[Written By // @shanglennon]
Just his second project under this moniker, Malibu is a gritty, versatile album that weaves through personal hardships, familial subject matter, and a confident realization that Anderson .Paak, formerly Breezy Lovejoy, is a name we won’t soon forget. .Paak’s versatility and unique approach to production are clearly strengths that he embraces. From the jazzy opening track “The Bird”, we’re taken through an array of genres and influences that seamlessly flow to create a cohesive piece of work.
I first became aware of .Paak due to his production of almost the entirety of spoken word artist and rapper Watsky’s third studio album, All You Can Do. Before being noticed as half of the duo NxWorries with Knxwledge or for his features on Dr. Dre’s Compton LP, I had an awareness of his broad range. His first project under his flipped government name, Venice, was a good indication that we’d be hearing something special with this sophomore effort.
With features from BJ the Chicago Kid, ScHoolboy Q, Rapsody, The Game and Talib Kweli among others, Malibu is a collaborative effort that is .Paak’s most personal yet. Each song is well crafted and the arrangement is conducive to a nearly perfect album. With more up tempo tracks like “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” and “Put Me Thru”, to a smoother R&B vibe with “The Waters”, “Without You”, and “Your Prime”, to a funky tribute to the high you feel from being successful and the high from, well, actually being high on “Come Down”, we get the full scale of what .Paak is capable of both as a writer and producer. “Silicon Valley”, a personal favorite and a stand out on the album, has .Paak crooning for more than a physical relationship. You can look good and have a fat a**, but what makes you special? This song could really just be a superficial ode to fake breasts, but in my opinion, .Paak is too clever for that to be the case.
In the same way that The Weeknd and Miguel pepper their songs with sexual themes and lyrics, .Paak isn’t afraid to explore those topics. For instance, “Room in Here” (a single released last month) is an ode to a girl whom he’d like to get some alone time with. “Water Fall”, appropriately dubbed an “Interluuube“, delves into the complicated feelings you can catch when having sex with someone; since sex doesn’t always mean a relationship it can easily mislead both involved. Another comparison between The Weeknd and .Paak is that until recently, most who knew his name weren’t familiar with what he looked like or really, who he was as an artist.
I’m always drawn towards people that seem to rise organically to their success. Their music tends to feel more genuine and .Paak is no exception. Venice gave us a taste into his expansive mind and Malibu magnifies that by giving us aspects of R&B, Soul, EDM, Funk, and the many features that tie it all together. Much like Venice, the tracks on Malibu seem to cohesively flow from one to the next and based on that continuity, it’s almost like he had both albums planned out long before we got the pleasure of hearing them.
With skits from the cult film Big Wednesday and other surfer documentaries throughout, it’s apparent that .Paak was tying the name of the album to the city. While I’d argue that Venice had more of an EDM cadence, Malibu is a smoother consistency, perhaps an ode to what those specific cities are known for. While only about an hour apart, Venice brings to mind its circus like boardwalk and high energy feel, while Malibu strikes a serene, laid back ambiance. Venice embodies a varied demographic while Malibu is known for a peaceful drive down the PCH, something .Paak himself mentions in “The Season.“
Partly because of the union of several different genres and partly because each track, while differing slightly in perspective, carries similar subject matter, Malibu feels like a progression through time. The end portion of the album includes the piano heavy staple “Celebrate”, one of the four songs .Paak himself produced. It gives you some perspective into how you should measure success and even if you don’t have the most positive past you can’t question how that shaped your current life. Malibu is a tribute to everything that led .Paak to create it. He’s more so seeking to express himself over approval and knowing that he can do it now the way the he wants, has me in anticipation for what’s to come.
I’d be hesitant to call Malibu a concept album, but much like To Pimp a Butterfly, it has a certain message that is present throughout. Comparisons to Kendrick are inevitable just for the simple fact that both are West Coast artists with introspective lyrics. Like K-Dot though, .Paak is able to tell his personal story and talk about his upbringing while remaining objective about it. When an artist is able to step outside of their own experiences in hopes of allowing others to relate it can open the door to undeserved criticism, and while that may come from those unaware of the hard work, it won’t be coming from me.
- “Silicon Valley”
- “Come Down”
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