Album Review: Anderson .Paak’s Malibu

There have been few years more euphoric than the 2015 experienced by the sultry and soulful Anderson .Paak.

Hand picked by none other than hip-hop icon Dr Dre to appear on what would become the eventual successor to Detox in Compton, Brandon Anderson .Paak has been thrust into the global spotlight, with the public now well and truly becoming accustomed to his jazz and soul infused seduction.

Capitalising on a year of unparalleled success, Anderson .Paak is ready to debut Malibu to the world, and suffice to say, he does not disappoint. This album may be the first introduction for many to the Oxnard, California native, and with that firmly in mind, we are treated to a no holds barred attempt to wow old and prospective fans alike.

“I enjoy something old and I enjoy the new, and if I can find a balance between it that’s where I find my satisfaction.”

A sampled quote on the record that perfectly sums up Anderson .Paak’s latest project. Malibu is a beautifully crafted record, a chameleon of genres and sounds that effortlessly fuses some of the most distinctive modern voices in the rap game with a collection of smooth sonic servings.

Infectious guitar riffs backed by equally impressive drum and bass work really set the scene for what the record tries to accomplish; a foot-tapping introspective introduction to .Paak. Come Down epitomizes this funky jazz aura, with a deep bass line that carries the listener through three minutes of good vibes.

From the outset, The Bird personifies the deeply personal storytelling that .Paak embarks on within Malibu. Blaring trumpets and bone chilling piano notes provide the backdrop to a retelling of an artist waiting for his time to shine. Family incarcerations and gambling problems are just some of the insights provided into a life that has been turned upside down in a matter of mere months, shaping .Paak in the process.

Its of extreme importance to touch on the distinctive voice that .Paak brings to R&B and hip-hop in general. Words (unfortunately for this journalist) simply cannot do it justice. For what an upcomer like Nas brought to hip-hop, .Paak brings a similar uniqueness to modern music, and blows some of his fellow counterparts out of the water with a sound that quite simply cannot be replicated.

The Compton connections are clearly already paying dividends for .Paak, with the crooner recruiting the likes of The Game, Schoolboy Q, Rapsody and even hip-hop stalwarts such as Talib Kweli to accompany his gritty vocals and piano packed tunes. Not often considered chameleons in their own right, Q and The Game fit seamlessly with the vibe and mood that is carried throughout the entirety of the record.

It’s not often we hear a hard-nosed gangster like The Game rapping about a female induced bullet hole to the heart, but that is testament to .Paak as a musician; the ability to meld styles and personas is one that should not be taken lightly. The features do not feel forced, and when The Game is spilling his feelings on Room In Here, we are left with a believable and introspective impression.

While we are treated to a vast array of tempos and melodies, .Paak really shines when he is commanding an uptempo anthem, à la the infectious and rhythmic Am I Wrong. Continuing the recent renaissance of old school influence within hip-hop, (namely Kendrick Lamar‘s To Pimp A Butterfly) .Paak revives a disco-esque vibe on a track that is already garnering mainstream attention. It’s refreshing to see how level-headed .Paak remains, despite his whirlwind of a 2015. While many artists could find themselves caught up in the glitz and glamour of the music business, rubbing shoulders with rap royalty, Malibu remains an extremely grounded project, something which proves to be one of its biggest strengths.

There are sprinklings of similarity to Nxworries littered throughout the project, a duo in which .Paak teams up with Knxwledge to form a West Coast connection of infinite enjoyment, one which harnesses the familiar jazz and soul experience.

Without You quickly establishes itself as a standout on the album, with up and coming rap sensation Rapsody making her presence felt, and showing off some satisfying musical chemistry with .Paak; her edgy rap stylings proving to be the perfect partner for a sensual track which details a struggling relationship told from two differing perspectives.

The closing track on the album, The Dreamer, sums up the 16 track journey perfectly. Describing himself as a “product of the free lunch”, .Paak can look back at this song with pride; and reflect on the surreal nature of featuring Talib Kweli on a record which recounts his personal struggles and search for the spotlight. A fitting feature from the Timan Family Choir grants the closer a grand sense of scale, one which reaffirms the grounded nature of the album in its entirety.

Despite the sometimes serious subject matter, this is a feel-good album in its purest form. The beats are infectious, the lyrics and stories that they weave are engrossing, and once the record ends you are left with a real sense of who Anderson .Paak is, and what he has accomplished in such a short span of time. Malibu is the perfect summer soundtrack, a gateway to vibes and melodies of yesteryear, and one which whets the appetite for what the future holds for Anderson .Paak. A singer, songrwiter, producer and all around musician, Anderson .Paak has delivered what will surely shoot him to international acclaim.

Malibu is out now via OBE/Steel Wool/ArtClub Int’l.