Anderson .Paak first rose to some level of fame when he was featured heavily on Dr. Dre’s 2015 album “Compton.” A year after this high-profile recognition, .Paak released his second studio album, the critically acclaimed and Grammy nominated “Malibu.” This is where .Paak really found a voice for himself. With “Malibu,” we found a distinctly smart and soulful post-Kendrick artist, as well as a rising star. With his 2018 follow-up, “Oxnard,” .Paak pulls through with his special brand of playful funk. Most of the album contains the type of songs that mimic a summer drive with a group of close friends. There are, however, a few moments where Anderson .Paak comes off as a little too cocky. An entire song about road head is one thing. The 30-second skit at the end of “Headlow” that consists of little more than .Paak moaning while getting into a car crash is something else entirely.
There are a few other moments on the album that feel exceptionally presumptuous; almost like the musical equivalent of a student-athlete who brags about being a student-athlete, despite the fact that no one really asked them about it in the first place. These few cringe-worthy moments combat the easy and carefree vibe that defines much of the album. Many of these verses aren’t necessarily bad, but .Paak’s delivery and his choice of instrumentation doesn’t always fit well. During the song “Sweet Chick,” .Paak delivers the lines, “She be watching animé while I’m laying dick/Wanna go to Comic-Con, I’m like calm down a bit” almost as a shout along, paired with BJ the Chicago Kid’s soulful coos. There’s just too much trying to be done in a pretty untasteful way.
“Tints” and “Anywhere” show off the best aspects of “Oxnard.” These songs feel effortless. “Tints” features Kendrick Lamar and was released earlier as a single. It’s both bouncy and smooth, making it incredibly fun to listen to. “Tints” is the perfect summer song, although it happened to be released in October. “Anywhere” starts out with a Snoop Dogg verse that feels timeless and perfectly compliments .Paak’s smooth instrumentation and distinct voice. This song is a natural addition to the best of .Paak’s discography. “Anywhere” is undemanding and, quite simply, feels insanely cool.
Anderson .Paak is at his best when it doesn’t come off as if he’s trying too hard. “Oxnard” is filled with fun and engaging moments. There are parts of the album that show off .Paak’s funk sensibilities and his distinctive and slightly raspy voice, as well as the playful quirks that made 2016’s “Malibu” such an endearing record. The guest verses on “Oxnard” work incredibly well. They serve to highlight Paak’s moments of genius and elevate these portions of the album to a certain level of greatness. The few slip-ups appear when .Paak’s ego is left unchecked. In those few moments of cockiness, he attempts to do/be too much. In doing so, .Paak creates moments that are either flat or just outright annoying (the faux-Jamaican accent in “Left to Right” is exceptionally obnoxious). “Oxnard” shines in its simplest moments. .Paak sounds best when he’s effortlessly concocting rap-focused funk with his star studded list of guests. Maybe “Oxnard” doesn’t live up to the expectations set by “Malibu,” but it’s still a great addition to the rapper’s discography, and a generally a worthy tribute to .Paak’s hometown.