I’ve always had a gripe with that saying, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” I know it’s less of a saying and more of a literal quote from the Bible, but even in its original context, I refuse to let the diverse splendor of life be reduced to such a bleak description, even in the pursuit of describing divine oneness.
Admittedly, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to pursue originality in the arts given the exponential increase in our exposure to sounds and images from around the globe. Especially in hip-hop and R&B, where miniature generations of sound domination tend to exist back to back ad infinitum, developing a style or sound that hasn’t already been driven into the ground is exactly the type of sword in the stone maneuver that separates artists like Anderson .Paak from an ever-increasing amalgam of similarity.
In a recent interview with Flying Lotus for Interview Magazine, Anderson reminisced about the days before he blossomed into the creative force we’re familiar with today. The West Coast multi-talent credited his years toiling in the underground with allowing him time to develop his unique style, rather than copying those that came before him.
"It's been great for me because I got to spend a lot of time just absorbing, watching, and learning, and just kind of doing a lot of listening. I think that helped because, early in my career, I was doing a lot of emulating and maybe worried about what the next artist was doing. Now I'm really comfortable within my own skin and my own artistry."
Before .Paak was being placed on Dr. Dre albums and being nominated for GRAMMYs, he was just an underground artist by the name of Breezy Lovejoy who had just lost his job at a Santa Barbara marijuana farm. His music had plenty of promise—I still enjoy going back to his Breezy projects from time to time—but his projects lacked the laser-focus of Malibu or even Venice for that matter.
In the four-year span between O.B.E. Vol.1 and Malibu, however, Anderson was employed by Shafiq Husayn of LA-based hip-hop group Sa-Ra as an assistant, videographer, editor, writer and producer. Getting to witness different aspects of the music industry, as well as the victories and losses by his contemporaries, was monumental in developing the distillation of .Paak’s music that we hear today. It’s also the perfect example of why all artists should strive to reach a point of comfortability with their craft that allows them to create something that is uniquely them.
Admittedly, it’s never been easier to succeed off of being unoriginal, which makes the easy route all the more appealing to struggling artists who are just trying to make a living doing what they love. But Anderson is a prime example of what can happen when you stick it out, hone your unique style, and unapologetically unleash it onto the world.
There will likely always be a place in the industry for the 22 Savage's of the world, but hearing a genre-blending, boundary-pushing artist like Anderson .Paak recount his days spent emulating what was hot in the moment is the ultimate inspiration for any artist out there that hasn’t yet developed their own unique sound.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Art Credit: Josh Pearson