Photo courtesy of andersonpaak.com
Story by Enrique Geronimo / Contributing Writer
In November 2018, Anderson .Paak escaped his usual smooth-edged beats and soulful singing to create an album that was a bit rougher around the edges, with his album “Oxnard.” Only six months later, Paak has followed up that release with his newest, “Ventura.” On “Ventura,” Paak takes a dive back into his funkier grooves, with features from great artists and production by hip-hop legend Dr. Dre.
The first track, “Come Home,” starts off with smooth airy vocalizations from a choir, immediately followed by a thumping funky bass drop. With the classic sound of Paak’s clean drumming interpolated in the track, this album already sounds like a classic. Paak pleads, “I’m begging you please come home,” before a choral bridge that is followed shortly by the legend Andre 3000, who dances around the beat with lyrical bars that perfectly end the track.
The second track, “Make it Better,” is just as buttery and smooth as the first but features gliding strings that lead into a choppy drum pattern and funk-driven guitar that keeps the song moving along. It’s no surprise that this song is so soulful since R&B great Smokey Robinson is featured on the track. The bass is constantly bouncing along and carrying the whole song, keeping you moving along until the end lyrics float ghostly away: “Do you want to make it better? Do you want to stay together?”
The third track, “Reachin’ 2 Much,” features Lalah Hathaway, the daughter of soul singer Donny Hathaway. There is an abrupt but calculated beat change about a quarter of the way into the song, breaking the beat down and keeping things interesting. Paak sings, “I think you’re doing way too much, I think you need to settle down,” before a vocoder synthesizer comes in to support him in the best way possible. The beat is almost reminiscent of the Thundercat and Kendrick Lamar collab, “These Walls,” off his critically-acclaimed “To Pimp a Butterfly” album. Ending with vocalizations by Paak that perfectly lead into the vocal sample intro of the next track.
“Winners Circle” is a jazzy tune that features female scat singing in several different areas of the song. One of the highlights is when the beat drops out and leaves the female scat vocalizations out in the open until toms come back in followed by Paak dropping another hot verse that truly showcases his wittiness and lyrical skills. Of course, the track ends with a perfect transition into the next track, with a cymbal that rides into “Good Heels”
“Good Heels” is a short track that features Jazmine Sullivan and focuses on “your girl” catching you in your lies after you think you got away with being unfaithful.
“Yada Yada” talks about everyone always having “some sh*t to say.” Paak says he doesn’t have time for it while he talks about issues like global warming and the inevitability of death. Paak casually throws in his signature ad-lib, “Yes Lawd,” in this track. This track is synthesizer and keyboard-heavy, truly showcasing the keyboardist.
The second half of the album begins with “King James,” which has a groovy rounded bass tone supported by chimes, horns and some more funky guitar parts. Paak asks, “What about the love? What about the labor? What about the seeds? What about the people you came with?” Each of these lines is echoed by backing vocals, singing, “Coming with me.”
Up next on the album is “Chosen One,” which features Sonyae Elise. This track is a modern-day love song that has a very large sound with heavy use of reverb and synthesizers rising and falling around the song structure until about halfway through when the beat changes to a kick drum and piano parts that puts the spotlight on Paak. He talks about his love for this girl, saying how she could be the chosen one. The chorus is almost anthem-like, stating, “We should be lovin’ each other crazy. We shouldn’t wait ‘til the day our days are through.” The song contains more vocoder carried synths, emulating robotic voices chiming in to sing along.
“Jet Black” features R&B singer Brandy and is another love song of sorts. Paak is talking about a girl’s jet black hair, saying how “if this is the mood then I love it,” and I couldn’t agree more. The beat is infectious, and it’s hard to stay still while listening. The song ends with another beat breakdown of sorts that leads into the second to last track.
“Twilight” opens with a reverberated trumpet part with percussion surrounding it. There is a key change pretty early on in the track also, which is a nice and refreshing switch-up. The backing vocals on this track add so much while still remaining pretty minimal and staying in the background. It’s no surprise that this track was co-produced by Pharell Williams as you can hear his well-known percussive and rhythmic additions throughout the song.
The album closes with a poppier hip-hop song that features Nate Dogg. “What Can We Do?” is a question and an answer in itself as one of the lines before the hook is, “You slowly rolled over and whispered right to me: That’s just the way things have to be.”
Overall, one could say that “Ventura” is definitely one of Paak’s most cohesive and thought-out albums. The tracks flow so seamlessly into one another, truly creating one full work of art from front to back. While Paak’s other albums: “Venice,” “Malibu” and this year’s earlier project “Oxnard” are great as well, I believe this may be his best work yet. It sounds as if Paak had more fun and creative freedom while working on this, and it seems like it is leaning more toward his style. The collaborations seem more natural and free-spirited as opposed to the tightly produced”Oxnard,” which was produced by Dr. Dre. “Ventura” Is definitely an album that you don’t want to miss out on.
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