“Slick Rick…Miles Davis…03 Greedo…J Balvin…Marvin Gaye…Sarah Vaughn…” recites the hip-hop musician Anderson .Paak, thumbing through the most recently played albums on his iPhone. The succession of artists reads like a laundry list of the heteroclite elements—from rap to funk to soul—that have gone into his recently released album, Ventura. The 11-track LP, which features guest appearances by André 3000 and Smokey Robinson, is the third in a trilogy of albums that the California-born artist has named after beachside communities north of Los Angeles (including Oxnard and Malibu). “But I’m done with beaches, bro,” the musician says, nodding to advice from his musical mentor Dr. Dre. On a trip to New York, which included a visit to the home of his other musical godfather, Q-Tip, Paak sat down with Interview’s Thom Bettridge to discuss volcanoes, vegan tacos, and the conciliatory power of Chanel bags.
THOM BETTRIDGE: Is it a relief for your album to be out in the wild?
ANDERSON .PAAK: I listened to that album so many times, and it belongs to the world now. It’s like when your kid goes to college—you put it out into the world and just hope you raised it right.
BETTRIDGE: What’s the wildest feedback you’ve gotten from your friends?
.PAAK: [Dr.] Dre hit me up and was like, “Yo, I gotta admit I didn’t understand the two albums at first, but I’m glad we did it this way.” That means a lot. But I’m done with beaches, bro.
BETTRIDGE: What’s next, volcanoes?
.PAAK: I’m going inland.
BETTRIDGE: Rocky Mountain? Aspen?
BETTRIDGE: I’ve been really focused as an editor on L.A. recently — as an idea, utopia, dystopia, whatever. As someone who is from Los Angeles, what’s in the water over there?
.PAAK: Vegan tacos. Good weather. All-gender bathrooms.
BETTRIDGE: Is LA a shared passion for you and Dr. Dre?
.PAAK: No, when we’re together we’re just making music, drinking, laughing, thinking about how we’re going to sneak off and make music but still have a life. We’re both workaholics, so our significant others be like, “What the fuck? We want some time too. My wife likes Chanel, so when I go away, she’s like, “That’s going to cost you, bro!” But when I get home, we have these big ass dinners and just laugh and enjoy our time together.
BETTRIDGE: What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re on the road in New York?
.PAAK: Besides eat? I go see Q-Tip.
BETTRIDGE: Is he like a mentor to you?
BETTRIDGE: What kind of advice does he give you?
.PAAK: “Man, fuck these niggas!” [Laughs] I dunno, we’ve just become big homies. It’s the trippy things like this that you get used to.
BETTRIDGE: What’s the first thing you do when you get in the studio?
.PAAK: “Where the weed at.” No, the first thing we do is talk. We pick the brain, break bread, and have conversations that usually lead to something. With Dre, he’s usually working on something already and he’s like, “What do you think of this?” And then you know, I’ll start going through my notes and writing right away.
BETTRIDGE: Do you keep your notes on your phone?
.PAAK: Yeah, but I should use a pad so I can donate it to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at some point.
BETTRIDGE: I was in Atlanta recently, and the recording sessions there start at like midnight. Is it the same with you?
.PAAK: Yeah, I like to be up at the wee hours—4, 5, 6. When you haven’t slept and you’re rapping until your eyes are watering, you’re pushing toward the most creative stuff. Then you wake up, and you’re like, “Man, what the fuck? We was on some shit!”