My first experience with Anderson .Paak was on Dr. Dre’s album “Compton” where he was prominently featured on six of the 16 tracks. Clearly Dre had seen something in .Paak and soon after the release of “Compton” .Paak released his second album “Malibu”. It was one of my favorite albums of 2016 and .Paak’s eccentric combination of hip hop, soul, and funk proved to be an exciting new sound that found .Paak cranking out soulful features for the next two years with the likes of Mac Miller, Kaytranada, and Rhapsody. And with each new feature I saw my anticipation for his next full-length release grow. After being announced this summer, Anderson .Paak’s third album, Oxnard, is here. Named after the city where he grew up, Oxnard is an ode to 90s soul and Dre-era G-funk that finds .Paak breathing new life into an older sound, and he does so with his usual charm and wit. Anderson .Paak has slowly become one of best names in hip hop over the years and I think this album is what eventually pushes him to his rightful place on the top.
It’s immediately apparent that Dre’s fingerprints are all over this album. The basslines are deep and funky, and the mix of the album is immaculate. Anderson .Paak said himself on an interview with HipHopDx, “The sonics on it are crazy and I’m glad we put that much time into it.” Dre was rumored to start the mixing process in July and I’m glad he took the time and put in the work to make sure it meets that “Dr. Dre standard” of perfection. The sounds of this album are definitely a throwback but .Paak does his part to make sure that it doesn’t sound dated. The production on each track has all the extra flourishes and character of a 90s soul ballad or a late-90s Aftermath banger and they provide an ideal backdrop for .Paak. He works with a host of legendary producers on Oxnard including 9th Wonder, Om’Mas Keith and or course Dr. Dre. The balance that the instrumentals manage to keep between soulful grooves, West Coast G-funk, and Golden Era boom-bap is flawless and give .Paak the perfect platform to bounce between his charismatic crooning and hard-hitting bars.
.Paak commands the mic better than he ever has on this record. The hooks are sticky and showcase his unique voice while his verses are perfectly constructed, and have the ability to deliver some punchy and hard-hitting bars. Anderson’s flow on both of his verses on “Cheers” and the second verse of “6 Summers” standout right away as some of my favorite verses of the year from someone I didn’t really think of as a rapper before this album. The 9th Wonder produced “Savior’s Road” sees .Paak waxing poetic on growing up and trying forge his own path to success as well as the hardships he went through to get there. I never pictured .Paak on a beat like this but now that I’ve heard it I can’t get enough. “Brother’s Keeper” sees .Paak and Pusha T spitting over a grimy guitar riff and proves .Paak can go bar for bar with one of the best hip hop lyricists of the last two decades. The track then switches up into a sort of extended outro where .Paak repeats “How I ever, ever let you go” over some brighter and more ethereal guitar strumming patterns. Then there’s “Cheers” which was a standout from the first listen. On this track .Paak tackles his relationship with the late Mac Miller and compares their lifestyles when he says, “How do you tell a n***a slow down when you’re living just as fast as him.” It’s clear that .Paak and Miller were close and “Cheers” is probably the most heartfelt, honest song about Mac that I’ve heard since his death. A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip joins him on the track rapping about his friend and musical partner, Phife Dawg, who passed away in 2016. Both deliver emotional, yet uplifting verses about their friends and it makes for one of this albums many highlights.
I could talk about this album forever. The production, the deep grooves, .Paak’s voice and lyrical content, all coalesce into his best effort yet. He has outdone himself with this latest release and if you find yourself with even the slightest urge to listen to this album, I highly recommend that you do. I have no doubt you will find something about it to love. In a musical landscape filled with autotune ballads and moody trap beats it’s refreshing to hear these more organic sounding instrumentals as well as a genuinely talented artist instead of a someone with a fluke hit. As far as the legacy of this album, I think Anderson .Paak said it best on “6 Summers” when he says, “This s**t gon’ bang at least 6 summers.”