Solo Success For Dr. Dre’s Protege: Why Anderson.Paak Is Rap Royalty’s Greatest Gift Since ‘Chronic 2001’

If it really is who, rather than what you know in the music industry, Dr. Dre has got to be one of the greatest acquaintances to make. Dre’s return from retirement to record an album inspired by feature film Straight Outta Compton last year has proven handsomely worthwhile, with the fruits of his labor instigating the rise of recent collaborator, Anderson.Paak.

Dr. Dre’s lucrative work has taken many forms in the past two decades: the American artist is now a record producer, executive producer, entrepreneur, and current CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics. Dre’s musical career is studded with successes, and songs from his second solo album Chronic 2001, which reached RIAA sextuple-platinum certification within two years of its release in 1999, are widely acknowledged as classics of their genre.

His work with Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, and DJ Yella as N.W.A. between 1986 and 1991 is credited with pioneering and popularizing musical subgenres Gangsta Rap and West Coast Hip Hop — California’s answer to genre giants such as Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G., and Public Enemy. The group’s formation, development, and frequent dalliances with controversy are central to blockbuster N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton, which premiered late last summer with an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.

It was at the time of the film’s release that Dr. Dre announced that he was to release Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre after 16 years of inactivity, crediting the movie as the album’s inspiration. Having called off the release of prior album, Detox, after disappointing single sales last year, critics had been skeptical of both Dre’s ability to bring it to fruition and the quality of the tracks to be contained therein. During the album’s four years of genesis, the Doctor of hip hop collaborated with an array of acclaimed artists Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg, but it’s Dre’s work with the humble 29-year-old Anderson.Paak which is now garnering positive press for its introduction of the rising star.

A fellow California native, Paak, as a mere fledgling of the increasingly discerning music industry, has received critical acclaim for his creation of a unique, sonic juxtaposition of genres like soul, R & B and rap. In a world demanding such creative innovation — not unlike that of Dr. Dre and N.W.A. in the creation of controversial, geographically-inspired subgenera — Paak’s music stands up to the challenge.

Anderson.Paak performs live in Los Angeles

Paak also spoke about the long and sordid road to playing Dre his track “Suede” in the life-changing studio session with Dr. Dre while interviewing with Billboard.

“I’m thinking he might just cut it off and walk out the room; he’s notorious for that. But he started bobbing his head, then says, ‘Play that again.’ And he cranked it, bro — I mean, it hurt my ears. After the third time, he was like, ‘All right. Let’s work.’,” Anderson explained.

While a leg-up from Dr. Dre was the catalyst for his break into the industry, Paak stressed that years of hard work came before it in a radio interview with Richard Kingsmill of Triple J.

“…this has been a great year, and I’m excited to see things come to fruition. A seed that I planted three, four years ago starts harvesting. It didn’t happen overnight,” said the artist.

For those who keenly await the return of hip hop legends to the studio, and those who look forward to the unearthing of new talent, thanks are due to Dr. Dre for playing a crucial role in the rise of Anderson.Paak.

[Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images]