Supporting the Grammy Award-winning artist’s Brandon Anderson Foundation that aims to expose inner-city communities to the arts, the third annual event presented as a mini-music festival while shining a spotlight on various initiatives and local talent. With a thousand families that were invited to attend the show, general entry was donation based. (Last year’s event raised $155,000, per a release.)
After marching around MacArthur with the Los Angeles Parmelettes drumline, .Paak set the party in the park off with dance battles and rhyme fests courtesy of facilitators from JUiCE, the nonprofit hip-hop arts organization that provides a haven for the youth to express themselves through music, visual art and dance. Cultural innovator Tommy the Clown and the TSquad delivered clowning and krumping fun for all ages, even hyping up the day’s host, actor/comedian/host Anthony Anderson, and his son to engage in a dance off. Tiny dancers Norah, Yarah and Rosa also ripped the stage with their versatile repertoire of moves to the sounds of Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It” and Tupac’s “Changes.”
With the flier detailing a lineup of cleverly-coded performer names, the four-hour show ran with few glitches as artists popped up onstage for a bite-sized set. Singer-songwriters Mereba and Emily King offered their individual brands of soul as the former covered Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and performed the swaggy number “Black Truck” before the latter flexed her vocals for “Look At Me Now,” “Distance” and “Ever After” with Anderson .Paak jumping on the drums. Kali Uchis later joined .Paak and The Free Nationals with a live rendition of the smooth cut “Time” off the band’s recently released debut album and a cover of The Cardigans’ 1996 throwback “Lovefool.”
In between sets, volunteers dressed as Minions and Trolls characters were spotted Milly-Rocking among the crowd as .Paak, his band and jazz all-stars like Thundercat, Kamasi Washington and Maurice “Mobetta” Brown filled gaps with funky arrangements and passionate solos. Individual offerings also made the setlist, like Thundercat’s “Them Changes” and .Paak cuts à la “Bubblin’,” Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up” and the finale, “Come Down.”
While some were skeptical about flinging cuss words in front of the kids, rap’s finest were well represented at the function as upstarts like Blueface and YBN Cordae brought turn-up anthems like “Thotiana,” “Broke As F–k” and “RNP.” For the older set, Freddie Gibbs rolled through the .Paak-assisted “Giannis” and “Crime Pays.” A North Face jacket-laced Jay Rock fired up the crowd with “King’s Dead” and “Win” despite sound issues, and The Game repped the West Side with his .Paak collaboration “Stainless” and the classic hit “Hate It Or Love It.”
Perhaps the most random moments came with host and Black-ish star Anthony Anderson flexing his piano prowess by playing some Stevie Wonder and Force MDs, which sparked an improvised song with the band that could be titled “In The Key of Anthony.” After meeting .Paak about a year ago through his fellow Compton native, Dr. Dre, Anderson bonded with him and aligned with his .Paak House initiative before agreeing to host the gig.
“I have my own foundation, the Anderson Family Foundation, [that gives] back to the inner city, where I grew up in Compton in particular,” Anderson told Billboard backstage before the show. “So I understand what [the event] means to the community and what it meant to Anderson to do this, to give supplemental education to students in these communities, to give them a safe haven to go to, to create and to live up to their fullest potential. Once I read his mission statement and what it is that they wanted to do, I was like, I’m there.” While .Paak has discussed potentially making a cameo on one of Anderson’s shows with the actor, it remains to be seen if Anderson will tap into his own musical talents (like his melody-making character does in the 2019 Netflix film Beats).
Comedian Seth Rogen also graced the jamboree with his presence and even raffled off a smoke break with the pot-loving star (“I smoked with the dude. His name was Jeff and we was dope,” he later tweeted). Raffle prizes included Beats By Dre products, tickets to Christina Aguilera’s The Xperience residency in Vegas and Pharrell’s Something in the Water music festival, as well as Rihanna’s coffee table book, a chance to kick it with Anderson on the set of Black-ish and tickets to movie screenings for the animated Will Smith flick Spies in Disguise. (Anderson .Paak contributes a song called “Then There Were Two” with Mark Ronson for the Spies in Disguise film.)
The .Paak House party also capped off a busy week for .Paak, who was campaigning to keep the doors of the Performing Arts & Convention Center in his native Oxnard open on Wednesday (Dec. 11). Slated to close due to budget cuts on Dec. 31, .Paak revealed to Billboard that he was able to extend the deadline to April and will work to make that the headquarters for .Paak House next year.
There was also no shortage of love shown to .Paak from his guests, like YBN Cordae and The Game, who praised the musician for his personality and efforts. To pull a quote from The Game, the rapper told the crowd after his performance, “This is one of the only motherf–kers in music that really f–king cares about people, man. Amazing f–king guy Anderson .Paak is.”