Silk Sonic - the throwback R&B duo comprised of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak - had a clean sweep during this year's GRAMMY Awards. They took home the prizes for Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Leave the Door Open," and also won Best R&B Performance (in a tie with Jazmine Sullivan) and Best R&B Song. It's official: the Recording Academy can't resist the genius, nostalgic funk Mars and .Paak bring to the table. They're a power duo, indeed.
We've already paid our respects to Bruno Mars with a top 10 list of his best songs. This time, we're giving Anderson .Paak's discography a turn. Unlike Bruno, who's been in the limelight ever since he was deemed the world's youngest Elvis impersonator, .Paak didn't catch the public's attention until his mid-20s, when he released his debut mixtape, O.B.E. Vol. 1, in 2012. Before that, he was the drummer for former American Idol semi-finalist Haley Reinhart. When he released Malibu in 2016, mainstream audiences - as well as the Recording Academy - started to pay attention to his work.
Why the period before his last name? According to .Paak, the dot stands for "detail," and the need to pay attention to it. If you're an avid listener of .Paak's music, you know he's one to never skim over the fine print of his songs. That's why he's a GRAMMY Awards favorite, and why he's one of the greatest R&B artists working today. Without further ado, here are our picks for his 10 best songs!
"Trippy (feat. J. Cole)"
Kicking off our list is a classic track from Oxnard, .Paak's 2018 album. “Trippy” marks the first collaboration between .Paak and rapper J. Cole. It's a chill song about love and intimacy with their respective partners. This theme is touched upon further in the tune's opening sample, which features the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
"Trippy" is one of those laid-back songs you can envision hearing in a hipstery restaurant, inside a shopping mall, or during a lively pool party. It's a mix of silky smooth and spicy. The well-placed snaps give it an added pop in what would otherwise be a heartwarming love song.
"Heart Don't Stand a Chance"
"Champaaagne! Pouring doooown!" This song doesn't open Malibu, but it sure does feel like an energetic start to the record. “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” is our introduction to the girl Anderson speaks about throughout the course of Malibu. We get a brief tease of what’s to come on the first track (which we'll get to later), but here he welcomes us into the state of their relationship: crazy, cosmopolitan, and very lovely.
This track is tailor-made for a cool party. The mix of keys, steady drumming, and a whirlwind of synths towards the end are the epitome of .Paak's successful formula. Think you can get away with playing this song without dancing? You don't stand a chance!
8. "Cheers (feat. Q-Tip)"
Another hit off Oxnard, "Cheers" opens with a delightfully bouncy bass and wet drum beat. Then come horns, strong backing vocals, and awesome verses rapped by .Paak and former A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip. Oh, and let's not forget about that closing sax solo and gorgeous vocal riffs by Cocoa Sarai!
On the song, both .Paak, and Tip reminisce about lost friends. These include .Paak’s friend and collaborator Mac Miller, and Q-Tip’s childhood friend and former A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg. Despite the heavy subject matter of death, we love how this song refrains from being sad. It's just .Paak and Q-Tip giving love to their friends, and celebrating their lives with a warm toast. Hence the title, “Cheers!”
7. "The Bird"
So this is the opening track on Malibu, not "Heart Don't Stand a Chance." Despite "The Bird" being softer, slower, and dreamier than the other song, we do think it's the stronger choice, and definitely deserving of that opening spot on the album.
With a catchy chorus and sultry piano bits, .Paak croons of the hardships he faced in youth - including his mother’s gambling problem and father’s absence. Despite these setbacks, Anderson promises us he will continue on the path of righteousness until he reaches the top. Fortunately, with his predominant role on Dr. Dre’s Compton and two stellar features on The Game’s The Documentary 2/2.5, Anderson managed to break through.
6. "The Season / Carry Me"
Something about the music production on "The Season / Carry Me" just feels big. Expansive. Like it can touch the sky. The topic of this song is also pretty big: it addresses Anderson's past and anxiously looks to the future.
It's another song where .Paak talks about childhood – his mother and where he grew up, Oxnard, California. He also addresses the dangers of hood life and adds religious imagery and symbolism into the mix. The line, "It was late in the fall / I caught a glimpse of my first love, my God," even touches upon his first love: drumming. Anderson started pursuing music after drumming in his church as a child.
What makes this song better than "The Bird" is its intensity. It starts off with stormy, whistling sounds created by 9th Wonder, then transitions into a 90s R&B-esque beat sprinkled with graceful piano keys and a little bit of macho. "The Season / Carry Me" definitely feels like .Paak's most ambitious song. It's rougher than his later tracks, but it's still an important part of his discography.
While "The Season / Carry Me" is large, "Suede" is slender and sharp. Yes, "Suede" is simple in production, but it's oh-so clean. It just sounds like it doesn't take up any more space than it needs to.
"Suede" isn't .Paak's song alone. This track is the first single to come from the west coast collaboration between .Paak and the legendary producer Knxwledge. Together they form the group NxWorries. This song was part of their 2016 project Yes Lawd! Still, fans give .Paak most of the credit on this song, since he wrote most of the lyrics and carries them with an astounding vocal performance.
Anderson stated in an interview with The Fader that the lyrics within the pre-chorus of "Suede" are some of his favorite he's ever written.
"I remember after I recorded it ["Suede"] I was like, 'oh man, I can never put this out!'...Sent it to Knxwledge and he was like, all flame emojis. He doesn't like anything, so he liked it and I was like, okay," .Paak said. "Usually the songs I'm not the most comfortable with end up being the biggest songs."
4. "Brother's Keeper (feat. Pusha T)"
“Brother’s Keeper” sees Pusha T and .Paak trading bars over what it means to be “your brother’s keeper.” It's a song about loyalty, honesty, and having to make hard decisions in order to stay morally righteous. And on top of that? It's got some wicked music production by Dem Jointz and Jairus ‘J-Mo’ Mozee.
The title "Brother's Keeper" is a reference to a CNN interview of the same name, which details Pusha T and No Malice’s journey from selling drugs to becoming the famed rap duo Clipse. The line "My brother just turned down a half a million dollars / For being one half of one of the greatest duos in hip-hop history" is a reference to their downfall; Pusha T wanted to make more money from touring, but No Malice, a born-again Christian, wasn't comfortable with it.
"Brother's Keeper" is a favorite among hardcore .Paak fans due to its vulnerability, detailed instrumentals, and cinematic feel. This is certainly one of .Paak's more fierce songs, but it's got the passion and fire we love him for.
3. "TINTS (feat. Kendrick Lamar)"
Of all the songs in Anderson's discography, we think "TINTS" has the most Silk Sonic energy. That's because it's an homage to 70s funk while also being a fun song about living on the edge.
Of course, Kendrick Lamar brings this thing to a whole other level. As the first official single from Oxnard, “TINTS” marks the third collaboration between .Paak and Lamar. They had previously linked up on “Deep Water” from Dr. Dre’s Compton album, and “Bloody Waters” from the Black Panther soundtrack. Fun fact: they've only ever worked over the web, never getting proper time to collaborate in a studio together. But don't their voices blend so well together? We think so.
We love "TINTS" for being a mix of dark and light. On the one hand, its danceable beat and references to luxurious California culture makes you feel posh inside. On the other hand, there are lines about gun violence, personal space being invaded due to fame, and other shady happenings. While "TINTS" is all about hiding, we think it's one of the best tracks to play loud and proud.
2. "Come Home (feat. André 3000)"
From those soulful "Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, ah-ah" refrains to the funky drum beat, and the added flute and horn bits to André 3000’s tongue-twisting verse and .Paak's powerhouse vocals, "Come Home" is nothing short of marvelous. We think it's .Paak's new age peak. After all, this thing won a GRAMMY in 2020 for "Best R&B Performance."
Essentially, “Come Home” is a modern throwback to the golden age of rhythmic soul, with a parodying “I-want-you-back” theme characteristic of songs from Motown’s golden age. It revolves around .Paak pleading for the return of his former partner. Over the course of the song, he goes from wanting her back to seeking peace and establishing friendship.
Discussing the track with Julie Adenuga on her Beats 1 show, .Paak said it took André 3000 a long time to send in his verse, and he doubted it would even come.
“Man, that was rough," he said, "I felt like I was writing where it was like, ‘Day three, still no André. Sorry, Mom. He hasn’t delivered. Day four, still haven’t heard from André. Hopes are still optimistic, but...Week seven, this is complete bullsh-t. No signs of André.'”
After some time, André finally did send the verse, and .Paak hyped it up by calling it a product of the “spitter André. That verse-verse André.” Even if André 3000 didn't get his verse in, we still think "Come Home" would have been hailed by fans and critics alike as a masterpiece...
1. "Come Down"
...But there's only one .Paak song we think comes toe-to-toe with "Come Home," and that's the similarly titled "Come Down" off Malibu.
This thing has appeared everywhere: from a Nike commercial for Kevin Durant’s new signature shoe to the Madden 17 main menu tracklist and even Olivia Wilde's teen movie Booksmart. It was released as the fourth single from Malibu and produced by Hi-Tek. And it hasn't left our brains since 2016.
What makes it so notable? Undoubtedly, that irresistibly groovy bass line. But also the use of chant vocals, the clever sampling of Israel's national anthem ("Hatikvah") in the intro, and Anderson's gutsy performance. All those elements help make "Come Down" the most recognizable song in .Paak's discography.
Listening to "Come Down" is like being a spy at a party. The vibe is lively and flamboyant, yet there's some kind of toxic behavior happening within the celebration's background. Is it possible to be mad and happy at the same time? That's what .Paak's lyrics bring to the table.
We love a man of mystery, and on "Come Down," .Paak intentionally keeps things vague in order to spice up the song's story. Essentially, "Come Down" highlights the fine line between having a good time and partying too hard. Wild nights can be dangerous, but .Paak suggests that's what makes them worthwhile.
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