With his own band, The Free Nationals, .Paak takes multitasking to its logical extreme, drumming, rapping, singing and bouncing around the stage. “With the new generation of R&B, the influences are starting to change,” says .Paak. “I do soul music, but there are a lot of outside influences -- indie rock, electro, dance.” His vision of R&B is less quiet storm, more rainbow tornado. “This generation truly benefits from a talent as diverse as his,” says Tip “T.I.” Harris, who rapped on .Paak’s song “Come Down.” “I wish him the best of luck, though I don’t think he’ll need it much.”
A few weeks from turning 30, .Paak can easily present as one of several people. Though he’s wiry and boyish, he’s a veteran. He and his wife, Hey Oun, have been together for 10 years, six of them married. They have a 6-year-old son named Soul, who is fond of Wiz Khalifa’s 2011 hit “Black and Yellow” (and some of his dad’s music).
When .Paak returns from his journey around the studio, papers in hand, he exclaims, “Thank you, Lord!,” settles into his chair and starts rolling. His manager, Adrian Miller, pops his head in to ask if the drumming is too loud. .Paak smiles and shakes his head. “No, no. It’s a good vibe.”
How does it feel to be nominated?
It means a lot to me, especially because Malibu didn’t blow up on radio or become some huge commercial smash. I’m new to the Grammys in a few ways. I didn’t know until a couple of years ago who was doing the voting — other artists and producers and people making records. When those people neglect their duty to vote, that’s when things go haywire. We need to make sure the right people are being nominated. But whether they got it wrong or right, I’m just happy to be in the building. It’s not going to be the end of the world if I don’t win.
What will you do if you do win?
The whole family will be in the building. I think I’ll just get blackout drunk.
What has the past year been like for you and your family?
Even though it was the biggest year of my career, we took a vacation, all of us. We went to the Disney resort in Hawaii for a whole week. I don’t know if we’d ever had that much concentrated time together. I was always doing sessions, never sitting still. It was awesome to just be with each other, nothing interrupting us.
How did it feel to break through in 2016? It was a fairly intense year, to put it mildly.
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.