Albums of 2016 (#4): Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Malibu well and truly plunged Anderson .Paak into the consciousness of the music industry and music fans all over the world. He's been riding that wave ever since
'Smoother than a motherfucker,' sings Anderson .Paak on Suede, released in 2015 under the guise NxWorries – a collaborative project with hip-hop producer Knxwledge. He’s describing a car, but he may as well be describing himself. .Paak’s music, just like his persona, is inherently smooth: an eclectic fusion of funk, jazz, soul, hip-hop, R'n'B, trap, disco and psychedelia that sounds like the past and the future combined.
Suede was a turning point for .Paak (formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy). The track grabbed the attention of Dr. Dre and .Paak’s six-track contribution to Dre’s 2015 comeback album Compton brought him in to the public sphere, as well as allowing him the opportunity to meet and work with a range of producers and artists who would go on to help form the sound of his second album Malibu.
Released back in January, Malibu is a powerfully honest insight into .Paak’s journey through life so far, and that journey has been anything but easy. By the time he was 17, .Paak’s father, mother and step-father had all been sent to prison and he had witnessed his family being torn apart by drug addiction, gambling addiction and domestic violence. On the album’s opening track The Bird, he wastes no time in getting down to the gritty details, singing about his turbulent upbringing and family issues: 'My sister used to sing to Whitney / My mama caught the gambling bug / We came up in a lonely castle / My papa was behind them bars.'
On the album’s lead single The Season / Carry Me, he continues to delve into his past, again alluding to his upbringing but also discussing his own money problems. Struggling to succeed with his music, .Paak spent a period of time homeless before he got a job on a marijuana farm in Santa Barbara: 'I was sleeping on the floor, new born baby boy / Tryna get my money pot so wifey wouldn’t get deported / Cursing the heavens, falling out of orbit.' The track stands out as the most personal on the album, with Paak addressing how his personal struggles left him conflicted with his faith, as he forced himself to stay motivated.
Malibu is just as much a confessional tale as it is a masterclass in musicianship. Along with his band The Free Nationals, .Paak has developed a signature sound that is as equally intimate as it is commercial. The flow of tracks is brilliantly crafted, encapsulating all of .Paak’s influences, from the disco-infused Put Me Thru, and Am I Wrong, to the intimate R&B slow jams Lite Weight and Room in Here to the funk/rap tinged Your Prime and Come Down.
The album credits read like a who’s who of hip-hop, with production from 9th Wonder, Kaytranada and Madlib and appearances from ScHoolboy Q, The Game and Talib Kweli highlighting just how wide .Paak’s circle of friends has grown. .Paak has returned the favour to many of his collaborators and continued to expand his circle throughout the year, jumping on tracks with ScHoolboy, Kaytranada, Mac Miller and Odd Future's Domo Genesis. And to top it all off he didn’t let the year end without finally dropping the NxWorries album that fans have eagerly been waiting for. If 2016 has been anyone’s year, it’s been Anderson .Paak’s.