By: Asa Belue
It’s tough to put into a few words just what Anderson .Paak is. He’s a drummer. A rapper. A singer. A songwriter. A producer. But the best word to encapsulate what he really is in a world of music that becomes less and less distinctive everyday?
Anderson .Paak is a West Coast based musician and his 2016 album, Malibu, shows Paak’s inimitability, as he is able to blend genres like Funk, Soul, R&B, and rap into a cohesive, confident project that exhibits his most personal songwriting to date through his distinctive yet conversational voice.
Malibu is Anderson .Paak’s commercial introduction, and most people who sit down and listen will involuntarily sway and effortlessly groove to his life as he soulfully depicts his surroundings while never coming out of focus himself.
The personal nature of this project is clear in the opening track titled “The Bird.” His warm, sincere voice states at about a minute in: “My mama caught the gambling bug…my papa was behind them bars/ we never had to want for nuthin’/ said all we ever need is love.” Paak’s strained voice, easy going pace, and complete transparency into his world set the listener up for a long, poignant story from a man who has seen and experienced a lot in his 29 years.
Family hardship has been a prevalent theme in Paak’s life as a child and adult, and although the album is quite sunny in tone, substantively, Malibu’s theme is no different. Anderson was born to an African-American man and a half African-American half Korean mother who met in the Air Force. He saw them both go to jail by the time he was 18, and he also experienced homelessness with his wife and son before he had any success in the commercial music industry.
Despite the album’s vivid autobiography of family hardship, Paak’s message in the second half of the album is clear. That his love and positivity can conquer anything life throws at him, as he focuses on things that will keep him going if he ever finds himself in another compromising position, whether it be familial or financial. In the second to last song on the album titled “Celebrate,” Paak offers, “Time never cares, if you’re there or not there/ All you ever needed was a simple plan/ But you’re doing well, I mean you’re not dead/ So lets celebrate while we still can.” In this opening lyric, we catch the thesis of Anderson .Paak’s meditation on hardship. The idea that no matter what has happened in his life, he’s still alive and that’s something to take pride in, be thankful for, and to celebrate.
I am giving Malibu a 4/5 star review due to its cohesiveness in theme and tone, its ability to blend genres, and out of respect for the sheer talent it takes to sing while drumming: this dude is incredibly talented (Not to mention the fact that this album earned him a Grammy Nomination…obligatory Yes Lawd!). I believe that with this commercial introduction, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu will carry him from the metaphorical door mat to the metaphorical couch of the public’s conscience as he showcases what could be a once in a generation type of talent and, eventually, becomes a household name.
If you are looking for more recent appearances from Anderson .Paak, there are a few places you can find him. Singles from Malibu have been featured in a number of commercials and video game soundtracks in the past year. “Am I Wrong” was featured in a Google Pixel commercial, and his songs “Come Down” and “Am I Wrong” were featured in Madden 17 and NBA 2k18 respectively. .Paak also released his debut album as half of the neo-soul duo NxWorries titled Yes Lawd! In October of 2016, along with his producer Knxwledge.