If you’ve never heard of Anderson .Paak, or at least don’t know how to pronounce his name (read: Anderson Pack), you should invest a solid amount of time in getting to know his music. On Nov. 16, .Paak released his fifth studio album, named Oxnard after his hometown in California. He first gained major recognition when he was spotted by Dr. Dre. He was featured on Dre’s album Compton (2015) and subsequently worked with the legendary MC for the rest of his own albums.
Anderson .Paak’s music has been inarguably good from the start. He mixes funk, quick lyrics and infectious basslines to offer a fresh take on the ever-changing hip-hop genre. His albums Venice (2014) and Malibu (2016), the latter of which was his more critically successful, were the predecessors to Oxnard. All were based off California cities and all gave .Paak opportunities to focus on both refining his music style and exploring his interest in graphic art; his music videos and cover art often feature absurdist styles and pop-art colors. .Paak has also released Yes Lawd!, an album he created in 2016, as part of the hip-hop duo NxWorries with fellow rapper Knxwledge.
.Paak prefaced Oxnard with two singles. He first released “Tints,” a song with an irresistibly catchy beat featuring Kendrick Lamar and an appearance from Dr. Dre in the music video. “Tints” is the kind of song that literally anyone could like, even your parents. He also released “Who R U?,” which was equally as funky but seemed a little less directed toward the charts.
Oxnard begins on a somewhat eerie note, as Kadhja Bonet opens with a spooky feature on the first song “The Chase.” But .Paak quickly takes over as the album kicks into gear. “The Chase” fits well into its role as a simple opener, with a slightly forgettable beat and no serious or clear motive. But what comes next, “Headlow,” is all but forgettable. .Paak tells quite the story in this track (one that I can’t really elaborate on here), and it isn’t the only track that ends with actual dialogue.
Then comes my personal favorite, “6 Summers,” which mixes significant and political lyrics with the completely silly. .Paak opens the song with “Trump’s got a love child, and I hope that bitch is buckwild,” and he goes on to “hope she kiss señoritas and black gals / I hope her momma’s El Salv, I hope her poppa stick around.” The latter point probably comes from the fact that .Paak’s own father left him when he was young, a subject which he often refers to in his music. Most of the song focuses on Trump’s presidency, gun control issues and racism in law enforcement. .Paak raps “This shit gon’ bang for at least six summers / But ain’t shit gon’ change for at least three summers,” most likely referring to both his song and the gun issues in the country, that will last as long as Trump’s presidency.
The middle couple tracks on the album — “Saviers Road” and “Smile/Petty” — seem to serve as more subtle songs that separate the upbeat first half from the second half, which includes a super impressive list of featuring artists. The two songs, while still lyrically emotional and genuinely catchy, aren’t standouts on the album.
Dr. Dre shows up on “Mansa Musa,” a song reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” not only because of the alliteration in the title but also because of the intense repetition and heavy drums. Lamar’s invented character of King Kunta may not be as real as Mansa Musa, but the songs both put off a similar vibe, and it helps that Lamar already appeared on the album. Pusha T features on “Brother’s Keeper,” which is an emotive song for both rappers; Snoop Dogg and The Last Artful, Dodgr appear on “Anywhere;” and artists Q-Tip and BJ the Chicago Kid come in during the last couple tracks. Notable among the features is J. Cole, whose voice is as unique as .Paak’s but in a different way. Hearing J. Cole show up out of nowhere on the track “Trippy” is jarring but in a really good way. The song is also really emotional, which is classic of J. Cole but not as normal in .Paak’s music. The album closes off with “Left to Right,” a song, which stars only .Paak himself, that you can’t help but like. If the phrase “Left to Right” were onomatopoetic, this song would be the sound that phrase made.
Although the album’s lyrics are wildly clever and fun, .Paak tends toward rapping about drugs, money, alcohol and women (or, more accurately, the objectification of women). Aside from the fact that the artist is married to a woman he’s been with since 2011 and has a child with her, I think that .Paak definitely has more potential than this. His intense creativity seems like it would allow him to explore more in-depth subjects. “Sweet Chick” is a song that’s entirely about all the kinds of women — excuse me, “bitches” — with which .Paak has had sex with throughout his life. The song is undoubtedly good, but judging by the rest of his songs, .Paak can definitely do better lyrically.
Oxnard, overall, is a fantastic album. Anderson .Paak’s remarkably unique tenor voice, tendency toward great funk beats and expressiveness as an artist combine to make some really worthwhile albums. After his Grammy nominations and work with Dr. Dre, .Paak isn’t at all being ignored as an artist, but if you haven’t dedicated time to getting to know his music, you should check it out. Oxnard is currently available on Spotify and Apple Music, as well as other streaming services.