Anderson .Paak defies genre on ‘Malibu’

Conor Battles, Editor-in-Chief, Arts & Entertainments Editor

Brandon Paak Anderson had, by any measure, an absurdly good 2015.

Six credited feature spots on Dr. Dre’s Compton, the final form of the long-awaited Detox, thrust the 29-year old producer, singer and rapper into the limelight. His silken voice recalls some bastard amalgamation of Nate Dogg and Chance the Rapper, and his production chops blend Flying Lotus-esque abstract soundscapes with old-school soul and funk, resulting in a sound as out of time as it is timeless. On the strength of that patented Dre street cred, .Paak’s third release, Malibu, stands as his best yet.

The opening track, “The Birds,” is a funky trip straight to the center of .Paak’s troubled upbringing, underpinned by his smooth, sincere vocals and effortlessly grooving production. Malibu is that rare album where the opening track is easily the best on the record, but don’t let that turn you off; just about every track on Malibu is exquisitely crafted and utterly enjoyable.

The lush, summery production, courtesy of living legends like Madlib and 9th Wonder, is some of the tightest .Paak has ever boasted, merging West Coast classicism with boom-bap and chipmunk soul. Simply put, Malibu was made to be bumped in low riders down Rosecrans Avenue and danced to at a SoHo night club with equal aplomb. There is nary a dull moment over its 61 minutes.

Lyrically, .Paak takes a risk in exposing himself through his art, revealing a conflicted, troubled artist haunted by the past and intimidated by the future. In between the spurts of harsh introspection and social commentary, he takes the time to namedrop Hall and Oates, sample Yoshi’s Island, and quote Jay-Z. He lets the message behind the music breathe, interspersing the serious gravity of tracks like “The Season/Carry Me” with unadulterated fun. It’s an interesting blend, and imbues Malibu with an equal share of heavy thematic content and airy, weightless pop.

Whether Malibu will propel Anderson .Paak to a well-deserved spot at the forefront of hip-hop, electronic and R&B remains to be seen. For every Dre protoge who took off like, say, Eminem and The Game, there is an equal and opposite Hittman or a Bishop Lamont. However, if the quality of the tracks on Malibu are any indication, Anderson .Paak is due for quite a 2016.