Anderson .Paak’s ‘Oxnard’ Album Review

Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard makes his most compelling argument to date as to why he will go down as one of the greatest, most complex, talented, and diverse artists of the past decade.

 

In a year that has deemed itself as one of hip-hop’s greatest and most memorable periods to date, the world received countless immense moments such as: newly-shattered charting records with Drake’s Scorpion, the comeback and triumph of Lil Wayne and Tha Carter V, hip- hop’s newest definitive superstar with Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD, Jay and Bey’s The Carters’ EVERYTHING IS LOVE, a five-week GOOD Music takeover that packaged Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Nas, and Teyana Taylor, and even gems from the future stars of hip-hop, such as, Saba, J.I.D, and Reason. Highly aware of the stiff competition that he now had to follow-up on the heels of 2018, with the third installment in his highly-praised “beach series”, Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard makes his most compelling argument to date as to why he will go down as one of the greatest, most complex, talented, and diverse artists of the past decade. Being a creator as versatile and consistent as Anderson .Paak has been over the past few years, success seemed inevitable for the Oxnard native. .Paak isn’t your ordinary “jack of all trades” – while majority of jacks find themselves being the “master on none”, .Paak doesn’t fall victim to the cliché, as his one-of-a-kind persona and flair has enabled him to master his art of newly- solidified direction and depiction to morph into the enigma and walking charismatic-magnet that he is today. In his third solo effort, though showered with guest features, .Paak’s camp has excelled in curation so to-the-t that nobody ever seems to overstay their welcome in .Paak’s house – each visitor played the part they were designed for and fit snuggly into the creative process of this spectacle. With the backing of Apple and the label ran by hip-hop G.O.A.T., Dr. Dre, Anderson .Paak presents to the world his most focused, cohesive, and cinematic project to date, Oxnard.

 

To any avid hip-hop consumer of this era, it has been almost impossible to avoid .Paak for the past three years now. In the year 2015, after over a decade of speculation surrounding the highly-anticipated Detox album that never saw the light of day, Dr. Dre released his third solo studio LP, Compton. Stacked with a guest list that included expected contributions from protégés such as Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, there was one new artist in particular that quickly caught the attention of all listeners. Having been the most-featured artist on Compton, .Paak’s sudden breakout served as his introduction to the rest of the world that hadn’t already heard his name. The more spins Compton received, the more the consumer fell in love, rapped, and sang along to .Paak’s raspy voice blaring through the speakers. Soon after in 2016, .Paak continued to strike while the iron was hot and dropped his beloved second album, Malibu, followed by his super- duo’s NxWorries (team of Anderson .Paak and record producer Knxwledge) full-length LP, Yes Lawd!, both of which are arguably considered classics. In addition to his two albums to release that year, .Paak quickly became a household name and go-to man for features and a hot hook on any track. The contagious energy and embracive west coast aura seeping through .Paak’s discography launched the artist to new heights, thus setting him up to drop his first album under Dr. Dre’s imprint, Aftermath Records. With the golden hands of Dr. Dre foreseeing the entirety of the album’s creation, Anderson .Paak knows that this is his well-deserved window of opportunity to unleash the charismatic magnum opus that is Oxnard.

 

As described by Anderson .Paak himself, Oxnard is the “same man in a new car”. Was Breezy Lovejoy’s third studio LP worth the wait? Did .Paak prove to the world that he belongs in the same conversation with artists like Drake, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West in 2018? YES LAWD! Busting out the gates, Anderson .Paak’s eclectic vocals and oozing confidence, paired with the astounding sonic-symphony at the disposal of Dr. Dre, manifests to be worth any wait. Now under the helm of mastermind surgeon Dre, it sounds as if Anderson .Paak has stumbled into a candy shop and can’t quite decide exactly which flavor to fix on. Rather than settling for one candy and flexing the bare minimum, .Paak and Dre fuse the best treats the shop has to offer in order to craft one of the most fascinating and premier listening experiences of this calendar year. During his short tenure away from Dre, post-Compton, .Paak’s ventures pushed the virtuoso into new waters and challenged him to experiment with many different sounds and techniques, thus leading to his current chapter on Aftermath Records. The chemistry between the teacher and his student has permitted the pair to mold the perfect blend and sound to create a beautiful cinematic experience, thereby solidifying .Paak as Dre’s newest star.

 

Oxnard’s absence of star-studded producers leaves leeway for .Paak to spread his wings and tread across his own creative spectrum and artistic protectory that made him so fantastic in the first place. One wouldn’t find a single Metro Boomin or Tay Keith producer tag on the entire album, and in the creator’s case, it’s for the best, as Anderson .Paak shines on alluring instrumentation throughout the LP. As for the guest list: while huge names like Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Q-Tip grace the roster, it’s the lesser-known contributions sprinkled throughout the album that makes the project sound as authentic as possible. The album kicks off with a pulsing instrumental and a build that sounds like something you’d hear in a car chase scene from a 1970’s movie – fittingly, the intro is titled “The Chase”. After its first three minutes, the album then segues into a whirlpool of contagious singing, dancing and rhythmic spikes. In the very sleek and humorous “Headlow”, .Paak recalls a time he received oral sex while driving a car, and even though the song’s topic may not be too family-friendly, you just can’t help but passionately sing and dance along to the ballad as loud as possible. The record then concludes with a small skit where we hear .Paak in his whip with the girl – in the midst of the sexual act, he accidentally loses focus and hits another car and then proceeds to yell at the opposing driver, “JUST GO AROUND ME, I’M ALMOST THERE”. The excerpt is so hysterical and absurd that you can’t help but assume that Dr. Dre had a hand in the idea for the skit, as this sounds like an interlude one would find in the classic N.W.A. LP, EFIL4ZAGGIN. “Headlow” was such a fun track that it’s actually a bit disappointing that it comes to an end, but soon after, the disappointment vanishes as the second track is directly followed up by the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Tints”. Previously released as a single leading up to the album, “Tints” is as infectious as any hit song could get. A record that touches on the need for personal space from the outside world and paparazzi, it’s songs like this that help to prove that funk still has a firm grip on the heart of hip- hop. Already three tracks down with eleven more to go, it’s shaping out to look as if .Paak can’t miss.

 

The deeper the listener dives into the tracklist, the more .Paak exhibits how much he has to offer. Even without a reputation of penning the most complex and mind-swindling bars in the game, .Paak improvises by providing his own signature twist of eccentricity and prowess to the records touching on serious themes. On select tracks like “6 Summers”, .Paak will be found speaking on the current state of America while delivering lines like, “Trump’s gotta love child and I hope that bitch is buckwild”. At times, active listeners can be left wishing that .Paak could have dug deeper into these important topics in order to fully portray his vision and give the consumer a deeper understanding of what exactly he’s trying to say about the nation’s political climate. Fortunately, the tracks themselves sound so great sonically and structurally that even without a full understanding of .Paak’s thoughts on politics, the album can continue to roll along at its great pace and deliver in crunch time. Professor Dre even decides to dust off his producer cap in the wildly assertive and poised anthems “Who R U?” and “Mansa Musa” – it is here where .Paak’s whopping confidence commands complete control while his ego shines brighter than ever, proudly flexing his earned status in the game, all while comparing himself to the richest man in the world. Closing the year on another high note, the man who arguably holds the spot for the #1 hip-hop album of the year, Pusha T, continues to cruise on his hot streak by landing on one of the most intriguing songs on Oxnard, “Brother’s Keeper”. The track exudes with intensity and is easily one of most cinematic records of .Paak’s career. To anybody who disagrees, the explosive production, lyrical content, and wildly sentimental emotion says otherwise.

 

Of course, no Anderson .Paak project would be complete without its collection of groovy joints: on Oxnard, next to the marvelous “Headlow”, some of the most ravishing tracks include the two-faced “Smile/Petty”, “Saviers Road”, “Sweet Chick”, and the Snoop Dogg-featured instant-classic, “Anywhere”. If the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers were a song, “Anywhere” is almost exactly what they would sound like. Snoop’s contribution to the song proves to be more than just another ordinary Snoopadelic feature – it’s more like the iconic alley-oop between Shaq and Kobe. On this track, The Doggfather delivers his most satisfying guest spot of the year. Never being one to shy away from a feature, over the course of the past decade, Snoop Dogg has put himself in a position where if one were to see his name on another artist’s tracklist, anticipation isn’t too mighty. In this particular moment in time though, Snoop is capitalizing off of exciting and memorable features from earlier in the year on Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V and Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers 2. Looking to stay in his zone on Oxnard, Snoopzilla has graced .Paak with his most exciting and tantalizing guest verse of the year dope enough to get any O.G. fan of Snoop Doggy Dogg standing on their feet.

 

Closing the LP on a positive note with “Left to Right”, .Paak is officially open to accept any and all invitations to year-end “Top 10 Hip-Hop Album” lists. Even though Oxnard was released in autumn, Anderson .Paak and Dr. Dre made sure to assemble an LP adaptable for all four seasons of the year. Whether it’s top-down and summer ridin’, or those cozy nights being a winter time homebody, Anderson .Paak’s third solo album is packaged with records for any occasion. Whether it’s to get a party jumping, or to link up with your significant other and unwind, .Paak has you covered. With one of his most attractive albums to date, Oxnard is a movie starring Anderson .Paak. After projects as magnificent as Malibu and as soulful as Yes Lawd!, fans for the past two years have been left wondering how much higher the Dr. Dre protégé could reach. By sculpting another epic to add to the illustrious catalog of The Golden State, with help from the Doctor himself, Oxnard‘s pure bliss is proof of Anderson .Paak reaching past the stars, all while making Cali proud.

 

Written by, Benito Davila

Benito Davila, A.K.A., Primetime Benny D, is a full-time film student at The University of Texas at Austin and the lead music reviewer for Drop The Spotlight. Primetime Benny D is a creator, actor, director, producer, writer, editor, curator, designer, innovator, filmmaker, and star.

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