Malibu was widely praised as one of the year’s best albums, even earning .Paak a couple GRAMMY nominations—one for Best New Artist and another for Best Urban Contemporary album with Malibu.
While 2016 was the year of Anderson .Paak as far as many of us were concerned, in a recent interview with Billboard, .Paak reveals that the weight of the world outside his own successes was never lost on him:
"It’s crazy, man. One of my best years was one of the worst years for the country. And, to be clear, it’s not like the last eight years was daisies for everyone. People were getting killed by cops; all kinds of things happened. I am optimistic, but I am affected by my surroundings, and the music is going to show that. I make songs to dance to, to make people feel good, but I need to reflect the times and keep my ear to the street. We need to help everyone get over the hump. It’s an obligation."
Anderson’s acknowledgment of his personal responsibility as an artist to properly reflect his social and political surroundings is a refreshing take, especially considering his surging success. Sadly, the mainstream is currently dominated by artists who refuse to “get political” aside from the occasional subtweet or impassioned Instagram post.
Drake, for example, has let out glimpses of awareness concerning the world around him, but by and large, his art has been completely devoid of anything outside the unique reality he’s built for himself.
The same goes for The Weeknd, who has actually admitted he has a strong desire to make political music but prefers to use his platform as an escape from the very things he concerns himself with outside of the booth.
There seems to be a rash of this attitude throughout the mainstream, and while I’m certainly not here to dictate what topics and themes these artists should or shouldn’t cover in their music, it’s clear that the desire is there but the choice is ultimately not being made to pursue it.
And don’t get it twisted, it is a choice.
Artists like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar have proven that it’s entirely possible to operate at a top-tier level while publicizing a sociopolitical message, an example Anderson .Paak seems more than willing to follow.
"All I’ve ever had to do is just f—ing do whatever I want. And now it’s gotten all the attention," Said .Paak.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Steph Johnson