2014 has been a bad year for music? Fuck that.
Sure, the beginning of the year was pretty slow, but these last few weeks have been insane. We've had highly anticipated albums, big singles, super racist videos, and of course a mixtape or two. For me that means two things: I have to buy more CDRs from RadioShack (yes I still burn CDs) and I have had to do a lot of critical reviewing (rough life I know). It's my job to find what's compelling about a piece, pull it out and wrestle with it, so rarely am I ever just listening for the sake of listening. I'm like 7-11 - I'm not always doin' business, but I'm always open. While I feel like I've written about damn near every project (some twice), there is one that I haven't yet touched on, and it's arguably my favorite of all of 'em. That album is Anderson .Paak's Venice.
This isn't going to be your typical review because, quite frankly I'm kind of reviewed out. Also, a straight up review of me trying to prove how diggidy dope Venice is didn't feel right... and not just because I said diggidy dope. It wouldn't be in the spirit of Venice. An album this unique and fresh needs a fresh and unique write-up. I will say though, diversity is the strength of this album. Anderson does a million different things, from pop to drum and bass, and it is all exceptional. I don't even like drum and bass. The result of the diversity is one of the freshest, most inventive albums of the year. It's all so different and experimental yet so smooth and easy to listen to. Not simple, not plain, easy to listen to...
Shit, there I go working again. Can't stop, won't stop
Okay. No more of that. What I'm going to do here is pick out some of my favorite moments form the album and talk about 'em. The whole album is spectacular but there are a few moments or specific aspects that make it truly amazing. I never have favorite moments, only songs, but this album is littered with the smallest details or moments that jump out at me. As poet laureate,Wiz Khalifa once implored "If you see a bad bitch point em out." So that's what I'm going to do here, but instead of bad bitches, I'll be pointing out musically powerfull moments on Venice, the moments that made the album. Otherwise though, exact same thing.
The Story on Milk and Honey
Man, songs that go this hard aren't supposed to have cohesive, creative, and captivating stories. This beat bangs! I mean really bangs. Like it's almost too much for me. It's not bad by any means, but it's just too much for my little ears; it goes too hard. At times I debate skipping it once my eyes start to get all melty, but by then I'm already deep into the story and I don't want to miss it. The story is so cool, it keeps me listening. I risk my sanity, so that I can hear how the story ends even though I already know. That's how good it is.
The Sample on "Might Be High"
When I think of samples, what always comes to mind is a boom-bappy beat with a soul sample. When I want a clean flip, I usually look to 9th Wonder or old Kanye; lately it's been that Jared Evan/Statik collab. I'm so dependent on those types of samples, I forget there is more than one way to skin a cat. Well here producer Lo Def skins a cat like a young serial killer. No he's not a serial killer, he just takes a much more poppy, light sample than I am used to. I forgot how fun a pitched up, sped up chop can be. I also forgot that not every smoking song has has to be super slow and crawling. This one has a great smokin' vibe, but a vibrancy to it thanks to that cool ass flip. I love that second little chop that comes in a few seconds after the big one; it gets me every time. I'm still trying to place the sample but honestly, as any rap nerd knows, that's part of the fun; the feeling when you guess a flip without looking is the killer bees knees. I can't explain exactly what it is, but this sample just speaks to me.
The Chorus on "Miss Right"
Your body will let you know when a hook is amazing. During a song with said amazing hook, if you look deep within yourself, there will be a part of you that is secretly bored, just waiting for the hook. It's all you really want. It's not like the rest of the song is bad, but the hook is just so stellar it's what you want to hear. Ain't no shame in a dope hook; just ask T-Pain. Well, Anderson's hook on "Miss Right" is one of those hooks. The way the guitar kicks in with the cascading beat is perfect. The production during the verses is a little more slow and bare bones and it makes reaching the chorus so much sweeter.
The Last 1:33 of "Already"
For real. This is my favorite part of the whole album. If I was doing reviews and platitudes I'd say it's the best minute and a half of the year, but I'm not so I won't. Plus, that's a stupid "best of" category. What I will say is that I never rewind parts of songs; not even verses. I wear out tracks like Rick Ross riding a train, but I never ever rewind it back in the middle of a song. However, the last minute and a half of "Already" is so fucking awesome, so cool, so damn funky, that I am left with no choice. Love the fucking lean and bounce; that last little bit of the verse is Bone Thugs-esque. It gets my head nodding but has this airy, bounce about it that is so refreshing.
Then comes my favorite part of the whole shebangabang, "If you gotta problem we can line it up." I love it so much, I invented this little dance do every time it comes on. It's a dance I have never done before and you won't ever see it (unless of course you see me driving), but it looks something like this. A lot like that actually....yeah, your guess is as good as mine. Every damn time I am so conflicted when I get midway through because on the one hand I want to hear that awesome part of the verse over and over again, but if I rewind it before "Line 'em up" then I don't get to hear that part and that would suck. So, each time, there is a little part of me that begrudgingly listens to the whole second half only because I want to listen to the whole second half. Makes sense? No? fuck it... does to me. And if you have a problem with that we can line it up.
Making a DJ Scratch Noise at The Beginning of "Get Em Up"
Here it's not so much what Paak does, as what I do because of what he does. I'm a big weirdo when I listen to music. I've realized it. I accept and even embrace it. Why should I hide my passion? On the Metro I probably look like a spaz mouthing all the words and if I'm at a concert I'm going to stan-the-fuck-out. I can't help it; the music moves me. Well, one of the weirder things I do when listening to "Get Em Up" is right at the beginning, right when the beat comes in, I do the DJ Scratch noise like a beat boxer...only I suck. The weird part is it was natural. The first listen I just did it without a second thought. Most of my weird dances and ad-libs take a while to develop but that beat fired off some sort of synapse that said make a "Errrre errrrre sound." I surprised even myself; no idea where it came from but it felt right. Now, why don't I just do that and move on if it's right at the beginning? Because the rest of the song is superb. This one is a definite standout in my eyes; it has a very different vibe than any of the others and Paak's best vocal performance. It's not my favorite track but it's arguably his best. Plus DJ sounds.
"Off The Ground"...The Entire Song
Yup. The whole song. Don't care if this is bending the rules. When you listen to "Off The Ground" anything is possible! Seriously doe, this is so different from anything I would listen to. Ut has some electronic bounce to it, but I can't get enough. I'm not going to get too crazy with comparisons and stuff, but the same bounce I felt between 1:20 and 1:34, that vocal spot, is the same I get when I listen to Stevie Wonder; very few things make me feel the feels I feel when Stevie Wonder makes me feel them and that moment makes me feel them. And that ending?! Love it! The whole song.The.whole.fucking.thing.
Okay, I lied, I really want to speak to large platitudes. I have been a fan of Anderson for a long time now. So long that the amount of times I had to replace "Breezy" with Anderson when writing is shameful. I'm not trying to claim I found him first (I didn't) I'm just saying I have followed his career very closely and as a self-titled Anderson expert, I can say without a shadow of a doubt this is his best project. Each one of these songs more rich, more diverse, more musical than anything he has released to date. He's really hit his stride and put it all together here.
This album will stay in rotation for a long time and will likely have a place in the Lucas Garrison music Hall of Fame. Not because it gets a higher rating than some other album on an arbitrary scale, but because it manages to do something that most albums don't. It gave me those moments. Only the great albums do it (some only do it once or twice) and here, Anderson gives me six, tossed into an already incredible body of work.
But ultimately music is subjective. These are my moments. If you listen to Venice (which you should), then I'm sure you'll have your own moments and they might be totally different than mine. That's cool. Maybe you won't pretend to be a DJ, or do a weird dance, but go listen.
Go find your own moments.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]