By Cameron Lee
February 20, 2019
A cold and rainy evening didn’t stop hordes of fans from waiting in line for one of the most dynamic performers of our generation. The show and tour sold out soon after it was announced and had the city in rare form as music purists and hip-hop heads waited in anticipation as the Oxnard, California-born and raised artist Anderson .Paak prepared to hit the stage.
Defining the music of Anderson .Paak may be difficult as his sound lies somewhere between hip-hop, R&B, and soul, utilizing a full band setup only comparable to bands like The Roots. .Paak struggled as a musician for most of his life prior to being featured on Dr. Dre’s 2015 album Compton. He’s seen somewhat of a meteoric rise although many music enthusiasts have had a watchful eye on the effervescent drummer and singer/rapper for a while; he started early and, like many artists, began his career in the church.
Opening the evening was the multi-talented singer-songwriter and actress Tayla Parx. Now stepping in the spotlight as a solo artist, Parx has a bevy of songwriting credits that include hits like “Love Lies” by Khalid and “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande. Her performance was well received and she captivated the audience by belting out some impressive notes while glowing on stage in her aqua two-piece and her bright blonde hair.
Anderson .Paak stepped onstage a few minutes after the scheduled 8:45 p.m. set time on a high-rise drum kit. He was introduced with his talented band, the Free Nationals, behind large drapes and a devilish red hue. After blessing the audience with a symphonic intro, he strutted onto the stage with “Who R U?,” a single from his latest album Oxnard, a fitting track to express his conviction as an artist who has struggled and rose through the ranks. Dr. Dre described his voice as having a “pain” that often exudes some of the most iconic singers of our lifetime, blending all of the good elements of modern hip-hop and R&B with a vintage soul that creates a charming sound that almost any music fan can appreciate.
Three full studio albums into his career (four if you count the collaboration album with hip-hop producer Knxwledge, Yes Lawd!) .Paak is hitting his stride. His infectious energy and multi-dimensional skill set is hard to deny, and the accolades are following. A Grammy nod for Best Performance for his song “Bubblin” has launched his stardom to new heights, selling out venues across the country, well before any awards validated his talents. His set showcased his full range of skills, from the spoken-word rap-heavy “6 Summers” to the gritty but soulful number “The Waters” from the 2016 album Malibu.
Busting out his signature breakdance moves and even jumping in the audience, .Paak’s energy is part of what makes his artistry even more impressive. Many rap and R&B shows tend to be a little low on energy and stage presence, but .Paak’s live performance is as vibrant as the colorful collages that grace his album covers. Placing the period before his last name, to make sure people pay attention to the details, .Paak and the Free Nationals hit every note with a flair that contrasts modern day popular music while seamlessly integrating multiple musical genres.
Performing portions of the set on his drum kit while rapping and singing, engaging with the audience around every corner, .Paak and the Free Nationals bring a element to their show that is rarely seen in hip-hop and R&B. He even brought out Tayla Parx again for the hit single “Tints,” which usually features Kendrick Lamar, and the band smoothly hit all of the notes. Their performance of the songs was spot on and almost identical to the studio albums.
The night came to a fitting end when .Paak paid tribute to his longtime friend and collaborator Mac Miller, who recently passed away. While he left the audience awestruck and wanting more, we collectively realized that we were all witness to an artist truly in his prime heading toward icon status.
Check out the remaining 2019 tour dates for Anderson .Paak.