Hip-hop legend Dr Dre made a rare on-stage appearance in London on Tuesday, alongside his protege, Anderson .Paak.
The NWA founder sent the crowd wild, playing two of his biggest hits, Still D.R.E. and The Next Episode in Brixton.
Dre said he was there “to present and represent” Paak, who is “destined to be a star”.
Paak did his best to prove Dre right, sprinting through his 14-song set with the irresistible energy of Prince in his prime.
The LA musician spent at least half the show behind a drum kit, rapping and singing as he showed off his virtuoso percussion skills.
When he wasn’t at the kit, he was bouncing around the stage of the O2 Academy, demanding the audience put their hands in the air.
There was no need. They were already there.
Paak was supported throughout the show by his precision-drilled band The Free Nationals, who could switch from chicken grease funk to psychedelic rock to hazy R&B in the blink of an eye.
But the show, which was filmed for Apple Music, was over too quickly, wrapping up after just 60 minutes (dates on Paak’s UK arena tour last year often broke the two-hour barrier).
“I will be back,” said Paak as he left the venue. “I promise you that”.
The 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist is poised for a major breakthrough this year with the release of his third album – which Dr Dre has had a “heavy hand” in producing.
The son of a South Korean woman and an African-American man; he grew up in Oxnard, California, and started playing drums in his church band at 12.
“I was one of two black kids at my high school,” he has said. “I was just used to that.
“I stayed in my room and made music all the time.”
However, home life was turbulent. As a child, his father was sent to prison for assaulting his mother; and, when he was 17, his mum and his stepdad were also jailed for tax-related issues.
Paak stopped making music and started bagging groceries – “Just working and trying to get some stability”.
He used the downtime to delve into his record collection, listening to Radiohead, the Beatles, Bowie and Nirvana alongside gospel legends Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin, as well as his regular diet of hip-hop.
Straight Outta Compton
In 2012, he re-emerged under the name Breezy Lovejoy, releasing two albums of atmospheric (if inessential) funk.
Two years later, he crafted his first record as Anderson .Paak – a play on his real name Brandon Paak Anderson, with a dot symbolising “attention to detail”.
Venice, which was released independently, was the first glimpse of Paak’s genre-bending, cosmopolitan style – its laid-back style winning comparisons to Frank Ocean’s critically-lauded Orange.
More importantly, it caught the attention of Dr Dre, who gave the newcomer six spots on his 2015 album, Compton – notably Animals, a confrontational track about police brutality.
Dre, who previously discovered Snoop Dogg and Eminem, subsequently signed Paak to his Aftermath label.
“It’s dope to be around like legends like that and you can feel the mutual respect,” the rapper recently said of his mentor.
“That’s what I always did it for, I wasn’t really thinking about money or fame, I just wanted the respect from the people I look up to musically.”
The star says his forthcoming third album will expand on the jazzy, funky sound of his live show, featuring string arrangements and a full orchestra.
“I just want to go for a bigger overall sound,” he has said. “This will be the first project where I have a budget.”
Only two new songs featured in his Brixton set – the frenzied, chest-beating Bubblin’; and the dreamy new single Til It’s Gone, which features in the new Spike Jonze-directed advert for Apple’s HomePod speaker.
The rapper returns to the UK for the Lovebox festival in July.