Anderson .Paak, “Oxnard”
AFTERMATH/12 TONE MUSIC
Oxnard, Anderson .Paak’s first studio album since signing with Dr. Dre back in 2016—as well as the final installment in his “beach series”—is hell-bent on being a classic. But while it’s an excellent showcase of .Paak’s genre-bending approach, it has a few glaring issues—most notably, clunky pacing. There’s a handful of WTF moments here: for example, the second track “Headlow,” entirely about .Paak receiving a blowjob, ends with an awkward skit acting the scene out, which sounds a lot more like Eminem’s “Ken Kaniff” skit than whatever .Paak was probably intending. Still, you can’t help but respect his ambition, even if the results are hit-or-miss—and thankfully the album has enough hits to make up for the shortcomings.
Oxnard isn’t afraid to show admiration for G-funk, and many of its best moments come from the more West Coast–inspired cuts. Snoop Dogg, who sounds like he time-travelled from 1993 to deliver his laid-back verse on “Anywhere,” appears more comfortable than .Paak’s other peers who cameo. The same is true of Q-Tip on “Cheers”—when an OG arrives, the whole thing flows effortlessly, but when .Paak teams up with one of his contemporaries, the album dips in quality, making for a handful of forgetful tracks with half-baked features. .Paak finally joins forces with Kendrick Lamar on “Tints,” the album’s bouncy and polished lead single, but the former’s charisma gets dulled by what sounds like a throwaway verse from Lamar. “Brother’s Keeper” features Pusha T at his most contemplative on a beat that isn’t far removed from Daytona, but it feels more like a bunch of empty gestures than something tangible.
.Paak dabbles in politics on “6 Summers,” which references gun violence, the president’s (alleged) illegitimate child, and interpolates “the revolution will not be televised” with all the subtleties and nuances of a woke college freshman experimenting with psychedelics for the first time. The track contains only an elementary understanding of the current political climate, though it has an undeniable bounce to it, and when .Paak lands into a groove everything else is just noise. The thunderous drums on “Who R U?,” which sound like they were created by a drumline of highly intelligent robots, give way to the most braggadocious, chest-beating lines of the album (“New enemies they bringing my old ways back / Back in my day woulda had your whole face smacked.”) But Oxnard tries so hard to be a masterpiece that it forgets what made .Paak’s music so compelling in the first place, swapping out his easy-going, straightforward persona for stiff storytelling and jumbled verses that aren’t nearly as engaging as he is.