Five years ago today, Anderson .Paak dropped the Grammy-nominated Malibu, a neo-soul masterpiece often cited as his best work. I’d be inclined to agree with the consensus: Oxnard felt like slightly bland pandering with its excess of features (although the presence of Q-Tip was much appreciated) and Ventura was a bit closer to what was captured in Malibu in terms of a genuine .Paak artistry, but it didn’t hit every mark. Unlike Malibu. Every single one of Anderson .Paak’s vast collection of talents is on full display here, and this album is simply highlight after highlight.
I first listened to Malibu when I was in sixth form, and it’s stuck with me since. Aside from the excellent opening, ‘The Bird,’ a surprisingly soft track, ‘Put Me Thru’ was the first track I became obsessed with. The opening notes take me back to sitting on a hot bus in the summer. A sprinkling of electric guitar amongst the backing vocals is a welcome surprise, and the chorus is catchy despite its complexity.
Before ‘Put Me Thru,’ is ‘The Season/Carry Me,’ with its distinct halves standing out; the first half is motivational, braggadocios, featuring .Paak’s usual vocal flexing within some scorching summer imagery, and the second is more introspective, focusing on his childhood. His second verse, on the second part of the track – ‘Carry Me’ – is particularly excellent, featuring a conversational flow far different to .Paak’s usual melodic raps.
‘Room in Here’ featuring The Game is a very natural collaboration between the two LA artists, despite the slightly jarring switch of pace going into the older rapper’s verse from .Paak’s smoothness. It’s a typical Game verse, with the same flow you’d hear in any of his tracks or features, but why fix what isn’t broken?
‘Come Down’ is the album’s most popular track, sitting at just over ninety-eight million plays on Spotify since its release as Malibu’s last single. It features an impossibly funky bassline and a chorus that oozes .Paak’s trademark charisma. Ending the album a few tracks later is ‘The Dreamer,’ carrying features from Talib Kweli and the Timan Family Choir, with this track being as uplifting as ‘The Season.’ A pair of lines from the chorus – ‘I’m a product of the tube and the free lunch / Living room, watching old reruns’ – are particular standouts, perfectly illustrating his childhood and imbuing the track with a warmth. Moments like this are sprinkled throughout the rest of album as well.
Anderson .Paak’s Malibu is by far his best work, primarily because of its organic nature. .Paak played perfectly to his strengths on every track, showing off his one-of-a-kind voice and soul influences. Since the album’s release he has produced some great music; ‘Tints’ was one of my favourite singles of 2018 from a solid yet bloated album, and Ventura captured some but not all of Malibu’s warmth. Yet I’m puzzled as to what .Paak could do in the future to surpass it. Most likely it will take something completely left field from him, but a return to the pleasant summer in Malibu would be just as welcome.
Words by Jack Oxford
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