Overnight success is possible, but only after years of non-fulfillment, defeat, and catastrophe—knee-weakening tragedy that could send a lesser man over the edge.
I imagine that Anderson .Paak was near his limit in 2011, the loss of a job left him vulnerable, his wife and newborn son homeless. This came before being embraced by the good doctor, co-signed by Kendrick. Before he would go by Anderson .Paak and was Breezy Lovejoy, just another aspiring artist in a world full of aspiring artists. Music was a passion that had yet to turn into life-changing profit, it would take years before he would receive the looks needed to be where he is today, one of the most talked about artists elevating through the music scene. He isn’t a newcomer, the multitalented musician with a uniquely soothing voice has been bringing layers of infectious rap, R&B, soul, and funk dating back to his 2010 Violets Are Blue EP. It’s been a long, bumpy road to the mountaintop but after the year he had in 2015, without question Anderson .Paak is destined for success.
Give an inch and he'll take a mile, the ancient idiom is fitting for how Anderson took his outstanding placements on Dr. Dre’s Compton to unlock the door to the forefront of the music industry. Compton didn’t make Anderson, he didn’t spend his 2015 name-dropping the legendary producer, the amount of work and music that came after is what made him an artist to watch for. It felt like every few weeks his name was attached to something, a single, a feature, a web-series, everywhere you turned Anderson .Paak was being talked about. The EP’s with Blended Babies and Knxwledge were both short but sweet illustrations of an artist with style, a songwriter that could go from a compassionate lover to a pimp with an affinity for old-school suede seats.
Even more range is showcased on his debut album, Venice, released in 2014. Two years later, Anderson is ready for a follow-up, but this time bigger, much bigger. It’s only fitting because there are more eyes on him, this is the moment, a crossroads, where a great album will solidify him as the great artist that some of the biggest names in the industry have called a genius. Malibu is the album that could take Anderson .Paak and his family to their own personal paradise.
I’m excited, the Nxworries EP has been in constant rotation since its release, with every listen Venice grows nearer to my heart. I only recently started to dig into the works of Breezy Lovejoy thanks to Lucas, who knows Anderson’s music better than anyone I know. It’s late, I’ve slept a grand total of 12 hours this entire week, my brother’s girlfriend has described my appearance as the look of death, but my blood is pumping. I’m excited, truly excited that this album will be better than any sleep. If Malibu can keep me awake, then I’m certain this album can wake up the world.
Per traditional 1 Listen Review rules, this will be my gut reaction as I listen for the first time, no pausing or rewinding, no editing, no rewriting. Just stream of consciousness reactions, let's go.
1. “The Bird”
My eyes feel heavier than Norbit’s wife but whoever produced this intro is capturing the beauty of a sunset in paradise. [Editor's Note: It was produced by .Paak] Anderson's voice is able to balance power and soul, it’s incredibly unique and pure. He’s going personal right out the gate, reminiscing on his family, admitting his mother’s gambling issues and his father’s prison history. This is stunning, like being wrapped in warmth, a blanket for your ears during these harsh winter winds. "I choose to follow what the greatest do." Not a bad start, the piano/trumpet combination is Shaq and Kobe in the finals going for the three-peat. Sing boy sing!
2. “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance”
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. What an explosive transition. From a sunset on the beach to the dance floor, the tempo is mid, not too fast, this is for the two stepping gangsters who catch the groove but can’t truly move because the glock is tucked. This song is for people that make eye contact in the club and decide they’re soul mates before last call. I love that he’s able to make a song with such compassion, that has bounce, and his imagery continues to prove his pen is exquisite. Especially in the R&B/soul world. Makes me kind of miss Frank Ocean’s narratives. That boy better be careful, with taking forever to return Anderson is coming for his spot. He definitely has stellar production, this instrumental is full of life, so much life. Who is this speaking? I don’t know. I don't care. Let's go!
3. “The Waters” (ft. BJ The Chicago Kid)
This low bass rumble is giving me life. Sounds like BJ is doing background vocals, Anderson is rapping about 2012. As a rapper he can flow, it’s an effortless change. This is an instant replay. BJ on the hook sounding like holy water. Far too short. I need an extended version. The director’s cut. I need the deleted scenes. All of it. Give me all of this always.
4. “The Season / Carry Me”
I don’t remember if this was officially the first single but I’ve played it plenty since the release. There’s a cinematic feeling toward “The Season,” Anderson has so much color in his music, it’s radiant. “I spent years being called out by name, living under my greatness,” the depth of this line could go to the bottom of the bottomless ocean. The beat switch has swing, bounce, and the way he rides the loop is with the smoothness of a pro skater grinding down a rail slicked with oil. His lyricism has been very introspective, he has no problem painting the hardships that surround him and his family. Bob and weaving from being young and old, death and despair, his life experiences have made him an incredible artist able to articulate what he's witnessed over 30 years of life. The bridge is beautiful. The song is beautiful. Can I just spend 2016 listening to this song!? Man, he’s on fire.
5. “Put Me Thru”
Maybe I spoke too soon. This is interesting. It doesn’t feel modern but it's familiar, I can’t put my finger on it. Man, I got lost in this one and it’s far too short. I'll have to go back (after the review).
6. “Am I Wrong” (ft. ScHoolboy Q)
Anderson could easily give the '70s disco fever. This is the cut the rug music that our grandparents raised the roof to. The thumping tempo just runs through your body, it’s hard not to move when electrified. ScHoolboy Q may seem to be a weird feature but it also shows the range of Groovy Q. There’s a lot of thoughtfulness that is going into the production, from the percussion to the trumpets to the breakdown, you can easily be entranced by all the progressive changes. The beats are alive. Alive I tell you.
7. “Without You” (ft. Rapsody)
OH BABY, this feels dusty and warm. Is that Rapsody’s background vocals? A Nintendo cartridge reference on a love song? Two points to Mr. Paak. I'm very impressed by the writing on this album. Rapsody is incredible, she has flow, presence, and bars. The kind of rapper that makes you excited to hear bars. This one stands out for a few reasons but wooooo who is this singing at the end? What just happened?
8. “Parking Lot”
This album is like a surprise party. You just don’t know what will happen next. A soothing ballad, I feel that once the beat drops it begins to work against Anderson, it has too much personality for a song that is more laid back. The first record I’m not feeling immediately. There’s a nice switch up toward the end but not a strong enough to sell me.
9. “Light Weight”
Surfing music, eh? There’s a lot of clips and voices sampled throughout the album. I need to go back and connect the dots. Anderson isn’t married to any sound or style, he switches up his style more than Drake switches love interests. I like this, another number that is dance driven, the R&B bounce is reason enough to live with this album for the next few months. I don't know anyone with his growing acclaim making this kind of music. Still not one single trap record, nothing that sounds like anything on the radio.
10. “Room In Here” (ft. The Game)
The way his voice seems to have aged, it feels very grown, fitting for suit and tie music. Again, Anderson is able to capture that weird feeling of finding your soul mate in a sweaty bar or club. The men and woman in his music are brought together by lust, but not the nasty one-night kind. The kind of lust that develops into the nauseating love that inspires romantic comedies. If you noticed on The Documentary 2, Anderson and Game have an odd chemistry that has been a home run each time. Maybe because Dr. Dre saw something in both artists. I wouldn’t mind if the two did something like the Nxworries, a short EP of sorts. Another one!
11. “Water Fall (Interluube)”
This is sensual, slow, a very '90s R&B vibe. He’s definitely channeling different eras of influence. Why is this an interlude? This is the rewind button breaker. Gah dammit, why is the closest song to a baby maker only for the minute men? Damn you, Anderson. Mood killer
12. “Your Prime”
Seems to be a movie skit played in the intro. This reminds me of Thundercat. Very ethereal. Another crazy switch up, Woo, Woo WOO, Anderson is floating! This flow is nasty. From very hip-hop to a neo-soul vibe, how does he fuse all these soundscapes without being overwhelmed? This is the favorite. Easily. I need the production credits. [Editor's Note: Produced by DJ Khalil.] Play this one at high volumes.
13. “Come Down”
THE BASSLINE, this feels like something you would hear in a movie right before during the big fight scene between hero and villains. Gives me western vibes, I can envision gunslingers and ten-gallon hats.This is full of character, comical, I can see Diddy doing spin moves until he’s dizzy. Don’t drink all of Anderson’s liquor, that’s the clear takeaway from this song. Another production win, I’ve lost count.
14. “Silicon Valley”
R. Kelly influence? This is the heathen R&B but it has so much soul. I have to appreciate any singer that is able to sneak in “titty meat” into any song. Anderson is truly singing his entire being into a song about fake boobs, he is shooting for goat status. Another beat switch that will inspire uncontrollable body rolling. The seamless singing to rapping, rapping to singing is wowing each time. No steps are missed. I’m really impressed by the intricacy. He is sangin. Sangin about titties. Get this man a GRAMMY. I know the Kardashians will be awkwardly staring into their phones on Snapchat to this one.
It’s a celebration, bitches. This feels fairly dusty and old, the beautiful kind of old, like a grandparent. His voice is tender, soft, it’s not the kind of jumping up and down celebration but reflective. Appreciative. Let’s celebrate while we still can. Get lost in this one, it’s good for the soul. Who played piano on this? He’s getting down. Need to hear this again, very soon.
16. “The Dreamer” (ft. Talib Kweli & Timan Family Choir)
Grand finale. A slow lead-in, the background voices just came in, sounds like a choir of kids. Passionate Anderson, sounds more excited than he did on “Celebrate.” How can you not cheer for someone that can sing with so much spirit and soul? It lifts you. This is how you end an album, the victory lap, the throwing your hands up after ascending the Rocky stairs. My man Talib, ha, no matter what the critics say he hasn’t lost it. Really enjoying his flow on this. Make sure you play this one at your barbecues after Future. One final clip to end the album. Sadly it’s over.
Malibu (first listen) final thoughts:
Where to begin? It’s safe to say, Malibu is everything I wanted and then some. It’s fresh, soulful, captivating, and unapologetically nonconforming.
This is the album Anderson wanted to make. You can’t find any trace of outside influence, he didn’t attempt to recreate past magic but push to make new enchanting music to add to his ever-evolving catalog. I’m blown away by his ability to create soundscapes drenched in so much history but never sounding dated. It’s refreshing, like a vacation to paradise.
This is the kind of music you appreciate beyond a first listen because you have reason to go back, there’s so much to revisit, from his singing to the production. This is what you make when you spend years developing, preparing, and evolving your craft.
Anderson .Paak is an artist that has found his voice—you should listen.