Review: "Oxnard" by Anderson .Paak

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Anderson .Paak is the perfect example of a rags to riches success story. From couch surfing to working as a marijuana trimmer to being signed by Dr. Dre, few musicians have a story as inspiring as his. Anderson’s climb to success arguably started when he got the chance to be on Dr. Dre’s “Compton” album. He got the gig after Dre heard his song “Suede” and loved it so much that he played it on repeat. Anderson found himself on four of the sixteen songs and his voice began to be heard. His unique vocals had music fans like myself stopping and asking, “who is this dude I keep hearing throughout this album?” In 2016, Anderson released his album “Malibu” which was essentially a sequel to his 2014 release “Venice”. Both projects were impeccable. Now, in 2018, a less underground Anderson .Paak, backed by Dre and Aftermath, has released the third album in his location saga, “Oxnard”.

As an Anderson .Paak fan, I will admit that the first time I fully listened to this project, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Admittedly, I found myself comparing it a lot to “Malibu” just because that was the project that made me a fan. I decided to give it a few more listens and really focus on the production choices and Paak’s words. After the next few full listens, I grew to love this album. A fear that fans have when an artist goes from underground to more mainstream is that their music will lose quality and that the artist will start to just care about radio play. While this album has some radio playable tracks, (“Tints” and maybe “Trippy” and “Mansa Musa”), every song still has a ton of substance, excellent production and actual lyricism.

Paak is incredibly unique in that he’s certainly a singer, yet he raps much better than a lot of today’s so called “rappers”. On songs such as “Who R U”, “Mansa Musa” and “Saviers Road” he spits about as well as he sings. On songs like “Trippy” and “Smile / Petty” his wavy vocals are on full display. The fact that he’s able to do both makes him extremely fun to listen to and it helps him to have only quality features in his songs.

Speaking of features, his choices for this album were amazing. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are of course the heavyweights on the list making “Tints” and “Trippy” two of the more popular songs on the album; however, Pusha T., Dr. Dre, Cocoa Sarai, Snoop Dogg, and Q-Tip all added dope bars throughout the project that really complimented Paak’s sound and energy.

Most of Anderson’s project is happy and upbeat; however, he does get a bit serious on the songs “6 Summers” and “Cheers”. In “6 Summers” he speaks on the President and how he appears to be above the law. He also speaks on gun violence and reform. The song “Cheers” was a song dedicated to Mac Miller as Paak speaks on his friend and wishing that he had done more to try and save him.

All in all, the album is dope and as a fan, I will probably spend the next two years trying to decide which is better: “Malibu” or “Oxnard”. The point of Paak’s location projects (Venice, Malibu and Oxnard) is to make music that reminds him of those places. I’ve never been to Oxnard, but if this album is any indication of what it’s like, it’s certainly on my list of places to visit.

Stream “Oxnard” on Spotify