In what can only be described as one of the most anticipated albums of 2018, California’s R&B/soul extraordinaire Anderson .Paak has returned with his third studio album, the Dr. Dre produced Oxnard.
Nearly three years after his 2016 album, the critically acclaimed Malibu, .Paak’s comeback is a tour de force in summer R&B, soul and hip-hop, featuring a stellar cast of guests and as usual the solid backing of his band The Free Nationals.
The album kicks off with a one-two punch of experimental soul in the form of The Chase featuring Kadjha Bonet and Headlow featuring Norelle. Already, from the get-go, you get a sense that this will be a different album to Malibu and the intrigue begins to build as to what direction .Paak is going in on Oxnard, which is incidentally the name of his hometown.
After a strong into, then come the album’s two singles in the form of Tints featuring Kendrick Lamar, a bop and a half and for mine one of .Paak’s best ever tunes, before the staccato-like bounce of Who R U? A grower of a tune with an infectious rhythm.
The first side of the album is rounded out by the trance-like groove of 6 Summers, featuring the tongue in cheek line “Trump’s got a love child I hope that bitch is buck wild,” and Saviers Road, a track which has one hell of a drop in it.
If the first half of Oxnard was about experimentation with .Paak the main focus, the second half is all about the star cast of guests. Aside from the beautiful soul of Smile/Petty which sees .Paak put in one of his best vocal performances, the entirety of side two is made up of tracks featuring some of the biggest names in rap.
First up is the playful Mansa Musa featuring album producer Dr. Dre and Coco Sarai. Out of all the tracks, this one probably could have been left off the record in place of say Paak’s single from earlier in the year Bubblin’, but it is a fun track nonetheless and features a rare Dr. Dre rapping performance.
The procession of stars then keep coming... firstly on Brother’s Keeper, a fierce track which featured the man who many say has the rap album of the year in Pusha T, and then Anywhere featuring Snoop Dogg who puts in a stellar performance on what is a G-funk inspired track and a Death Row Records reunion of sorts with Snoop and Dre.
The album then winds down with the downtempo soul of Trippy featuring J Cole who seemed more energetic in his performance than usual. Before finally, Q-Tip puts the finishing touches to a star-powered record on the amazing closer Cheers which also features some excellent drumming from .Paak himself.
The hype was big for Oxnard and often I find massively hyped albums fail to deliver. This, however, was an exception and Anderson .Paak delivered with the goods in what feels like a more consistent affair to Malibu.
Given the star power on this record, it could have been very easy for Paak to be pushed to the background as the big names took centre stage. However, that was not the case, and in fact, .Paak in many ways outshone his guests with his stunning vocals and under-appreciated drumming coming to the forefront strongly.
With Oxnard, Anderson .Paak has cemented himself well and truly as one of the top artists in R&B today. His music has authenticity, creativity and most importantly, it is just good old-fashioned fun soul music. If you get a chance to see him in January take the opportunity because if this album is anything to go by it will be a banging show.
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Released: 16 Nov 2018