29 Mar 2016

Album review: Malibu by Anderson Paak

From The Sampler, 7:40 pm on 29 March 2016
Anderson Paak

Anderson Paak Photo: Eleanor Stills

Nick Bollinger checks the jazz and soul tangents of eclectic hip-hop musician Anderson Paak.

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With the volley of high-profile hip-hop/R&B releases in the first part of this year, a few very good new albums in the genre have been a little overshadowed, and I think this is one of them.

Anderson .Paak is a singer, rapper, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Southern California, whose profile grew exponentially with his appearance on last August’s Dr Dre album Compton: A Soundtrack - one of several young below-the-radar talents showcased on the veteran’s surprise release.

Originally going by the name Breezy Lovejoy, for most of this decade he’s been Anderson .Paak – a variation on his birth name, Brandon Paak Anderson.

Continuing the motif of Californian beaches he began with Venice, his first album as Anderson .Paak from 2014, he has called this latest album Malibu. It’s a very musical offering, roaming freely through hip-hop, jazz, rock’n’roll and whole lot of different kinds of soul.

At times Paak is a rapper, trading rhymes with a raft of guests including The Game and Schoolboy Q. But more often than not he is a singer, with a gentle and soulful delivery. That’s the Paak we’re introduced to right at the start of the album in ‘The Bird’, a song that contains more than a hint of his life story.

Paak’s mother was Korean and, as he says in the song, a farmer. She had her own business growing strawberries in the Southern California city of Oxnard, though later did prison time for a blue collar crime, a sentence Paak says was out of proportion with the offence. His father was African-American and had been in the air force before he too was imprisoned. He died when Paak was still young.

This background informs without dominating the songs on Venice. Paak’s outlook might be tinged with sadness, but he is not consumed with anger. More often than not, he is finding things to celebrate.

Sometimes the joy is simply in the music, like the mad fusion of surf-beat, party claps and 80s dancefloor that Paak somehow cooks up in a track like ‘Parking Lot’.

Anderson .Paark’s Malibu is at times meditative, at other times wonderfully mad. And its eclecticism might account for the cultish rather than crossover success it’s seen so far. Still, it’s a record that’s brimming with invention and musicality, not to mention heart and a whole lot of soul.

Songs featured: The Season/Carry Me, Heart Don’t Stand A Chance, Room In Here, The Bird, Am I Wrong, Celebrate, Parking Lot.

Malibu is available on Steel Wool/OBE.