By Jonny Tiplady
The fourth studio album from Californian singer Anderson .Paak comes just six months after the release of Oxnard in November of last year. Whilst the latter was a relative commercial success, many fans were critical of .Paak ditching his more soulful roots that made albums like Malibu (2016) such brilliant projects. That is exactly what .Paak delivers on in his latest album. His second album with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment is an experience of more traditional Anderson .Paak, a soulful, uplifting project that will have you boogying.
His second album with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment is an experience of more traditional Anderson .Paak, a soulful, uplifting project that will have you boogying.
The album opens with ‘Come Home’, a jazzy ode, the production of which stands out in traditional
.Paak’s musings on love dominate the album. ‘Make it Better’ is a soulful collaboration with Smokey Robinson about two lovers drifting apart as the narrator tries to salvage the broken pieces. ‘Reachin’ 2 Much’, a two-part song, focuses on .Paak’s relationship with a girl who is trying too hard. There is a clear contrast in the two songs’ outlooks on relationships.
‘Winners Circle’, meanwhile, opens with an extract from 1993 crime drama A Bronx Tale, which talks about finding the one. This song discusses how .Paak has found a new affection for his latest love, since he has to work for her love. The song’s skatty hook sticks in your head. ‘Good heels’, the album’s interlude, deals with an affair outside of the main relationship, where .Paak and Jazmine Sullivan trade views representing both sides of the affair.
‘Yada Yada’ deals with .Paak’s rise from being a nobody in the industry to now being able to follow his own path. Paak describes looking through eyes of Brenda’s only son, a reference to the 2Pac song, ‘Brenda’s got a baby’, about a sexually abused 12-year-old girl who leaves the resulting birth on a trash heap. .Paak is describing seeing the world from similar circumstances (i.e. the slums) and overcoming this darkness, a long way from open mics at Leimert.
‘King James’ deals with similar aspects of adversity, in particular black oppression in the United States. He references famous acts of protest such as San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneel during the National Anthem, with an attack on Donald Trump that is becoming a staple of .Paak’s music. The track’s name itself comes from Lebron James’ nickname, as .Paak highlights all that the basketball player did for the community outside of his own sport.
He returns to the topic of love with ‘Chosen One’, which opens with a sample from Mac DeMarco’s ‘On the Level’. He expresses his desire to find a girl that loves him not purely for his fame. ‘Jet Black’ carries on this theme. .Paak’s refrain we peakin’ shows that he never felt so high as when he was with this girl that slipped away. The coldest part is that I’m not even there; strangely regretful lines given that .Paak is a married man. However, ‘Twilight’ reassures how his wife, Jae Lin keeps him grounded, my twilight when it’s awfully dark and I lost my way. The bouncy bass gives this song a more upbeat and optimistic feel.
The final cut ‘What can we do?’, which features unused lines from passed artist Nate Dogg, ponders what happens after a relationship comes to a sudden end. The outro to the song, features .Paak having a conversation with Dogg (whose lines were recorded from his own recording session prior to his death), complimenting his singing when the latter leaves the studio, leaving .Paak asking himself the same question the song poses.
This final song, just as many on the album, proves that Anderson .Paak could potentially be the ‘hook master’. The album features some of his catchiest tunes yet and whilst much of the album treats topics that are not all too ground-breaking, it is hard to listen to one of these tracks without boogying along to some of the best beats produced on any .Paak project. This album demonstrated the good behind .Paak having free reign in his albums. While Oxnard sounded like Anderson .Paak being restrained by his new record deal, Ventura’s freedom provided a refreshing taste of pure .Paak magic. A return to his soulful, jazzy roots was just what he needed, but one thing for sure, is that Anderson .Paak isn’t ‘peakin’ anytime soon.
While Oxnard sounded like Anderson .Paak being restrained by his new record deal, Ventura’s freedom provided a refreshing taste of pure .Paak magic.
Image by Henry W. Laurisch via Wikimedia Creative Commons.