Esquire: Anderson .Paak Is Shaping the Culture at Every Turn

The following is an excerpt from Esquire. Read the full article here.

Anderson .Paak had a version of his latest single, “Jewelz,” nearly ready to go way back in February. He was playing around with it, working on the mix, but he didn’t release it. “I didn't feel it was the right time,” he says. Instead, in June, the world got a very different kind of song from a musician known for his ability to jump effortlessly across genres and moods: “Lockdown.” Flipping back and forth between .Paak’s easygoing rapping and sweetly soulful singing, with a pocket so deep you want to nestle into it, the track and its accompanying video take a quiet groove and turn it into a vehicle to express the trauma at the heart of this summer’s protests across the U.S.

“There are so many songs where people, they got a good message, they're saying things that needs to be said, but they abandoned the song,” .Paak explains. “Some people are willing to do that, but the balance is very important to me. So I wanted to go back and make sure the lyrics were right, make sure I was talking about everything. I had to talk about the system, and why people are mad. It has to cover everything. And, also, the beat has to slap.”

But “Jewelz” was still waiting in the wings, and—talk about a balancing act—as he was giving voice to the emotions spawned by a pivotal moment in American history, .Paak was also putting the final touches on a partnership with Vans. It was a happy moment, better tuned to the bright, poppy song. So he dropped it along with an animated video showcasing his upcoming Vans collection. A reflection of his SoCal roots—the two shoes he designed, along with stylist Jasmine Benjamin and the team at Vans, are named “Venice” and “Malibu”—it’s also the realization of a years-long relationship with the brand.