By Tessa Jillson
From his debut album, rapper Anderson .Paak challenged the “trendy” trap realm of hip-hop by placing funk and jazz into a rap perspective. His music changed the rap game, radiating a soulful, lighthearted, and casual tone, accompanied by frequent beat switches, successfully making his albums sonically diverse and different from those of other artists.
Following up on his 2016 album “Malibu,” .Paak reflects his growth as an artist on his newest album “Oxnard,” released Nov. 16.
Born and raised in Oxnard, California, Brandon Paak Anderson lived through his parents’ incarcerations and had to take care of his family while grappling with homelessness and struggling to find hope in his future aspirations as a musician.
The story formed around “Oxnard” was produced as a response to all the things .Paak learned in the course of his life – the good and the bad times, how his life has changed, and how he is trying to inspire others to change. “This is the same man, new car,” .Paak said in an interview with Complex.
Bringing it back to his hometown, .Paak paints a picture of the Oxnard community – blending ’90s California hip-hop, funk, and trap music into a breezy, fun, summertime, seaside loving atmosphere, mixing in comedy by including skits and sexual innuendo.
.Paak even threw an Oxnard-themed carnival and live listening party for his hometown after the release of the album, where he and other artists were set to perform all free of charge.
The opening song, “The Chase (feat. Kadhja Bonet),” starts with a more dramatic introduction than the laid-back and jazzy construction of the overall album. The song sets up the album’s storyline by delving into more delicate and mystical instrumentals, incorporating windchimes and Jutes, to create a wake-up montage or to capture an ’80s movie dreamscape, while .Paak spits the message “Hold on and ride for your own / Together in spirit form / With your hands I can hold / In your heart there is hope.”
Using wordplay and beats, .Paak produces a dynamic way of telling stories which sound personal and mirror the lifestyle of the rich and the famous. He slows it down with “Headlow (feat. Norelle)” and speeds it up with “Tints (feat. Kendrick Lamar),” integrating the image of driving around with a bunch of “bitches” and living carefree. These songs, although hard to relate to, are entertaining through their portrayals of glamorous lifestyles, as if one is watching a reality TV show about .Paak’s life.
.Paak blends other influences easily throughout the album, working with well-known artists such as Snoop Dogg, J. Cole., and his mentor, Dr. Dre. But, his solo music on “Oxnard” is arguably his best.
In “6 Summers,” .Paak references our current political climate, rapping, “Trump’s got a love child and I hope that bitch is buckwild,” arguing that he hopes Trump’s “love child” goes against all the hate he stands for. The song continues as he states, “This s**t gon’ bang for at least six summers / But ain’t s**t gon’ change for at least three summers / They tryna kill a n***a faith, we need a little truth, brother/ Pop-pop-pop goes the shooter / Reform, reform shoulda came sooner.”
“Cheers (feat. Q-Tip)” was written about the death of his friend Mac Miller, who died in September. .Paak said he began Qnishing the project and replaced one of the songs at the end of the album with “Cheers” because he felt Mac was there with him.
If Mac were here, I feel like he’d be proud of how much hard work .Paak put into this album and how his message of spreading faith has influenced the hip-hop community for the better.