If Malibu is anything to go by, 2016 will be an even more notable year for Anderson Paak than the last.
Contemporary R&B music can sure get a guy down these days. The spacious beats and angst ridden lyrics that inhabit a lot of projects will probably not put a smile on your face. Over the last year or so there have been a few artists providing something of a tonic to the genre with more of a positive energy and a focus on. Artists like Raury and Chance the Rapper's Social Experiment Collective stand out amidst a sea of ethereal tones. Another artist that should be added to the list is Anderson Paak.
How ironic that an artist with a bluesy influence offers the relief. Anderson has never been one for conventions. His 2013 EP Cover Art saw him remaking rock classics like “Seven Nation Army” with a soulful tinge, in some kind of reverse homage to the white artists appropriating African-American music in the middle of the last century. That project although brief was impressive, and with “Malibu” he carries a similar energy, but with his words alone.
The album begins with “The Bird”, probably the most elegant and understated track on the project. He waxes lyrical on the hardships of his upbringing, “We came up in a lonely castle / My papa was behind them bars." This track serves an introduction to the life and times of Anderson and it’s the foundation upon which the tales that follow are built on. His history is a reoccurring theme on the album, but there is a clear intention to rise above his past hardships and struggles “Word to the liquor that killed my grandpa liver / I know you finally look proud, a...smiling."
At times, his words seem like a junior accompaniment to an elaborate instrumental. The song “Parking Lot” is beautifully layered and feels like it could go on for ever. “Come Down” is also an uptown track with strong funk influences as Anderson tells anyone that bares to listen that he doesn’t want to lose his high. It is almost seems like his energy is restricted by the album and it will be interesting to see how he performs on stage when he tours later this year.
Malibu shows so much more than just his singing talent. On the song “The Season/Carry Me”, thought provoking rhymes are matched with gospel oriented chants. Anderson manages to draw romantic and soulful sentiments from Schoolboy Q on “Am I Wrong” and the Game on ”Room in Here”, and anyone that is a fan of the latter knows that this is not a regular occurrence. The two artists are effective in combining with Anderson’s starry-eyed passion, which is hard to ignore. The second song on the album is called “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” in which he sings about an inevitable union between himself and someone special. The producer DJ Khalil offers a dynamic landscape upon which Anderson elaborates on the array of emotions that he experiences in the relationship. The album features luminaries such as Hi-Tek, 9th Wonder and Madlib, three producers responsible for some of the greatest soulful-oriented hip-hop tracks of the last 20 years. But it is younger Dem Jointz -- who worked with Anderson on Dr. Dre’s Compton album -- that makes an almost incomparable ambiance with the song “Silicon Valley”.
Last year was good for the California artist. He worked on two acclaimed albums from California hip-hop royalty (the Game’s The Documentary 2 and Dre’s Compton) and received attention from a number of circles. The reason for this broad interest is his ability to aptly infuse various musical styles under the R&B umbrella. Moreover, his ability to make uptempo soul without losing his ability to invoke a response more typical of downtempo sounds is particularly impressive. If Malibu is anything to go by, 2016 will be an even more notable year for Paak.