Since his breakout album Malibu, Anderson .Paak has been one of my favorites. As soon as I heard it I just had to share it with everyone. The charisma he exudes on his tracks is second to none. Also, his raspy, fun-loving delivery makes him a diamond in the rough in today’s rap game. Anderson is many things. He writes, sings, raps, and plays multiple instruments. The amount of skill it takes to play drums and sing live is something I will never take for granted. Talents aside, though, the man makes great music. Back in 2016, he dropped not one, but two dope albums. Despite his lack of Grammy recognition, both Malibu and Yes Lawd! were among the year’s best overall projects. While I prefer the latter front to back, I believe the former to be the better album. Yet not by much.
.Paak’s clever storytelling and hilarious observations peaked my interest from the jump. He has a knack for finding the perfect tunes for his unique sound. Funky, fresh, and ever-so-cool, Anderson fit snugly into the limelight. His contributions on Dr. Dre’s Compton album from 2015 set him up to make it big the following year. Dre serves as this album’s executive producer and head engineer. He mixed all of these tracks in addition to supplying his production expertise on three. My favorite of the trio has to be “Cheers,” featuring Q-Tip. The song is an anthem to living wild and reminiscing on the friends we’ve lost. One of those friends he touches on in the song is the late Mac Miller. He spits, “Wishing I still had Mac with me (Yes lawd!) / How do you tell a nigga ‘Slow it down’ / When you’re living just as fast as him?”
These are the important, reflective questions we must ask ourselves from time to time. “Cheers” is the song with which I wish .Paak would have ended the album. While the next two tracks aren’t bad by any means, they didn’t leave me with a sense of closure. Especially not the actual closer “Left to Right.” Even though Anderson pulls off a fake Patois accent better than most, I am simply tired of rappers using it. Perhaps I wouldn’t have said the same two or three years back. However, the fact of the matter is that other weaker rappers ruined it for everyone. Sorry, .Paak. Going back to Dr. Dre for a moment, I’m glad he did not take over this project. His and co-producer Mell’s beat for “Who R U?” is fire. It and “Cheers” (produced by Dre, Q-Tip, Focus… and Andre Brissett) are standouts in an otherwise underwhelming batch.
In spite of slick soundscapes and cohesive production, Oxnard lacks memorable tunes. The instrumentation here slaps. Anderson’s versatility once again takes center stage. The slight cinematic feel of some of these songs highlights .Paak’s infectious personality. Tracks like opener “The Chase” and “Brother’s Keeper” are sonic experiences. Pusha T’s guest verse on the latter is one for the ages. I may not be as crazy about DAYTONA as everyone else, but I must say that Push’s DAYTONA-era features have been nothing short of stellar. Conversely, his and Snoop Dogg’s appearances were the only two I found essential to this album. Q-Tip was great as well, but that song is dope regardless of who else is on it. Although it is well put together, Oxnard is this talented entertainer’s most forgettable mainstream effort so far. Compared to other commercial 2018 releases, this album is certainly impressive.
Yet without a true hit in sight, he neither takes a step forward nor a step back. Anderson .Paak remains the best dual-threat artist out there. He is a musician’s musician. His third solo album will not be a stain on his discography. But it did disappoint me nonetheless. Promotional single “Bubblin” goes missing-in-action here for some odd reason. Honestly, I thought the general public overhyped it a bit. Regardless, though, it’s a dope record and deserved a roster spot. On Malibu, tracks like “Come Down,” “Am I Wrong,” and “Room in Here” exuded crossover appeal while simultaneously fitting into the album’s overall aesthetic. Here .Paak improves on his already fantastic musicality, but missed the mark in terms of dynamic hooks. Your level of enjoyment of this album will depend on what you look for in albums. For me, this offering is good for now, but might disappear in the near future.