By Jared Dickerson
Anderson .Paak is one of those artists, you know what I mean? No? Well, what I mean is he’s on a trajectory going nowhere but *Upwords* (nice), dropping incredible music that only improves exponentially. If you don’t know a lot about .Paak, I recommend his interview at The Breakfast Club in 2016. He speaks about his tumultuous childhood, his brief bout with homelessness alongside his pregnant wife, and his experience with the good old fashioned artistic doubt we all face.
.Paak’s story is an example of perseverance fueled by integrity. Although he now works with legends like Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar, he was not originally dealt a winning hand. After he was abruptly let go from a job which left him broke and homeless, .Paak was eventually picked up by hip hop band Sa-Ra’s Shafiq Husayn as an assistant, videographer, and editor. In addition to the new job, the birth of his son put a fire beneath him, which forced him to step up his image, creativity, and “adulting” skills as a new father. He bided his time doing semi-grunt work while brimful with musical schemes.
This work paid off for him in the form of studio time, which lead to the release of his debut album “Venice” in 2014. The following year, Dr. Dre heard his viral single “Suede” from his project “NxWorries,” and invited him to audition at his studio — the rest is history. We all know what it’s like to be on the grind with endless musical ideas and no foreseeable outlet on the horizon. Let us use .Paak as an example of what could be if we keep hustling.
The drummer, singer, producer, rapper, and songwriter has now released four “Southern California-themed” albums and the guy just keeps getting better! We have hit the Anderson .Jaackpot and I couldn’t be more excited for the gold rush ahead. “Ventura” contains stirring social commentary in “King James,” stellar features all around, and an exuberantly diverse set of tracks for any situation: Windows down? Quiet, pensive nights? Feel-good lyrics? It’s got it all! I’ll only be going into my top three however, because what, do I work for Pitchfork?
Come Home (Feat. Andre 3000)
The introit to the album is a soulful “longing for you” track featuring one of my favorite artists. Anything with Andre 3000 is great in my eyes — I would listen to Three Stacks sell hot dogs under the interstate and not even get a hot dog. My favorite moment is the bridge which takes us from .Paak’s “smooth somber” production to Three Stack’s “serious somber” vibe, and we get a whole B-section dedicated to Andre 3000. As expected, he delivers his usual reflective, quick-tongued lines ripe with plays on words and phrases from Dim Sum to the WWF.
Listen UP at 3:45 to hear 3000 switch gears and let his classic, articulate jabs flow effortlessly. Before you know it, the song wraps up and leaves you longing for another Outkast album.
This track doesn’t really start to settle until about forty seconds in, at which point the “band” enters with the .Paak-ian funk/soul harmonies we are all fans of. That entrance is a definite stop-dead-in-your-tracks moment; the piano starts pounding away sixteenth notes and the harmony blooms before the first lyrics hit. He recalls his early days at open mic nights in South LA and how far he has come. This song resonates with a specifically Millennial and Gen-Z conundrum: how does one chase dreams and pursue happiness while the world is literally ending in a fossil-fuel-induced blaze? But we are still dreamin’.
Listen UP at 1:00 when .Paak first sounds off about that all too familiar feeling: “there it is, my wit’s end. They brought me out my mind. You know I’m caught beside myself, pissed off and shit out of luck.” This hits seconds after the slow intro, which leaves you breathless in the best way.
Every time I listen, this track gets me to pay forward a resounding .Paak-ian “yes lawd!” in my head. It comes right out of the gate with some sexy sax licks (I didn’t wanna say “saxy” because I’m not a loser), and I love how this track flows seamlessly from “Yada Yada” as if it were attacca. Later, he lays down some of my favorite lines in any of his works: “We couldn’t stand to see our children shot dead in the streets, but when I finally took a knee, them crackers took me out the league … And we salute King James for using his chains to create some equal opportunities.” This line moves me to give a subtle bow, no matter where I am, to an imaginary King James. We do salute you, LeBron. We do.
Listen UP at 1:45 when .Paak unleashes his voice, at once raspy and honeyed, to sing the line, “cold stares could never put the fear on me.” It’s a level of melodic intensity not heard anywhere else on the album; a quick flourish that makes you scroll back ten seconds numerous times in a row. All one can do after hearing this moment is say one thing: