Last fall’s Oxnard was a sharp turn for Anderson .Paak. Working in close ties with Dr. Dre, who originally boosted .Paak’s career in 2015, he revamped his style by comfortably blending his soulful voice and sophisticated drum lines with edgy rap. The outcome was a more confident .Paak, but a .Paak that many of us hadn’t heard before. Gone were the melodic and catchy hooks that made his third album, Malibu, a breakthrough effort that elevated his position in the music world. Although, Oxnard certainly maintains some of the unique, niche singing that brought .Paak fame, it didn’t provide enough to keep his listeners from critiquing the effort.
Luckily for his fans, .Paak decided to release another album only four months after Oxnard, retreating to the seductive and soulful singing that fits perfectly with his raspy voice. Ventura offers a lively aura tendered by bubbly bass, his naturally high-pitched voice, complex drum patterns, and synthed melodies. The album is heavily influenced by the rock-funk sound of Sly and the Family Stone, the smooth and eclectic keyboard melodies of Stevie Wonder, and of course much of Dre’s G-funk production. Make it Better brings together Smokey Robinson and .Paak in an attempt to recreate an iconic Motown jam. The song brings underlying modern production values with background singers, strings, and .Paak’s voice to create a timeless piece. .Paak also integrates short rap verses into the album, still displaying the talent he showcased throughout Oxnard. These interludes come as pleasant surprises and act as breakdowns or separate sections of each song.
Overall the album is enjoyable to listen to and presents a more versatile .Paak than we have seen before. He proves he can be the defender of soul in the new generation, a well-defined lyrical rapper, and adaptable enough to merge seamlessly with Dre’s complex creations. There’s something for everyone on this album. If you’re driven to more poppy songs then Jet Black ft. Brandy is one for you, or if you’re more into the classic .Paak funk-soul the intricate Reachin’ 2 Much ft. Lalah Hathaway is already a classic. The final product is an album that brings the audience back to the mid 70s, but maintains a sense of the present with crisp production.