It’s a thing about music that has the power to inspire. And also, it has the ability to bring people out of writer’s block (as the recent Kanye West line goes). I haven’t really felt inspired to write about anyone. I had reviews on deck for Alessia Cara, Pusha T, Rick Ross, and Freddie Gibbs. Respectively, they dropped great projects, but they weren’t impactful for me to the point where I was rushing to put my usual 3000+ words to digital paper to talk about them. When you feel like you have to force an opinion when it’s not necessarily your job to do it (meaning, not being paid for it), you’re not obligated to put something out for people to read if it won’t be your best work. That’s exactly how I felt, but certain artists can bring the words out of me when it comes to the excitement to express. Enter, Anderson .Paak whom I wrote about in December 2015, after I first heard Suede. The uniqueness of his voice is what I couldn’t get over because he sounds like he just stepped out of the 60s with the old soul raspy voice that can resonate with so many people that would potentially stretch across genres. When it came to Venice, it highlighted what he could do on a variety of sounds that range from the electronic (Off The Ground) to the traditional R&B (Miss Right) and even some trap (Drugs). The more I listened to Venice, the more I grew obsessed with it (The City is a go-to favourite), and the Link Up & Suede EP also gave me the other side of the vibes that can be provided, granted, with solid production around him. It’s as though from the little examples that have been provided, you can fit Anderson .Paak within any sound, and he’ll put out something dope. There’s a reason why he was all over Dr. Dre’s Compton album, and now everyone is noticing what I’ve been noticing. So when Malibu was announced and the initial singles came out, I was excited. When it was released, I was excited. Being that it’s been out for the past week (at the time that I started writing this review), I’m still excited, and I’m not disinterested. There’s definitely something in the Pacific Ocean air, because I find myself loving what they’re putting out for the past 5-6 years. Anderson is just another name that fits the resurgence of the West Coast music dominance.
The anticipation was killing me, but when The Bird comes to life, it gets into the storytelling ability that he showed off on Milk & Honey on Venice, but this time around, it focused more so on his own growth and even included some family background which he also went into detail in an interview with Billboard prior to the album’s release.
I’m repping for the longest cycle
My uncles had to pay the cost
My sister used to sing to Whitney
My mama caught the gambling bug
We came up in a lonely castle
My papa was behind them bars
We never had to want for nothing
Said all we ever need is love
When success starts to mount, people start to look at individuals different because they feel as though they’ll change, but the important thing is to stay ground, which Anderson tends to do on this introductory song that allows the fans to get a better glimpse of who he is as a person, through the aide of his music, and it’s a solid start. That Soulful Blues feel isn’t common especially in an R&B setting, so the authenticity is appreciated.
When it comes to musicians that come from the West Coast (California specifically), they think about primarily Los Angeles, when it comes down to the musical influence, but Anderson .Paak hailing from Oxnard, California (same city as producer Madlib, who makes an appearance on the album), it seems as though the Funk & Jazz fueled influence isn’t just based in L.A. There seems to be a revolution happening where they’re getting back to the basics in terms of rediscovering that G-Funk or regular funk vibe that they came up with. You may call it the Post-To Pimp a Butterfly Renaissance, but that album really reintroduced the masses to those genres where Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, and various other Jazz infused artists are flourishing. Heart Don’t Stand a Chance is evidence of those sounds, and it carries on throughout the album in various ways. It goes from the humble beginnings to the somewhat suave and lavish lifestyle of champagne and luxury that seems to be introduced in the song’s intro. Every time I listen to this song, I can’t help but do a wicked two-step because it’s that necessary.
“Would you leave it all in the back of your head
Or all in the palm of my hand?
Ain’t nobody holding you back
Don’t it feel like it’s been far too long, girl?
Your heart don’t stand a chance
Your knees just want to break
Your eyes keep me all in a trance”
There’s always the risk that comes from diving into the pool of emotions with someone after it’s been quite some time since you’ve dedicated your heart to someone of serious intentions, but because there’s no reasonable explanation as to why Love works in hypnotic ways, Anderson feels as though he can persuade or woo this woman into falling for him at her own risk (risk it all). Another way to look at it is that his advancement in his musical career is going to take him down a path that he might not be ready for, because of the heartache & heartbreak that music provides more often than not.
Much like in Venice, there’s a storyline in which the exterior sound bites play the role of being the narrator as the story moves along, and that’s the purpose of the surfer, Gerry, who explains various instances related to surfing in Malibu or just that kind of lifestyle, and that’s how it transitions into The Waters with an appearance by BJ The Chicago Kid. Now, I’ve been a BJ fan for a while and as another artist whom I admire because of what he brings to the seemingly non-existent genre of R&B, he too is poised to make noise in 2016. It’s been quite some time since Pineapple Now Laters, but that’s still an amazing piece of work. But as for Anderson, this is his time of letting the people know that he was bound to break out and the work he’d been putting in for the last few years wasn’t for mere playing around.
“In bold caps, “your bitch-ass was not there”
And I can do anything but move backwards
The hardest thing is to keep from being distracted
My big sister still claim me on them taxes
Tell Uncle Sam I just need a second to add this”
The great thing about Anderson is that he can flow as if he’s a rapper, like that was his original background, because he can lay down some wordplay unlike most other singers-turned rappers (I mean, Chris Brown & Trey Songz had their moments). The amount of detail that’s going into his family’s dysfunction that served in more than a few eye-opening experiences, is poetic and succinct.
“To every hundred niggas that came and gone missing
Only a handful will go the distance”
This particular line sticks because it’s what constantly gets said but the message gets lost somehow. A lot of people want to go after the same things, but more often than not, a great majority will lose their way and never truly see that their goals flourish. That’s applicable in any facet of career choice, whether it be sports, in the corporate world, or just in life general. Not everyone who goes after something, makes it, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just the reality of life. I feel like that needs to be said a little more but then again, people usually end up figuring out after a certain period of time that it’s just not for them. The water’s either too deep or too cold for them to stomach, which I think is a neat way how that ties into the song itself.
The Season/Carry Me was the first song that I’d heard prior to the album’s release, and backed by the 9th Wonder production (which wouldn’t be the only time), there’s a very New York feel to it that Anderson made work to his advantage with his melodies. More tales of the trials or tribulations of .Paak. ‘Season’ was brief, but it was ‘Carry Me’ that sent the full track over the edge that really got more in detail which highlights him having to go through the pits of hell just to float above water to support himself and his family. The whole 3rd verse hit hard between having to prevent his wife from being deported, to working a crap job selling weed (legally), and on top of that he was still doing his music stuff. It’s wild that it doesn’t matter where successful people find themselves, everyone’s been through some extremes to get them to where they’re at now.
“What’s the meaning of my fortune meeting?
When I crack the cookie all it said was “keep dreaming”
When I look at my tree, I see leaves missing
Generations of harsh living and addiction”
Millennials like to go on about life with reckless abandon. We’re so driven by the luxury of money that we’ll forego sleep and proper eating habits just to make something for ourselves, and that’s to the point of what Anderson had in that last line. I know for a fact that I myself can do a better job of it, and there are thousands of others who can admit the same. Slowing down? What’s that. But sometimes we really need to sit, observe, and realize that we need to pace ourselves and do better for the long run.
What’s also to be said about the greatness that is .Paak at this point is that he is very musically inclined to the point where he even produced tracks on this album and does play instruments (percussion mainly – seriously watch the A N I M A L S episodes). Push Thru is one of those songs that reinforces the beauty of instrumentation that many of us take for granted outside of the computer generated beats for everything. Most people don’t even know what good music is if there isn’t the same Snare-808-synth sound, or something from the Boom Bap side of the Hip Hop beat spectrum. The beauty of the transitions is that the lines that lead out from ‘Carry Me’ spark the song’s content into the theme of pain, whether it be .Paak addressing a woman, or life in general as to why it plays so many games and puts him through the obstacles and turbulence to help him develop confidence and a sense of maturity. It sucks, but he can take as much of it to push him through his journey. I’m sure everyone can relate to a certain extent.
“Why would you run these thoughts across my mind?
Please, relieve me
As cool as I remain
There’s a point in which I’ll lose my self restraint”
Am I Wrong was the most played single on my iTunes before the album came out, and for great reason. You can dance to it, it’s funky as all hell, and one thing to admire about ScHoolboy Q being featured on it, is that much as his gangster rap background is the focus, he’s still not shy about going on something completely left and making it work, since he can weave his way around with little to no problems. He definitely fit on the track better than I expected, but then again this up-tempo and funk infused sound wasn’t what I was initially expecting; definitely not since hearing Venice.
“Nothin’ more that I hate in this life
The wrong impression, I only have one to make
You can open your palm
Waiting to catch a break
The cards will fall where they may”
The first verse really is the standout for me, because it reiterates the point I made about slowing down and really taking your time with things, because you don’t know how life will turn out for you. The first impression is the most important, and as .Paak said, he’s only got one to make and then the rest is history. He goes on to saying that people want to know where he’ll be down the line, but he shifts the focus to remaining in the here and now, because you truly don’t know. An d because of his many experiences he’s gone through, it really is a ‘whatever happens, happens’ mentality. It’s not an ideal lifestyle for many, but it works its way out.
If you didn’t hear Rapsody steal the show on Complexion on To Pimp A Butterfly, then never fear, for Without You sees her return to the feature game and the two take their time playing the roles of a dysfunctional couple who has their issues but have no idea what they want out of each other. On one hand you have Anderson who’s all down for the relationship, but for some reason they don’t see eye to eye. And then you have Rapsody who fires back talking about his flaws and all, only to spin it back in his face and end up leaving him hanging to dry because of a miscommunication. It seems like that’s a common thing between couples at times. One word taken out of context can blow a lot of things up, so this isn’t the furthest thing from the truth; it damn near fired right on target.
“All the kissin’, attention, the bitin’, the tuggin’
You know I love what you do
You know I know you love what I do
And all the spittin’, the cursin’, the fightin’ and fussin’
You know I’m only fuckin’ with you
I bet you I was over-thinkin’
If I could, I’d take you everywhere
But you know I can’t do nothin’ with you
You know I can’t do nothin’ with you
And I never looked as good as I do, and it’s the truth
No bullshit, I’m nothin’ without you”
Chris Rock said it best, “Ain’t no soul mates. The only thing in life you’re guaranteed is a mate. Somebody you fuck and go to the movies with…and somewhere between fuckin and movies, he says ‘you wanna get something to eat?” He’s 100% correct, but for those who do believe in soul mates, I won’t ruin your beliefs. There are companions that come into your life and they make things better for you during shitty situations, and whether the times are tough, for them to stick around and still think you’re worth a damn, that’s love enough to keep them around. Just don’t give someone the run around if they’re actually willing to be serious with you. I’m happy that Rapsody is getting her shine and is constantly showing that she can hang with the boys in any setting. Her time will come, but seriously, stop sleeping on her.
A good friend of mine, and a seasoned music journalist whom I fully admire, said that she had Parking Lot on repeat for pretty much an entire day, and when I first heard it, and found myself running it back, I completely understand. When the hook kicks in with that bass? Lord, let me just raise my hands to the heavens and say yes. What I love about this album thus far is that if you didn’t know which genre it was supposed to be, it’d be difficult to figure out where he’d fit in, and that’s the route of the new age sound that even has created the separation of ‘Contemporary R&B’ and ‘Traditional R&B’. This song is really the clearest cut of being a radio single, although there are other choices. This one is the standout that conveys an illustrious moment of love describing that first moment of interaction that sets of the chain reaction of events to follow after.
“Couldn’t wait to get you naked on the first date
But you made me wait
So it takes one to make one
The compromise we made
Please believe me”
I’ve been in a more R&B-ish/mellow rap sort of vibe lately, and this song really is the embodiment of said feelings. And the hook alone will ring out for a while no matter how simple it may be. I definitely can imagine hearing this on the radio, if those music execs have any sense to play something good for once.
From one funky love tune to yet another one that gets the groove going, Lite Weight continues that messaging of having those insecurities when it comes to love. It’s as though he’s speaking for a lot of people who are skeptical in diving into something, but yet they don’t want to give up a good thing because it’s what makes them keep going. That motivation to keep the good times going with one person despite not always being on the same page. It’s like an interlude, but not an interlude. Not necessarily filler, but I feel like this track served as a transitional piece to go towards the final stretch of the album.
Room In Here was another song that came out before the album’s release and it too was one that I played very frequently. We all know about Elevator music, right? If this was a song being played in a elevator, I’d still on it from the bottom floor to the top, because it’s just that enjoyable.
“I want you by my lonesome, above this crowded space
It’s easier to hold some, when no one’s in the way”
This has that “Baby I’m selfish, I want you to myself, I can’t help it” vibe, and it’s perfect because when you feel that deep for someone, it’s all you want – to have someone to yourself and only yourself (I mean, not in a controlling and overly possessive type of way, but you get what I mean). And also the fact that there’s no harm in taking a chance on someone because if you make the effort, there will always be space for someone to occupy your heart, which is the song’s intended message. Whether you love The Game or hate him (more folks have swung to being the group that promotes the latter), it’s pretty impressive that he’s still around making music and doing features, even when he says some idiotic stuff here and there. Many people, from various reactions, thought that he didn’t fit on the song at all, but I really didn’t mind him – matter of fact, I actually liked his verse that wasn’t filled with a name drop every other word, like he’s been known to do. It’s refreshing, but that’s just what the album has been to this point – refreshing.
This may seem a little left field, but the Water Fall (Interluuube) really reminded me of Floetry’s Say Yes, because of its blend of romance, but at the same time having a sexy flare around it. This isn’t an album that in the lane of bringing about babymakers, but let me tell you something, this song comes close to it. It even has some lines in here that you (or I, eventually, one day, perhaps) can throw out there to your significant other and watch the waters gush (I mean…unless you’re a guy, then that would…yeah). I’ve pulled up this song almost every time it comes on while listening to the album as a whole or on shuffle. I feel like it’s the perfect length. Not too long, and not too short. It meets the satisfaction for those who were at least looking for a old school R&B feel somewhere on the album. It worked.
Everyone has a certain prime. It’s talked about most when it comes to athletes as to when they were playing the best stretch of their respective careers. It’s also to be said that we, the people who aren’t as athletically gifted, have our prime years that hits probably right around after we glow up and start going through the motions of being a young adult. Many people say you don’t really hit Your Prime until you’re in your thirties, but everyone is different. This song hits home a bit because of the display of the age difference between Anderson and his girl. The funniest thing is when people either a little younger or a lot younger like to talk about how “I’m so much different than this generation because____” and it’s just an ongoing thing of wishing that you were born in another era because you don’t fit in, and blah blah blah. Everyone does it, but I hear the chatter more so from the kids born after 93 & 94, because really it makes no sense, but I digress.
“She told me a story as long as her lashes
Oh what a hopeless romantic
Fucking with jokers and addicts
She told me everybody close to her age is full of mad shit
I said, ‘Baby girl, you ain’t even old enough to be jaded’
And wow, she want visual stimulation
Short attention span and little patience”
The accuracy of how this describes many girls between the ages of 20-22 years old is astounding, because I’ve been there, and see it on a consistent basis. I mea, listen, it’s okay to be part of the young & stupid crowd because whether you know it or not, you trying to put up a front thinking that you’re so much more different than your peers doesn’t necessarily mean that older people will take you as serious and you want to me. Maturity is a state of mind, but it’s when younger kids think that they’re years beyond their age, mentally, is when the reality check needs to come in. Anderson basically says to the girl that you just need to shut all that up and come back to bed, slim thick witcho cute ass. This beat is nuts too, because as it hits from the jump, I was not prepared for it, much like the following song.
Come Down sounds straight out of a Blaxploitation movie from the 70s, especially with the aggressive manner that .Paak takes leading off, like a movie villain. His chest is high and for good reason, because when you’ve seen yourself ascending in your career, people will want to try to tear you down, but that’s not happening – at least, not any time soon. And nor should he, because he’s already established that he can do enough (and then some) to have a prosperous career. A Grammy nomination would do that. Keep climbing, young .Paak.
BABY MAKER ALERT! Silicon Valley happens to be that yet again. What is it with the Valley? Miguel made a song after it too and it’s a damn sexual anthem. It should be obvious, but for those who are clueless, there’s a specific region in California that is heavily carried by the porn industry. There’s a reason why it’s a billion dollar business year after year, but we won’t get into that. I like how the title is a spin off the actual Silicon Valley, which is where all of the technological greatness lives, but spun it towards the silicone injected breasts and asses that most women strive for when they happen to be in that part of town (or across North & South America, for that matter). The authenticity of a woman’s breast is something that can’t be matched. All Anderson wants is this woman to reveal the real her underneath the material titty. Can a man grab some real titties? Can a brotha get some real titties? It’s not a hard task, it’s quite simple, but then again, we as men need to realize that women don’t (always) alternate their bodies just for the sake of men’s satisfactions, but they do realize that it’ll get ‘em paid. So really, who’s at a loss here? But I have to respect the fact that this is Anderson’s “you don’t have to do this” ode to women. It’s pure & genuine.
“Yeah, all of that ass you carrying
You gotta be shitting me
All that body that you came with
But where are you mentally
I know he hit all the time
But you ain’t gonna hit for me
I just wanna focus on and love this
What’s behind them tig-ol-bitties”
Whether or not you have all of the things you want in life, there’s never a bad time to Celebrate while you still can, which Anderson does emphasize on this second-to-last song.
“How many others have walked the same ground you have
You will be wise to pay attention to your old head
I spent the whole day throwing records in the deep end
So lets celebrate while we still can”
This is definitely a feel good song that marks as a reminder to not take things for granted and learn to appreciate life and the things that you have within it while you still have them. People like to look beyond what they have and say “Yeah, this is nice, but…” and the truth is, I’m guilty of it too, but if you’re alive, living, in this current moment, and you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food on your table, and someone who actually gives a shit about you enough to care from day to day, then I think that’s worth something.
“Do not be concerned about the money in your brother’s hand
What’s mine is yours
I thought you knew me better than that
I was under the impression that we all want the best of life
So let’s celebrate while we still can”
The Dreamer is the final song on the album that brings it all home that is the final word to send out to the masses that no matter what kind of circumstance you come from, you can make something out of yourself, which is was reiterated throughout the album.
“This one’s for all the little dreamers
And the ones who never gave a fuck
I’m a product of the tube and the free lunch
Living room, watching old reruns”
I definitely can connect with those lines and the rest of the hook in general, but where everything was going right just decided to fall flat to me when Talib Kweli made his appearance. He has a knack to work with the budding talents in Hip Hop & R&B before they really come out in full force, and usually he hits with his social driven rhymes, but it didn’t feel like a right fit on this song. The beat wasn’t suitable for him, and where the importance of his rhymes, chiming in the names of Bobby Seale & Huey Newton do for motivation and hopefully prompts people to look them up in history, I just didn’t feel as though he was on target wit his delivery, and every time I’ve listened to the song, the reaction’s the same. Applaud the effort, but if he was left off, I know I would have liked it more. It does nothing to take away from the greatness that is this album however; just wasn’t a strong finish.
Life on the West Coast, looking at it from a Canadian on the East side’s perspective, is perceived as laid back and easy going, although we share much of the same difficulties (besides weather) when it comes down to just making it out and being someone of importance. Anderson .Paak, in his own creative way, highlighted that really it could happen to anyone if you’re in a mindset of wanting to get something out of life that you find was possible where other people didn’t think it was. His soulful voice blended in with his rhyme abilities would (for some) automatically draw comparisons to the likes of Childish Gambino & Chance the Rapper, but I feel as though he’s in a completely different environment because of the different avenues that he’s already bounced around and have come pretty easy. The drive from Venice to Malibu is one that Anderson made often during his times of hardship, and here we hear this in visual form, the growth and where hopefully it continues in a positive direction. I don’t have any doubts, but you just never know right? This is a solid start to begin 2016 with music that is surely going to continue where 2015 left off. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX