Knitting together ’60s soul, freewheeling jazz and punchy club music into a sunny West Coast tangle, 2016’s ‘Malibu’ was the record that made Anderson .Paak officially massive – and for very good reason. Previously an underrated outlier, better known for his work on Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’, .Paak’s imagery has always held a glimmering core of sunshine at the centre, and on ‘Malibu’ it landed with sand-flecked perfection.
Even more star-studded than its predecessor, ‘Oxnard’ – named after the California rapper’s hometown – features a staggering number of guest features, spanning well-deserved newcomers such as Kadhja Bonet and The Last Artful, Dodgr through to rap titans: Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, Q-Tip, J Cole and Madlib. And yet, surrounded by so many prominent spotlights, Anderson .Paak doesn’t sound stifled. Instead, the rapper’s third full length album experiments with every turn and pushes the so-called beach trilogy (begun by ‘Venice’ and ‘Malibu’) to its final conclusion.
Earlier in his career, .Paak was frequently compared to Kendrick Lamar. While its true that their vocal tones share certain similarities, that’s where the overlaps end. On ‘Tinted’, the pair appear shoulder to shoulder, demanding darkened car windows and an escape from the constant glare of fame. And on ‘Who R U?’ .Paak ponders similar territory, this time assisted by Dr. Dre.:“I had the vision back in 12th grade / That I’d be killing shit with Doc Dre” . Elsewhere, he returns to his roots, paying tribute to his hometown ‘Savier’s Road’ with thumping precision and and riding oddball grooves on ‘Petty Smile’.
In contrast to previous albums, this wasn’t made while sofa-surfing to make ends meet. As Anderson .Paak puts it, he was eating calamari and lobster instead – “every day is Christmas!” he declares dryly on ‘Mansa Musa’. Post-mainstream breakthrough, ‘Oxnard’ is a deft dissection of the fallout, just as free-ranging and hopeful as you’d imagine.