.Paak and Roll
On his most recent album Malibu, Anderson .Paak embraces soul and funk to create hip-hop that inspires us to love life
Of all the great music that came out in 2016, Anderson . Paak’s Malibu stands out for its funk-inspired, striking hip-hop style. Listening to .Paak’s lighthearted swagger on this album is a refreshing way to feel whole again, with its laid back surf vibes perfect for the summertime.
Five years after being left homeless with his wife and newborn son, .Paak continues to bless the hip-hop industry with heartfelt soulful tunes on his second album release, Malibu. In his commercial breakthrough, .Paak uses a unique blend of old school hip-hop with a passionate emphasis on funk and soul to playfully showcase his life’s experiences and charming personality.
Long before losing his job working on a marijuana farm left him desperate, .Paak had already been familiar with the taste of hardship as a child. He sings about some of these struggles growing up in Malibu’s soothing intro, “The Bird”, which smoothly sets the album off with its spacey funk vocals, lyrical simplicity, and of course, .Paak’s own tight rhythm drumming.
Here he touches upon some of his family’s unsettled background like his “mama catching the gambling bug” and “papa behind bars”. But .Paak does so with such self-acceptance that it’s easy for the listener to forget he’s even singing about negative experiences. His joyful attitude and the subtle horn in the backdrop creates a sound that instantly puts you in a self-soothing mood.
After listening to the rest of the album, what becomes pleasantly noticeable is .Paak’s ambitious efforts to make a wide range of rhythmic styles fit under a single melodic spectrum. Working in influences from Quest Love and The Roots, his style is one of displaced instrumentation and drumming that intentionally sounds jarring, keeping the listener hooked at all times. This method comes alive on “Heart Don’t stand a Chance”, and often results in peculiar electronic beats that, unsurprisingly, sound no less energetic than .Paak’s own spirited nature.
You can hear his upbeat keyboard best in “Am I Wrong”, perhaps the most modern-sounding and glossy song in the album. The beginning’s futuristic techno beats are so groovy that I felt like I was listening to a song straight out of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Soon, the spaced-out drumming in the background is complemented with an excited .Paak singing, “I’m only coming out to play” to start off four minutes of lyrics reminding you what it’s like to be a kid again .
Again, he draws his life out for us like a picture trail of memories in which he approaches them all with open arms. In other words, if you’re gonna listen to the album, expect .Paak to make you feel hopeful midst whatever pressures life throws on you.
There are many moments in Malibu where.Paak explores sensuality, embracing the hopeless romantic in him like in “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” and “Silicon Valley”. But the sexiest song on the album is none other than “Room In Here”; in its chorus, .Paak seduces a girl to hang with the hope of a forming a connection so strong they create their own escape even in a crowded space.
His melodious vocals have a flirty tone, making otherwise cheesy phrases like “take a look at that moon, ‘bout as bright as your eyes” sound romantic. It’s only when The Game starts rapping his verse that the song loses all of its detailed sensuality to simple one line descriptors like “she had a bright smile, big white teeth”…a basic image that provides a strong contrast to .Paak’s intricate portrayals of love in Malibu.
Even so, .Paak keeps up the album’s sexuality later again in the song “Waterfall” with innuendos like “your body moves in fluid motion”, going on to tell the girl that he knows he’s the only one who will “make her come”, and of course, the fact that there’s the “(Interluuube)” – yes, spelled that way – addition to the song title.
Moreover, .Paak incorporates deep ideas behind his sexual lyrics. He does so most charmingly in “Silicon Valley”, with his sincere voice putting us listeners in a dreamy nostalgic mood. He sings “what’s behind them tig-ol-bitties”. Perceived initially as shallow, .Paak’s technique blurs the line between emotion and sensual desire. In reality, he’s pondering the profound ways you can truly understand and connect with a lover’s heart.
By the end of Malibu, .Paak immerses himself deeper in the neo-soul genre in the song “Celebrate”. Here, and especially in its chorus, he uses a mixture of classic good-vibe piano and high-key xylophone notes to create the song’s uplifting and jumpy atmosphere. In other places, with 9th Wonder’s production on a few songs, .Paak could also perfectly counter his own rapping with fractured jazzy tunes. These smoother backdrops help balance .Paak’s more tender voice in a song like “Without You”.
Malibu’s outro “The Dreamer”, ties the album together as an optimistic sounding .Paak sends a message to those who followed their dreams and didn’t give a fuck to keep doing so. Along with the song’s gospel-like feature from Timan Family Choir, .Paak sings the album’s final words “Don’t stop now, keep dreaming” as a gentle, slow piano fades the song out.
I think a lot of mainstream artists today want to make songs that have a “feel-good” vibe but then they cross the line and come off as superficial. .Paak’s genuine and cheerful personality, however, floods through the album in a way that makes him like your best friend.
.Paak breaks away from mainstream hip-hop, embracing his own style through aspiring efforts to mix neo-soul keys and jumpy funk beats with an old-school hip hop flow. His clever lyrics and versatile drumming in and out of a variety of groovy atmospheres makes listening to this album both a sensual and affectionate experience.
The essence of Malibu lies in .Paak’s life–his desire to tell his story through music that people can truly learn empathy through. The result is a genuinely warm album that has a special ability to break barriers and connect people together while empowering them to face whatever lies ahead.
Marwan Elbattouty is a first-year who flosses his teeth on The Lawn