‘The City That Cares’: Anderson .PAAK Pushes The Boundaries On His Third Solo Effort ‘Oxnard’

IMG_9478In today’s fast paced ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ nature of contemporary music and the greater music industry at large; attention spans of both fans and artists alike are shorter than ever before. Once upon a time, under the right circumstances an album’s commercial life span could stretch months or even potentially years depending on the artist and the team behind them. But, with the advent of the internet, modern social media and the relative ease and accessibility for artists to disseminate their music out to the public these once potentially long life spans for new releases have been reduced down to weeks or even mere days. Quickly washed away in a never ending tidal wave of new music ushered in by artists young and old engaged everyday in a fight for visibility and relevance. This said however, even in today’s fast paced and volatile music environment, some non-legacy artist are still capable of going long stretches between albums and managing to create a sizable buzz around their new releases. A prime example being none other than singer Anderson .PAAK. Having been more than two years since releasing a full-length studio project, the last time PAAK dropped a full-length project was his sophomore album Malibu at the top of 2016, which was quickly followed by a subsequent collaboration project with producer Knxwledge as NxWorries for their debut album Yes Lawd! at the end of that same year respectively. However, since then the Oxnard crooner has by no means kept a low profile and if anything has maintained a robust, steady schedule the past several years. Having made guest appearances on A Tribe Called Quest’s final album Thank You For Your Service…We’ll take it from Here, The Black Panther Original Soundtrack as well as a slew of other features on various artists projects such as Mac Miller and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Now, after two long years .PAAK has finally returned to the music scene with yet another solo album of his own entitled Oxnard.

 

Continuing in the tradition of naming his albums after Southern California cities (a tradition that began with .PAAK’s debut album Venice back in 2014) Oxnard is .PAAK’s follow-up to his 2016 sophomore effort Malibu and said to the last of his “beach series” albums; fittingly ending with paying homage to .Paak’s own hometown in California. The album is a stark contrast to both of .PAAK’s last full-length projects Malibu and Yes, Lawd! with producer Knxwledge. The latter,Yes, Lawd! featured old school, dusty, retro-sounding sample based production of a bygone era courtesy of Knxwledge’s which was far more likely resonate with fans and listeners of prominent underground Hip-Hop artists; conjuring soundscapes that were likely to bring to mind artist such as MF Doom, Freddie Gibbs, or Joey Bada$$ than Anderson .PAAK. However, If Yes, Lawd! was a project where Anderson .PAAK and Knxwledge were able to bring together the best of both worlds pairing old school sample-based production together with modern Neo-Soul sensibilities; then Oxnard is .PAAK’s signal he has grown tired of the restrained, nonchalant vibe that embodied his prior efforts and stepped foot into brand new territory with bold new production choices, crafting new soundscapes for the Oxnard crooner to experiment and push the boundaries on. Being his first album released on Aftermath Entertainment and 12 Tone Music the album is by far .PAAK’s most ambitious and sonically diverse album released yet to date. While PAAK’s last full-length effort, Yes Lawd! featured no guest appearances from any respective vocalist or emcees, Oxnard is packed to the brim guest features. Featuring the talents of artists such as Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Pusha T and BJ The Chicago Kid; as well as featuring the production talents of 9th Wonder, Dr. Dre, Q-Tip, and Dem Jointz who all contribute a much grander, imposing set of production than that heard on any of .PAAK’s prior efforts.

 

Unsurprisingly, Oxnard prominently features a heavy funk theme throughout the project, a quality courtesy of Dr. Dre, who was not only heavily involved in the making of the project but also served as executive producer on the album as well. This quality can be heard on songs such as the album’s opening track ‘The Chase’, featuring live instrumentation and soundscapes that invokes memories of grungy Soul and old school R&B artists of yesteryear. Much like most of .PAAK’s past work Oxnard is a album that decidedly has one foot firmly planted in the past, with another stepping half way into the future. Although on Oxnard, sonically this comes off more similarly in the vein of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic than say, Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love!. This can be heard particularly on the album’s lead single ‘Tints’ with past musical collaborator Kendrick Lamar. Much like Mars’ 24K Magic the track is a expertly executed example of artists re-creating vintage funk and R&B soul with modern production techniques and sensibilities for contemporary music audiences. It’s standout tracks like this that graciously lend themselves to PAAK’s laid-back swagger and untamable energy which is only accentuated by Lamar’s accompaniment. Oddly enough, also similar to 24K Magic which was also released in the late fall upon its own respective release, a funk-infused party anthem like ‘Tints’ could have easily been a summertime smash hit had it been released just a few months prior. Other highlights on the album include ‘Savier’s Road’, 9th Wonder’s sole contribution to album, featuring 9th’s signature pounding, boom bap drums and whiny mini Moog-esque synthesizers layered over smith guitar licks accompanied by PAAK’s smooth as butter vocals. However, if there is a feature that steals the show the honor has to go to Snoop Dogg on the track on ‘Anywhere’.  A slinky, funked out track with smooth melodic drums and accompanied by Snoop’s signature laid back drawl, tracks like ‘Anywhere’ not showcase PAAK’s ear for paring production that caters to his guest performers, but his ability to adapt as well showcasing his long range of versatility in such situations. Another example that showcases .PAAK’s ability to meet his guest artist somewhere in the middle is ‘Trippy’, a soulful joint featuring none other than J. Cole, giving Kendrick Lamar a run for his money for the title of best featured emcee on the entirety of Oxnard.

 

If there is one down side that Oxnard suffers from however, it is the constant beat switch ups and two-part songs that are featured periodically throughout the album. While Oxnard is commendable in its attempt to be as sonically diverse and unpredictable as possible; the downside is that often times the latter portions of theses tracks tend to outshine the prior production displayed in the first half. The end result being these latter portions giving some tracks a underwhelming or lopsided vibe to them, especially when still attached to their predecessors. Tracks like ‘Smile/Petty’ are prime examples of this drawback, which befall these tracks that switch or split up midway through the song’s completion. Even ‘Cheers’, which features A Tribe Called Quest leader and frontman Q-Tip also similarly falls victim to the same predicament. Unfortunately, as far as notable guest features go, the song is probably one of the more underwhelming features present on the album, which is disappointing to say the least. Q-Tip, who has also in the past straddled the line between emcee and singer  is arguably one of the best sonic parings for an artist like Anderson .PAAK (we always wanted to hear a remix of ‘Come Down’ featuring a ‘Vivrant Thing’ or ‘Breathe and Stop’ era Tip). But here, what is ultimately delivered is much more subdued, and consequently forgettable feature from Q-Tip; which unfortunately could have certainly been a much more memorable and bombastic paring of two stellar producers and performers. Likewise, another unlikely drawback due to the album’s large scope and ambitious magnitude is the album’s production. Not to say that the production on Oxnard is terrible or even bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the production on Oxnard is arguably some of the best and most professionally body of work .PAAK has ever had to work with on a single given project in his entire career. However, with all that said the overly produced more polished sound featured on Oxnard’s production removes most of the more lo-fi and dusty qualities heard on both Malibu and Yes! Lawd!. Everything that gave .PAAK’s prior work on Venice, Malibu and Yes, Lawd! their charm and signature sound ultimately gives way to modern and polished sounding production that was likely courtesy of executive producer Dr. Dre. Tracks like ‘Who R U?’ and ‘Mansa Musa’ in particular really capture and put on full display, this new tone and style that greatly diverge from .PAAK’s past work and are sure to polarize long time fans. Thats not to say that this means the album sounds bad of doesn’t have not of funky, throwback elements and sounds thrown into the mix; again its execution in this case is just more along the lines and in the vein of say Bruno Mars than Thundercat or Flying Lotus.

 

These few criticisms and knit pics aside though, Oxnard is a well put together and ultimately fun album to listen to. Clocking in at just over fifty-six minutes, and even accompanied by several bonus tracks for fans that purchased hard copies of the album, Oxnard is without a doubt of the top albums of 2018 coming from one of industry’s most creative and versatile new voices. With the stakes perhaps higher than ever, Oxnard is funky, high energy endeavor that proves Anderson .PAAK is not only capable of branching out into new territories outside of his comfort zone, but delivering multiple high quality projects his first initial breakthrough releases as well bringing his “beach series’ projects to a close. With Anderson .PAAK also rumored to be set to drop a new album with his band the Free Nationals at some point in early next year its highly likely we will not have to wait nearly as long as before to hear the next project; and if there’s any luck we’ll have a second album to bump all the way through 2019 as well.

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Oxnard is available now to purchase on CD in stores and available on digital platforms as well to stream on Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, Prime Music and iTunes.

Full Album Track Listing & Credits:

1. The Chase (feat. Kadhja Bonet)

2. Headlow (feat. Norelle)

3. Tints (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

4. Who R U?

5. 6 Summers

6. Saviers Road

7. Smile / Petty

8. Mansa Musa (feat. Dr. Dre & Coco Sarai)

9. Brother’s Keeper (feat. Pusha T)

10. Anywhere (feat. Snoop Dogg & the Last Artful, Dodgr)

11. Trippy (feat. J. Cole)

12. Cheers (feat. Q-Tip)

Bonus Tracks:

13. Sweet Chick (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid)

14. Left to Right

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