Anderson .Paak is a man of many talents: He’s a rapper, singer, songwriter, producer and a drummer. Oh, and lest we forget, he’s a genre-bending wizard, too. Born Brandon Paak Anderson, the Grammy-nominated rapper is known for his game-changing hip hop productions that flawlessly blend rap with gospel, funk, R&B and electronic.
His breakthrough debut album Venice saw him flirting with wonky trap beats while its follow-up, Malibu, took a more soulful approach. Now, with his third studio full-length Oxnard on the way—it drops November 16—it’s safe to say that the world’s breathlessly anticipating what else the Dr Dre protege has in store.
To mark the album’s impending arrival, we compile five of the rapper’s less-heralded jams he’s released over the years.
“Milk N’ Honey”
Here’s exactly how to kick open an album: With a lethal dose of electronic-tempered R&B. A warm, buzzing drum machine rattles underneath glitchy synths on Venice’s “Milk N’ Honey,” but the track ranks on this list not for its catchy beat. We simply love the rapper’s flair for storytelling, a skill that with time could put him next to acclaimed lyricists such as Kendrick Lamar and André 3000.
.Paak paints a vivid imagery with his smooth bars, sucking you into his toxic relationship with a woman that eventually lands him in trouble. “I felt dumb as a brick, I had no idea / She had stolen the whip, and this bitch had warrants and shit,” he rap-sings on a verse.
Sure, the narrative on “Milk N’ Honey” won’t stir your emotions as much as KDot’s “The Art of Peer Pressure,” but it’s just as creative and entertaining.
Before .Paak made his commercial debut, the rapper released music under the moniker Breezy Lovejoy, churning out a number of albums, mixtapes and loosies. As Breezy, he experimented with different types of sounds, from electronic to rock to soul, which resulted in one of the most memorable works from his earlier days: the jazz-inflected “8oom 8ap.”
Released as a one-off single on Bandcamp, “8oom 8ap” (read as ‘boom bap’) is .Paak’s sparkling reimagination of the East Coast hip hop sound. The California native injects a 1920s Gatsby-style vibe into the song by working ragtime and swing, layering jazzy beats over a head-nodding bassline and scratch loops. If Biggie and Benny Goodman were to collaborate, the outcome would probably sound something like this.
Another Breezy Lovejoy cut, “Tickets” is .Paak’s leather jacketed rock star moment. It’s a badass, blues-rock number in the style of The Black Keys’ “Howlin’ for You,” which appears on his 2012 LP, LOVEJOY.
Teaming up with his good friend Shafiq Husayn of neo-soul outfit The Sa-Ra Creative Partners, .Paak pairs edgy guitar riffs with Emilie Martinez and Jonah Levine’s smooth horn playing and success-minded bars about finding “the right path to prosper.”
There are a handful of joyful tracks scattered throughout .Paak’s discography, but nothing is as uplifting and empowering as “The Dreamer,” the closer on his sophomore album, Malibu. It’s a heartfelt reminder to keep reaching for the stars even through the toughest of times.
The song, co-written by Talib Kweli, was hugely inspired by .Paak’s mother. Growing up, the rapper watched his mother suffer through domestic abuse and time in prison, but despite everything, she still kept her chin up and did her most to provide for .Paak and his siblings.
“It’s a common story with a lot of people growing up, especially with a lot of black males,” he recalled in an interview with AmaruDonTV. “[The song’s] about ‘Okay, how are we moving past that and how are we going to paint a different picture?’ […] We didn’t have a lot, but we had everything.”
And the choir of children that back .Paak on the track? Those are actually his nieces, making the song a total family affair.
“’Til it’s Over”
If you find this song familiar, it’s probably because you heard it in a commercial. This Apple one, in particular, which starred FKA Twigs as its spunky, dancing heroine under Spike Jonze’s direction.
Although the single only premiered earlier in March, “’Til it’s Over” had been sitting in .Paak’s vault for almost half a decade. A collaboration with Jeff Kleinman and Michael Uzowuru—who both worked on Frank Ocean’s “Chanel” and Jorja Smith’s “February 3rd”—the track’s a dreamy, futuristic blend of warped synths and dramatic piano. “Don’t all this new music sound the same?” .Paak quips on a verse. Sure, but the same definitely can’t be said of him.
Oxnard is out November 16.