Steel Wool/OBE/Art Club/EMPIRE
by Bryce Browning
The best part of gospel music is its blend of rhythm and harmony that creates a sound which warms your soul; the immaterial and immortal part of a human being. Anderson .Paak began his musical roots as a drummer in his family’s church, and you can feel the pulse of the church beating throughout the veins of Malibu. A prime example of this is the dance-along clap that his drumming encourages through “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance,” as he croons the listener into a trance. As I listen to Malibu, what gives me the greatest smile are the deep, soulful lyrics spread throughout the album.
“My sister used to sing to Whitney, mmm / My mama caught the gambling bug, mmm / We came up in a lonely castle, mmm / My papa was behind them bars, mmm / We never had to want for nothing, mmm / Said all we ever need is love, mmm,” he sings on the album opener “The Bird.”
“I saw my son today, in the likeness of a full grown man / So I'll celebrate while I still can,” he reflects on “Celebrate.”
These lyrics, sung with his raspy voice, are the perfect combination for his music to go through your ears and straight to your soul.
Anderson .Paak raps so well he was named to the 2016 XXL Freshman Class, a yearly honor to highlight the best up-and-coming rappers. He sings like an alternative alter-ego of John Legend, with croaky rhythms. On “The Season/Carry Me,” he has a blues drawl in his singing style combined with a southern hip-hop beat circa late ‘90s. Then, a few songs later, he jumps to the upbeat “Parking Lot,” which has the catchiness of a line-dancing anthem at a family barbecue. On “Your Prime,” he seamlessly transitions between rapping double-time verses to laid back R&B singing throughout the song. I bring these examples as a testament to how eclectic Anderson. Paak’s music abilities can be.
It is one thing to be eclectic is one thing though, but the impressive part of Malibu is how unforced it sounds. The album features guitar solos, hip-hop beats, R&B, soul, funky dance tracks and smooth serenades — and it all sounds authentic and natural.
Anderson .Paak is 30 years old, married with a child, and didn’t start recording music until 2011. Malibu is his fourth solo album, yet somehow his sound is refreshing and comes a part of the new West Coast wave of music alongside Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Kamasi Washington, Terrance Martin, and more. This sound is a part of the reason why .Paak got his “big break” last year on Dr. Dre’s Compton, where he was the driving force behind the album’s sound, and made Dre sound very modern. Fast forward to Malibu, and you can hear Anderson .Paak make rump-shaking, feet-shifting grooves like “Come Down” and “Am I Wrong.” The cherry on the top of this album is how hip and cool Anderson .Paak compiles all his sounds together.
Malibu is the album that we will look back as the start of a (hopefully) long and successful career. Anderson .Paak has made one of the best projects of 2016 and this decade — a marvelous piece of art.
Song You Need To Hear: "Heart Don't Stand a Chance"