Photo courtesy of Mary Nichols / Wikimedia Commons
Story by Naffie Najie / Contributing Writer
The long-awaited “Oxnard” is finally here. Anderson .Paak released his third studio album, “Malibu,” in 2016 to much critical acclaim and scored a Grammy nomination for it. This project strikes a new tone, with themes rooted in love, loss and the price of fame. Aptly named after Paak’s hometown, “Oxnard” delves into his personal struggles while keeping elements of ambiguity and relatability. It is an open love poem dedicated to Oxnard and the hedonism of Los Angeles.
Brandon Paak Anderson grew up in Oxnard, California, and began producing music from his bedroom as a teenager. He released his debut, “O.B.E. Vol. 1,” in 2012 under the stage name Breezy Lovejoy. He has released four albums since, three as Anderson .Paak and one with Grammy-winning producer Knxwledge as the eclectic duo NxWorries, all while touring with his multi-faceted band, The Free Nationals. Anderson .Paak’s brand of music is practically genre-less. With roots in gospel drumming, he blends hip-hop, funk, R&B and rock.
Paak’s funky rap approach to “Oxnard” is promising and exciting, but it lacks in certain places. His use of various genres doesn’t seem to flow as well as it has on other projects. While Paak’s soul-infused raspy vocals only get stronger, he focuses less on musicality and instrumentation on “Oxnard.”
With production from Dr. Dre, 9th Wonder, Q-Tip and more, Paak’s album is diverse in styles, but one thing is constant: clarity. Dre’s mixing is key to the quality of “Oxnard.” But no matter how much good he adds to the project, it’s evident that Dr. Dre’s production feels like a light chokehold on “Oxnard.” His strong production is just as powerful as his weaker points. This is present on “Mansa Musa,” which features Dre and Cocoa Sarai, who carries the song with her short verse, and exhibits Dre’s inadequate production.
The album’s lyrical content is carnal and honest. “6 Summers,” the vague political song opens with “Trump’s got a love child / And I hope that b*tch is buckwild / […] I hope she kiss señoritas and black gals.” Although this could be on purpose, this sentiment is wishful and off-kilter with reality. Paak’s sexual encounters are centered on “Headlow,” where he chronicles public blowjobs and on “Sweet Chick” where he exalts his roster of different women. Although enjoyable, these records seem more sexually performative and could use a less pseudo-masculine approach. He saves himself here by not taking himself too seriously via the jokey skits at the end of these tracks. He boasts new riches on “Mansa Musa” and harps beautifully on love and confusion with “Trippy” and “Anywhere.” Paak laments on the loss of friend and fellow musician Mac Miller on “Cheers” with the help of Q-Tip, and we get a personal glimpse of his relationship with Mac and the effect of the loss.
The album contains many strong features: J. Cole, Cocoa Sarai, Kendrick Lamar, BJ the Chicago Kid and more.
“Oxnard” expands Anderson .Paak’s reach, but he is doing too much. Unfortunately, Paak’s ambition, although admirable, has spread him too thin. “Left to Right” exemplifies a style that even he can’t perfect, and his Jamaican accent on the song does not compute. The album is interesting and draws listeners in, but it needs focus.
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