Release Date: Apr 12, 2019
Record label: Aftermath
Genre(s): R&B, West Coast Rap, Alternative R&B
This time last year, the South Cali virtuoso announced his new album Oxnard stood in front of a colossal yellow billboard, firing dollar bills into the air whilst lit by roving spotlights. Single "Bubblin" may not have ended up on the record, but its video pre-empted a new era of .Paak: gone was the lavish, surf-washed R&B of Malibu and the wavy disco of Venice. With his first release on Dr Dre's Aftermath, .Paak was to reborn as a stone-cold baller, with everything - the swagger, the womanising, the audacity - turned up louder than ever.
Last year, to follow up his critically acclaimed break-out album Malibu, Anderson .Paak leaned heavily into rap and created a sprawling rendering of his hometown with Oxnard. Featuring numerous Hip Hop legends and eccentric production choices, Oxnard embodied a sense of creative chaos. A few months later, the singer-rapper takes listeners on another conceptual journey up the Californian coast with his fourth album Ventura.
can't a young man dream? can't we all live the life on a widescreen? Anderson . Paak's decision to leave "'Til It's Over" and "Bubblin" as one-off singles, despite releasing two full albums in their timeframe, initially seemed a dumb one given their sheer quality and accessibility. In the former song, a personal and vulnerable singalong for the crowd lamenting missed connections and opportunities; in the latter, a stupid summer banger you can blast on every car ride with the bass cranked up.
As Jay-Z memorably once said of Kanye West, Anderson .Paak is a soulful dude. On his new album, Ventura, every track is dripping with smooth chords, funk-influenced rhythms and a retro quality to the production, and is all the better for it. Opening track Come Home has a Motown feel, featuring .Paak serenading an estranged partner with the wry lyric "I'm begging you, I'm begging you / please come home, no one even begs anymore," before Andre 3000 barrels through with a verse that reminds us of what we had.
The Californian rapper and crooner continues his series of brilliant, self-mythologising records, and there's a distinct sense of a chapter coming to a close Rapper and crooner Anderson . Paak has spent his past four albums proper (the run was interrupted by 2016's 'Yes Lawd!', an accomplished collaboration with LA producer Knxwledge) telling his extraordinary life story, though the order's been all jumbled up, his rise to fame presented as a big bang that's ricocheted in all directions - past, present and future. Having broken out with 2014's 'Venice', the Cali musician, real name Brandon Paak Anderson, first achieved trued greatness with 2016's 'Malibu', a lush '70s soul-inflected record that revelled the good life he was living as a #blessed rapper who kicks it with Dr.
The Lowdown: Sufjan Stevens once promised to write an album for all 50 states, but only made it as far as number two. Anderson .Paak has more than doubled that amount, but with the small difference that it's all about the Los Angeles suburbs. After his debut, Venice, and his breakthrough on Dr. Dre's Compton, .Paak took us to Malibu, Oxnard, and now Ventura.
Last year's Oxnard was Anderson .Paak's first hard left turn. Working more closely with Dr. Dre, who gave him his original career boost on his own 2015 Compton, he jettisoned his warm, ingratiating funk in favor of sexed-up self-indulgence, hot-buttered excess, and hard-edged rapping. The project sold well but sparked such lingering criticism among fans that even his mom had to clap back at haters.
If presence was the only thing that mattered about being a musician, then everything Anderson .Paak touches would be classic. The man was born to entertain, and you can feel his performative joy emanating through his raspy crooning, high-velocity raps, and his percussion that brings it all home. His breakthrough album, Malibu, was like a coronation to tell everyone that this guy who was all over Compton had his flag firmly planted in the ground of R&B and hip-hop.
It's only been five months since Anderson .Paak released his major label debut 'Oxnard' and, despite some commercial success, the album received a significant backlash from fans who expected something more similar to cult-classic project 'Malibu'. It's difficult to say whether releasing a new album so quickly is a direct response to those fans, or whether this was always the plan, but here we have 'Ventura' - the R&B sister project to his previous, more rap-focused effort. .Paak himself has described the relationship between the two projects as the drive to and from a night in Vegas, with 'Ventura' being the emotional comedown after the brasher, more hedonistic 'Oxnard'.
I t's not often that an artist's mum feels prompted to respond to criticism of their work, but that is precisely what happened in the wake of Anderson .Paak's last album. Intended as a star-studded, big-budget epic to mark his move from indie labels to Dr Dre's behemoth Aftermath Entertainment, Oxnard turned out to be a Grammy-winning commercial success despite mixed reviews, the most common criticism being that some of his previous work's appeal had been forgotten amid the production gloss and the big-name guest appearances. Perhaps understandably, this interpretation held little sway with the singer/rapper's mum.