Sorry not sorry about that headline… too goddamn easy.
Last Thursday night, breakthrough hip-hop & soul star Anderson .Paak fired up a crowded house at 1015 Folsom with his funky backing band The Free Nationals. The free show was the official release party for his excellent sophomore album Malibu, released just a week earlier. Word is there were over 5000 RSVPs for the 1800 capacity club- the entry line stretched farther than the eye could see. There’s no way they all made it inside, but from the sweat-drenched walls and kids hanging over every inch of balcony, you wouldn’t know it.
I first heard about Paak from his unexpected features on Dr. Dre’s new album Compton (check out Adrian Spinelli’s recent story with Paak over at Paste for how that played out)… so I was pretty stoked when he opened with media-shaming Compton highlight “Animals.” So was the young crowd, who were mostly too busy getting the fuck down to raise their phones and Snap the moment. The pleading tone of the hook, chastising the media and police for systemic racism and a lopsided obsession with perceived violence in the black community, encapsulated the scene perfectly: “please don’t come around these parts / and tell me that we all a bunch of animals / the only time they wanna turn the cameras on / is when we’re fuckin’ shit up, come on.”
True, true. You won’t see this scene on the news, but here’s a shitload of kids fanatically enjoying one of hip-hop’s most creative rising stars in a positive atmosphere. In fact, I was downright surprised by how polite the crowd was. I’ve been to a bunch of sold-out shows at 1015 Folsom- when it gets really packed in there, everyone kinda loses their shit and starts pushing each other around. Not this time. Even with everyone mushed together, bouncing and breaking, and a probable average age of 22, I saw nothing but smiles and good vibes. Go Team Millennial!
Anderson .Paak – “Animals” (Live @ 1015 Folsom) / Credit: L Yap
Paak isn’t only a rapper. His warm, soulful singing voice is equal parts honey and sandpaper, lending itself well to multiple styles. Throughout the set, we’re treated to hip-hop, soul, funk, a little jazz, R&B, and even a touch of 80’s Bowie. From the moment Paak strutted on stage, his confidence was apparent. Leaning into the audience for his verses, and reeling back, eyes closed to the sky during his more soulful harmonies, his prowess on the mic is natural… but the ace up his sleeve is the drum throne.
He rattled off lines with masterful precision while absolutely DEMOLISHING the jazz kit on stage (backed by live guitar, bass, and turntables). Name a rhythm. Hip-hop? Jazz? Punk? David Bowie? (Yes Bowie- during a memorable moment they covered the famous intro and first verse of “Let’s Dance”). He does it all. Effortlessly switching between mobile MC and drum hero, Paak was like a metronome with drumsticks pounding out chicken fillets all night. Made it look as casual as putting on a pair of socks too.
I knew he grew up a church drummer, but DAMN. I don’t remember anything on his records suggesting he was capable of such a virtuosic percussive assault. Check out this clip of him killing it at the tail-end of this funked-up rendition of “Carry Me” from YouTube user Julian (nice name dude, you old school?):
Anderson .Paak – “Carry Me + Drum Solo” (Live @ 1015 Folsom) / Credit: Julian
Later, illicit trap anthem “Drugs” from Paak’s debut album Venice made the crowd go floor-stomping bonkers. Bet you can’t guess what that one’s about. By the end, even those of us unfamiliar (not many) were shouting along to every unsubtle word, and for that one song, we were the ones in the spotlight.
Anderson .Paak – “Drugs”
If there’s anything I took away from this show, it’s that Paak isn’t an overproduced flavor of the week, but the real deal. A natural showman who BLEEDS talent and charisma, and really connects with the audience. And he’s just starting to find his groove. This rocket’s off to the stratosphere and we’re all going with him. He’s here to stay.
Catch Anderson .Paak on tour here and go listen to Malibu. Right. Freaking. Meow.