The 2017 Best New Artist Grammy nominees aren't all new faces. While the Recording Academy selects a batch of the past year's breakout artists for the category, critics may be quick to point out that a few of the 2017 nominees weren't strangers to mainstream music prior to 2016, or even 2015. Among the contenders are two hip-hop artists who have enjoyed fruitful careers long before the Grammy attention: Los Angeles rapper/singer/musician Anderson .Paak and Chicago MC Chance The Rapper.
Before .Paak became Dr. Dre's protegee, the Oxnard, Calif. native released music under the name Breezy LoveJoy before flipping it to Anderson .Paak (he was born Brandon Anderson Paak). Scour SoundCloud and you'll find his 2012 mixtape O.B.E. Vol. 1, home to the standout "P.Y.P." At that point, .Paak was trying to stack cash to provide for his wife and son, Soul, by helping manage a marijuana farm in Santa Barbara. After losing his job, he became a drummer for American Idol contestant Hailey Reinhart. He then concentrated on his solo career, rolling out his wavy 2014 debut Venice, a fusion of house music, hip-hop, R&B and soul with contributions from SiR, Tokimonsta among others; it was indicative of .Paak's exploratory style.
A call from an Aftermath A&R rep in spring 2015 asking .Paak to sing for an unnamed Dr. Dre project (it would eventually turn into Compton, the companion album to the blockbuster N.W.A film Straight Outta Compton) would catapult .Paak's underground status into hip-hop darling. He scored six songs on the producer's third studio effort including "All In a Day's Work" alongside Marsha Ambrosius and Kendrick Lamar, "Issues" co-starring Ice Cube and Dem Jointz, as well as "Medicine Man" with Eminem and Candice Pillay.