Just a couple days prior to his Coachella set, Anderson .Paak belled Nick Kennedy to talk about the festival, the evolution of skill and mentality which has traversed the artist’s last two albums, and where he’s at with his latest, the remarkable Ventura.
How’s Coachella going?
Coachella’s going good; I invested a lot of time in the set. Coachella’s like, it should be about the up-and-coming artists that are really breaking through, and having their time. Now, it’s about who you bring out on stage, y’know? People could give a sh–t about anything else.
Last time I was here I just got to go out, walk around, see shows; that was a couple years ago, and nobody was trying to get a picture. Now it’s a little different.
It’s been dope to see these new artists like Khruangbin, Tierra Whack, Sir, all these younger artists that are coming in, ‘cause it’s their time. I remember that feeling when we first played, and all the people we brought out like [Dr] Dre, T.I., Kendrick [Lamar]… Now we’re playing our second time and we’re kinda over that, and now we’re like “everything’s about us” – we just wanna play our set.
You don’t feel like you’ve got anything to prove?
Nah, not at all. I was definitely more at ease with this one. I was just about playing the music, having a good time, celebrating life and the release of the project, and also shouting out our brothers Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle.
What did Nipsey Hussle mean to you, and did you have the chance to meet the man?
Never got a chance to meet him. As to what he represented though: he was an LA staple. If you were in LA for the last five or ten years, then you know the name and you know how much respect was put on that name.
When he passed, it was just like…what the f-ck, man? I’m in LA, and I’ve never seen anyone’s death transform the city like it has with Nipsey. It has really sent a shockwave.
I got a lot of praise with [Malibu] that garnered me a lot of attention. But when I think about the content of past songs, it’s like ‘Damn!’ Lyrics like, “If I call you ‘bitch’ it’s cause you my bitch/ If nobody else call you ‘bitch’ there ain’t gonna be no problems”… Songs like Come Down, like not wanting to come down from a high… All these songs that people really bigged up me on, but I was in a different time. I can’t get that time back, or that state of mind.
So each record is signifying a growth in songwriting and mentality and where I’m at mentally. It’s always a tug-of-war, wanting to making music that resonates with a wide range of people, but not wanting to conform or to dilute the content itself. I feel like that’s always been the case with the beach series, looking back – and in the case of Ventura, it felt like a bookend to it.
Ventura contains many political statements: references to Trump’s wall and Kaepernick’s protests. Do you ever get concerned about pushback on that stuff?
Yeah, sometimes, man – I don’t want no smoked out Secret Service agents coming at my joint or whatever.
I was talking about this with Schoolboy Q and he was saying, “If you ain’t kicking up no dust, or no one is coming at you with strong feelings, then you’re not doing much.” People have to incite something. Trump is the best at trolling people – there’s an art to it. But my real intention is always to unite.
What can you tell me about the image on the cover of Ventura? It seems pretty personal and intimate.
I was just back from tour, either Australia or Europe, and my buddy Simone Cihlar [artist behind Oxnard‘s visuals and .Paak’s Instagram] took this picture of me in the living room just watching TV with my son, who was like 14 months – I just ended up passing out next to him. Since he’s been born I’m out on the road, and when I come back he’s like, “Who is this guy?”
We didn’t want to overdo it on this one. We wanted it to be personal, because that’s what this album is: personal.
Ventura is out April 26 via Aftermath Entertainment.
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