By Natalia Glenn
Originally published on Feb 15, 2016.
Artist: Anderson .Paak
Label: OBE, Steel Wool, ArtClub Int’l, EMPIRE
Release Date: January 15, 2016
Anderson .Paak came back to us with his sophomore album, Malibu January 2016. If you’ve been aware of the previous projects he’s been involved in like NxWorries and Breezy Lovejoy, you can remember that he always held soul and jazz as a prime influencer in his music.
Anderson has been up to something with Malibu. His raspy, warm, and emotional tone make it easier to follow the pain he shows us in this album by peppering glimpses of the life he grew up in. There’s a natural flow that leads Anderson to explore a lot of realism and honesty. The track “The Dreamer” is an anthem that speaks to kids in bad circumstances with big dreams, and letting them know that they do have the strength and beauty to overcome those circumstances. This track feels similar to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and “i”. It’s beautiful and hopeful, lifting your spirits for that uphill battle. Certainly Malibu is an exposition of an artist exploring range by paying tribute to a futuristic funk era that’s becoming more populous, to really honing the craft of celebrating his message in the heavy form of jazz and soul.
The reason why I think Malibu was able to be such a noteworthy album this January, is mainly because it’s an honest and soulful project that shows humbleness that originates from his real life experiences. Anderson .Paak (real name Brandon Paak Anderson) grew up in northern California and was raised in a Black and Korean family. He explains in an interview that at one point in his life both parents were in prison, leaving him and his sisters to raise themselves.
In the opening track, “The Birds” .Paak is flowing and singing about the environment he grew up in without having parental figures in his life. “My mama caught the gambling bug… My papa was behind them bars/ We never had to want for nuthin’/ Said all we ever need is love.” They were all members of the Baptist church’s choir, where he says that’s where his passion for making music started.
Fast forward many years, .Paak found it very difficult to make his break in the music industry until he landed major mentorship from Dr. Dre who picked him up from the NxWorries project. Years later Dre featured him on many tracks in the mid August release of Compton. Tracks included heavy hitters such as, “All in a Day’s Work”, “Issues”, “Deep Water”, “For the Love of Money”, “Animals”, and “Medicine Man.” In those tracks it was a foreshadowing of how Anderson .Paak is not just one of those ordinary singers, but one of those singers that let each drop of pain resonate in each note, and therefore need to be taken seriously. Dr. Dre must have been sonically moved by Malibu because this week it was just announced on twitter that .Paak signed to Aftermath and looked like he was ready to take this groove to the next level.
In Malibu, the rich groove of the futuristic James Brown vocalist pops out in a lot of places in this album. Tracks such as “Am I Wrong” ft. Schoolboy Q and “The Waters” (featuring BJ the Chicago Kid) have either the sweetest diminished chord progression, or have visceral baseline that makes you want to get on your feet and start flowing these lyrics to your girl. The first track that I listened to that kept me listening for weeks now has to be “Without You” (ft. Rapsody). The entire track has a beat sampled from another band’s song that I’m currently admiring, Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Molasses”. Milk and honey tones from .Paak, Nai Palm resonate along with the bona fide bars from Rapsody.
All artists blend together so well on this track making it natural to start dancing to songs written about spoiled relationships. When it came to featured artists, .Paak brought some huge names in the game to contribute. Artists on this project such as The Game, Madlib, Robert Glasper, were my favorite accomplices in Malibu, and contributed a lot to the wide dynamic and range of this project without being overwhelming. Anderson .Paak certainly came a long way from joblessness and homelessness, and is now kind of a protege of Dr. Dre’s. I hope their work together will introduce a new exposition to the neo soul/ hip-hop flavor in the mainstream, lots of foreshadowing! I’m excited that I got to listen and appreciate the beginning of the evolution of Anderson .Paak. Now, I can only expect some more weighty and rich projects in the future.