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Anderson .Paak is the rebirth of Death Row era g-funk on his newest album Oxnard. And it isn’t the pre-packaged, edited for commercial pop standards funk that we’ve gotten in recent years from other artists. Rather it is a soul-infused modern fusion of R&B, funk, and rap. The album acts as a tribute to Oxnard, California and, seemingly, California in general and acts as the third installation in .Paak’s set of albums that are dedicated to iconic cities. Though Oxnard is not necessarily an iconic city for most of the world, it is obviously one that played a large part in .Paak’s life.
Just looking at the tracklist, one may have lower expectations for the Oxnard album. After all, there are features from a number of West Coast royals, including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Kendrick Lamar. But there are also verses from the likes of J. Cole, Q-Tip, Pusha T and a number of other artists, both featured and not featured. Such a crowded track list may leave the listener wondering if they will even be able to hear .Paak through the various voices on the album. But .Paak’s artistry is never outshined by any of his featured artists, rather they add emphasis to .Paak’s portions and make his raspy yet smooth voice sound even better. Kendrick Lamar’s feature on "Tints" is a true compliment to this album, mostly because of the musical commonalities that exist between Lamar and .Paak. The most prevalent being the way that both artists manipulate their voices for different effects on different tracks. My only continuing reservation about the number of features on this album is how it will affect .Paak’s live performances.
This album is sonically full, with incredibly tribal sounding drum beats and groovy bass lines. There is an incredible balance between the more upbeat tracks and the slower ones, and they all flow well into one another. Many of the songs have two parts. There is often a tempo switch that indicates that the melody and subject matter are about to change, even if only slightly. This means that the listener often gets two songs for the price of one. .Paak’s vocals and words paired with Dr. Dre’s production makes this album one of the most sonically pleasing that I’ve heard all year.
The greatest part of this album is that it’s political without sacrificing .Paak’s artistry. Tracks like “6 Summers” and “Saviers Road” are political beneath double entendres and clever turns of phrase. Rather than speaking directly to the GOP and its leaders, the music remains the main focus and the political mentions are simply footnotes in a much longer thesis that describes one’s commitment and love for their hometown and country. Without mentioning any names, the listener can glean exactly who .Paak is speaking on and what he thinks needs to be done.
My only reservations about this album are the Patois and the connection and narrative that exists between the first three songs: “The Chase,” “Headlow” and “Tints.” There is a pretty cohesive connection here between .Paak’s rendezvous with a woman, their activities in his car and his desire to do things while remaining lowkey. While I like that all of these songs are connected, I wish that there was a connection like this among all of the tracks because such a connection would make the album much more cohesive. The Patois spoken on “Mansu Musa” and “Left to Right” sounds decent enough, but I have to wonder why those songs, in particular, make use of Patois from two people that are not Caribbean and songs that do not have Caribbean influences.
Considering all of the releases this year, this album is in my top three. The production in collaboration with .Paak’s voice and songwriting ability make this album one that is easy to listen to from beginning to end.
Favorite Track(s): "6 Summers," "Tints," "Who R U," "Cheers," "Saviors Road," and every track really.
Least Favorite Track(s): None, obviously.
Overall Rating: 9/10