Last summer, hip-hop legend Dr. Dre released his first album in nearly 15 years. There were a handful of standout features on the project, but among the A-list contributors, a name no one had ever heard before stood out the most.
California rapper and singer-songwriter Anderson .Paak had a chance to showcase his talents, and the result of his work was breeding a hoard of listening ears hungry for more.
On Malibu, .Paak sews together a sonic quilt that is an equal sum of its eclectic parts. It’s as much derived from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly as it is from D’Angelo’s classic Voodoo. There are shades of Q-Tip on Midnight Marauders, mixed with something no one has ever really heard before.
A smooth concoction of R&B, Hip-Hop, and Soul is as calming as it is jarring, the vocal performance is somewhat disheveled, yet sweeter than honey.
Lush and dense instrumentation provides a foundation for .Paaks poignant lyrics to float over. The bulk of samples are pulled from classic 70’s funk and jazz records, an era where bombastic live drums and chunky bass grooves were the standard.
At times, the album gives you flashes of your feet in the sand, staring aimlessly into the face of the Pacific under a bright orange setting sun, until it snaps you back to your chilly reality with a tale of heartbreak or loneliness.
Sometimes it feels as if there are two Anderson .Paaks on the same track at once, the soulful singer equipped with sharp-tongued flows.
On “The Season/Carry Me”, .Paak gives a glimpse into his life and family.
On the latter half of the track he raps,“What’s the meaning of my fortune meeting?/When I crack the cookie all it said was “keep dreaming/When I look at my tree, I see leaves missing/Generations of harsh living and addiction.”
It doesn’t take long to realize that under all the funky and fun sounds, there are deep roots of pain. Sometimes the most honest work is when happiness is made out of the saddest times.
In many ways, the album is a genuine smile and a rolling tear. Malibu sounds so comfortable and familiar, but also strikingly fresh and new.
It seems that the biggest takeaway is that there’s a new star on the R&B/Hip-Hop scene, which is something that any music fan should be excited about.