When Dr. Dre announced the soundtrack to Straight Outta Compton, there were some major surprises. First and foremost: DRE IS RELEASING A NEW ALBUM! Then there were the collaborations, which reunited the good doctor with some of his former Ruthless and Aftermath alumni like Cold 187um, Game and Xzibit. And then people were left asking, "Who is this guy that’s on six of the LP’s 16 tracks?"
Anderson .Paak has been making a name for himself for a little while now, touring with slam poet/MC George Watsky, singing, rapping and drumming on his own stuff and, more recently, his and producer Knxwledge's underground hit “Suede,” which will be on the duo's forthcoming project, NxWorries.
In an exclusive interview with BET.com, Anderson speaks how he came to be a part of Compton at the last minute, working with Dr. Dre in the future and how he plans to wrap up the busiest year of his career.
BET.com: First, talk about how you came to work with Dr. Dre.
Anderson .Paak: I got hit up to work with DJ Dahi, who I’m a big fan of, and it was to work on something for Dre’s album. I was like, “I don’t know if this Dre thing will happen ever but I’m down to work with Dahi cause he’s got slaps, he’s got beats and not only does he have the beats, but he’s got good chord progressions and drum solos. I’m like, “F**k it, I’m down.” So we get to the studio and the first people we see is Dre and the D.O.C. They’re chillin’ watching the game and Dre said what’s up, and it was King Mez and Justus that were really in love with the song “Suede” and they said they’d been playing "Suede" for a couple weeks straight. So they were like, “We want you to see if you can come up with something for these beats that Dahi sent.” I was like, “Hell yeah,” and they played “Suede” for Dre and he played it back like three times and after that we were working. That was it. After doing the Dahi stuff, I was over there every day just working.
At what point did you realize that six of your contributions were going to be on the first Dre album to come out in over 15 years?
I didn’t think it was real until the pre-order came out. I was like, “Oh s**t. This is happening.” I got there late. Some of the people had been working with Dre for a long time. I heard all kinds of s**t that was supposed to happen that didn’t happen, so that was always in the back of people’s heads. He had this new class of producers and people that he had been working with and I was one of those dudes that was with the new class working on what was no longer Detox but Compton. But because I was super late to it, I was just like I’ll believe it when I see it.
In addition to Dre, you got to collaborate with Eminem, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Premier, Jill Scott and more. That’s most people’s life list. Did you work with them directly in the studio or were your vocals added later?
I got to work with Premier and Dre on “Animals,” but songs like “Deep Water” and “Issues” and “Medicine Man” that was all just Dre throwing lobs like, “F**k it, throw ‘em on here!” He just trusted me and let me do me. That s**t is crazy for me to wrap my head around. There’s so many people that don’t get to do these things and I’m so blessed. I feel confident when I’m doing it, but at the same, to get that from Dre, it’s like, “OK, I’m gonna run with that.” It feels good to go into that next album with that confidence. I feel like a legit quarterback that’s out here with the arm 'cause Dre put his money on me, so it’s like Kanye now. “N****s can’t tell me nothin'.”
Before Compton, you dropped the video of you and Knxwledge in the Stones Throw dungeon performing “Suede,” which got a lot of people buzzing. How’s it been going with that project?
NxWorries has definitely some of my best material I’ve been involved with. It’s probably the first project that I’ve worked with one producer all the way through. Even on Venice, I worked a lot with one producer but we still worked with a handful of different producers as well. I had a good time and I feel like I really found my tone within this project. I took a different vocal approach that I hadn’t really been rocking before. Now I’ve really gotten to fall all the way into it, and Dre and all these people are kind of lighting that fire, too, and boosting my confidence. It’s helped my whole artistic approach and everything has been very inspiring.
I feel like the tour you did with George Watsky really introduced you to a new audience and showcased your skills on the drums. Can you speak on what it meant for you to play in front of his devoted fan base?
Hell yeah! That’s the homie. Those dudes, just like Dre, been throwing me lobs. [On tour with them], their audience was my audience and was like, “We believe in you. We f**k with you. And if you wanna come over here and have fun and get down with our audience, let’s do it.” Those dudes were making their own independent tracks that didn’t give a f**k about what anybody else was doing. They had their own audiences and for them to be like, “We f**k with you. Come on the road with us,” before Dre or anyone, they thought I was tight. Nothing but love, Watsky.
You got your own project, Malibu, coming out soon. With the influence and experience of everything you’ve done this past year, what can the fans expect from this album?
It’s just a maturation. I think it’s interesting how everything comes around full circle. I’m dealing with a lot of the things that I originally fell in love with. I’m coming back to soul music and revisiting some of the sounds I started out doing. It’s never fun for me to do the same thing twice, so this is the maturation but it’s also time for me to bring it back to the essence. I take offense when people think I’m just a rapper. The people I’m into are cats like D’Angelo, Prince, Hendrix and I want to be mentioned in that bracket of people. My focus is on making music that’s unique to myself and developing and toning a style that cannot be duplicated.
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(Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)