his signature nose ring, .Paak had another distinct look during his Breezy years: a dreadlocked mohawk/Mongolian warrior cut (it looks better than our description implies). The music, though, was essentially the same: feel-good, bouncy jams like the 2012 cut “K-Town Girl,” featuring his friend and battle-rap veteran Dumbfoundead.
“Such Great Heights” (the Postal Service cover)
In 2013, .Paak dropped a name-your-price EP of covers on his Bandcamp page titled, fittingly, Cover Art (it’s still up, and you should definitely download it). The six self-produced songs are beautiful reimaginings of songs by the Postal Service, the White Stripes, Neil Young and others. Though .Paak isn’t overtly political in his music, this concept was. White artists in the ’50s remade songs from black musicians and turned them into commercial hits; .Paak flipped the process. The results are funky, soulful and electronic takes on “rock and folk classics from your favorite stringy-haired singers,” per the EP’s notes.
While Malibu is absolutely deserving of every bit of praise it received, .Paak’s 2014 debut, Venice, should have been enough to put him on the Grammy panel’s watch list. The diverse and eclectic album was a perfect melding of soulful hip-hop and R&B, groovy house and trunk-rattling beats. If nothing else, the speaker-destroying “Drugs” should have been played inside every damn club on the Strip.
“Cheap Whiskey / 70’s Riesling”
.Paak doesn’t get emotional too often. This two-part song, off the Blended Babies–produced The Anderson .Paak EP (2015), might be his deepest. Addressing his estranged father, he croons “Wish I had a chance to like ya / Wish I didn’t look just like ya” before the track erupts with psychedelic guitars.
“Put It Down” (with TOKiMONSTA and KRNE)
The stampede of bass and horns that is “Put It Down,” produced by frequent collaborator TOKiMONSTA, proves that .Paak sounds good on just about anything. It’s like an Electric Daisy Carnival version of the duo’s 2014 cut, “Realla,” which is also worth a spin.
“Suede” (with Knxwledge, as NxWorries)
Get your pimp hand ready. Yes Lawd!, .Paak’s 2016 collab with choppy beatmaker Knxwledge, might be the silkiest thing we’ve ever heard, as .Paak waxes pimpish over classic soul samples. Listen to “Suede” for its finest display, with the unapologetic chorus of “If I call you a bitch, it’s ’cause you my bitch.”
The funkiest cut in his catalog, “Come Down” finds the artist flexing a syncopated flow over groovy bass and a sample of Israel’s national anthem. He later reworked the song in an exclusive video for the 2017 Grammy Awards broadcast—backed by a gospel choir. Hallelujah!
Sept. 1, 10:30 p.m., $20–$30, Jewel Nightclub inside Aria Resort & Casino, jewelnightclub.com