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Anderson .Paak – Malibu

January 27, 2017

When this album came out in early 2016 I was aware of it and I listened to it on Spotify, but it did not grab me.  My wife and daughter were recently at the taping of the Ellen Show and .Paak was the musical guest. Seeing him on the Ellen Show I was impressed by his music and showmanship.  My wife got a free CD from the Ellen Show so I gave it a second chance.  See .Paak’s performance on Ellen below:

.Paak alternates between neo-soul and hip hop.  My first listen immediately invoked Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo – two guys who are not afraid to show their love of soul, jazz and funk in their productions.  I was surprised, after reading about .Paak, that he was under the influence of Dr. Dre vs. Lamar and his cohorts.  The more I listened, the more I concluded that .Paak is a hip hop Marvin Gaye.  His pop sensibilities are on the level of Michael Jackson. I realize that these are over the top comparisons and they are meaningless unless .Paak continues to deliver for another twenty years.  But for this one moment .Paak has delivered a pop masterpiece so lets just savor it.

The opening track “The Bird” is a neo-soul-jazz gem.  The song appears to be autobiographical and highlights influences – positive and negative in his life.  .Paak has a nice gritty croon on this song.

On “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance,” .Paak has a sing-song rap flow.  The cinematic song has a sexy feel, both musically and lyrically.

“The Waters” is produced by Madlib and features  BJ the Chicago Kid.  This is a nice slow burning rap.  This song would sound amazing in a dark club with disco ball raining shards of light on the crowd.

“The Season / Carry Me”  is an elaborate hip hop masterpiece that weaves two productions seamlessly together.

“Put Me Thru” has a Prince meets Stevie Wonder vibe. Retro in a very cool way.

“Am I Wrong” (featuring Schoolboy Q) is a hit single and has a dab of Kendrick Lamar, Outcast, Earth Wind & Fire and Dr. Dre.  This is brilliant pop hip hop.  As slick (in a good way) as anything Quincy and Michael produced.  See the Ellen clip above:  .Paak can deliver the goods live too.

“Without You” – Throughout Malibu, .Paak has been referencing a gal he is falling for.  Here he fully proclaims his love. He trades rhymes with Rapsody (who makes it clear .Paak had better stay true) and the song is finished off with a cool little vocal from Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote.

“Parking Lot”  has a Vampire Weekend feel.  A bouncy, summertime, roll down your windows and cruise track.

“Lite Weight” (featuring The Free Nationals United Fellowship Choir) opens with a Wolfman Jack sample with a surf music reference. Throughout the album .Paak slips in clips that have a surfer theme – I have not figured out what this has to do with the songs – beyond the album is called Malibu and Malibu has great waves.    “Lite Weight” has a monster groove in the tradition of Dr. Dre.

“Room in Here” (featuring The Game and Sonyae Elise) has a modern groove over a tasteful cocktail-jazz piano.

“Water Fall (Interluuube)” is a short mellow ballad where .Paak brags about his abilities to make his gal – well you know…

“Your Prime” is a lush ballad that feels like a warm cozy blanket.  Lyrically it is a bit dark in that .Paak is lecturing his lady.  She will only be in her prime of her beauty for a short time and she better leverage that to get her man before she is past her prime.

“Come Down” is a nice funk workout and party anthem.

In “Silicon Valley” .Paak gets serious and talks about real love.  He wants to get beyond the pretty package.  He says to his lady: “open your heart.”   .Paak does not lose his humor in this seduction, asking “What’s behind them tig-ol-bitties?” That is a term I have never heard before, but I figured it out pretty quick given the song’s title.

“Celebrate” has monster riffs:  first a bass, then a guitar and finally some funky gospel piano.  It then has a gorgeous bridge that is soaked in 70s LA pop sheen.

“The Dreamer” (featuring Talib Kweli and Timan Family Choir) opens with chorus pedal infused guitar riff intertwined with a choir. This song is .Paak’s declaration of how far he has come and a shout out to the other dreamers who .Paak is reminding “you can do it too.”

This one’s for all the little dreamers
And the ones who never gave a fuck
I’m a product of the tube and the free lunch
Living room, watching old reruns
And who cares your daddy couldn’t be here?
Mama always kept the cable on
I’m a product of the tube and the free lunch
Living room, watching old reruns

Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming
Don’t stop now, keep dreaming

Overall this album is an ambitious piece of pop.  A hip hop Pet Sounds or Off The Wall. It comes from the tradition of Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Outcast, The Roots etc.  Artists who know how to mine soul, funk, disco and pop and make it their own.

I have not quite figured out the surfer narrative samples.  But that will give me something to think and Google about. Sorry I missed this on my best of 2016, but at least I finally caught up to it (thanks to my wife and daughter’s trip to see Ellen). Consider this post an amendment to the 2016 best of list.

 

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