Anderson .Paak: The Hype Is Real, But What Does The Future Hold?
Way back in the distant past before music streaming services existed, there was a time when you would hear one project a year from your favorite musician. After the release of their project, they’d shroud themselves in the shadows of obscurity, only to be heard through radio or seen on television. Unless you were James Brown, who was famous for cranking out weekly singles, releasing multiple bodies of music a year was unheard of — and most artists probably enjoyed spare time to tinker with their music, unbothered by the perpetual pressure to put it out.
Enter Anderson .Paak, the singer-slash-rapper whose discography was nothing short of robust in 2016. In what in many ways was a somber year with many losses, he was the archetype of emphatic musical productivity. .Paak, arguably one of the hardest working artists in the game, churned out a laundry list of content. He was everywhere, from performances on The Late Show, The BET Awards, The Roots Picnic, The Soul Train Awards, The Apollo, and a feature in our anti-gun violence campaign with EveryTown. Certainly there was no shortage of .Paak, though his omnipresence begs the question, was he spreading too much of his sound around?
With a hefty eleven features in 2016, Anderson .Paak’s thick tapestry of collaborations, woven together during the course of the year, garnered him a Best New Artist Grammy nod. .Paak’s “Am I Wrong?” featuring TDE’s ScHoolboy Q, a hip-hop track merging R&B and neo-soul graced the No. 1 spot of Billboard & Clio’s Top TV Commercials chart during its debut in Google’s “Joy Ride by You” ad. His hit single “Come Down” was also utilized in the background of nationally televised NBA Finals commercials and has since been the soundtrack for the 2016-2017 season.
.Paak toiled the Los Angeles music scene for years before gaining any serious traction. Through his work ethic, .Paak found himself under the watchful eye of Dr. Dre, appearing on an abundance of features on the highly anticipated album, Compton, back in August. Since then, the Aftermath label signee has been added to XXL’s Freshman Class, rocked out at Coachella (with guest spots by Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre and T.I.) and released Malibu, his most noteworthy body of work thus far. And if his breakout album Malibu wasn’t enough, .Paak teamed up with producer Knxwledge to forge the duo NxWorries for their LP entitled Yes Lawd! last October.
It’s easy to gloss over the fact that artists put out so much music in such a short time span in a world where oversaturation and over-consumption have become the status quo. Is .Paak running himself thin too soon? In 2016, he was spreading too much of his sound around, leaving no time for the listener to fully appreciate the work. We’ve heard his trademark scratchy, hypnotic voice saturate multiple songs but he doesn’t give us time to miss him, to yearn for his sound. In an interview back in February, music executive LA Reid shared his concerns about Atlanta rapper Future who also churns out high volumes of music and the possible repercussions of putting out those large quantities. “Every artist has a window that they make their great music, the more music you put out, the closer you’re getting to the end of that run. Don’t put out so much music that you burn yourself out early,” Reid said.
Reid also stated that there are artists capable of releasing large quantities of music that sustain twenty-year runs of success, which is virtually a rare feat. There’s no question that .Paak has had a stellar 2016, though retaining relevance through 2017 will be the most challenging test for him. He’s young and his window isn’t closing anytime soon, but that ideology does not promise him complete safety from himself.
If .Paak continues to differentiate himself from the homogenous pop artists that mainstream music holds, steadily produces critically acclaimed music, all the while rocking out all of his concerts then 2017 may be kind to him. Ultimately, the spectacle of watching an artist feverishly compete against themselves works best to entertain the listener but strains the artist, truly the performer’s worst case scenario, a dynamic that has become all too familiar these days.
Andrew White is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on Complex and LetterMag.com. You can find him kicking the ballistics on Twitter @DrewGoesIn.