Review | Anderson .Paak - Ventura
Anderson .Paak gives us little time to breathe and reset as his new album Ventura not only follows closely from Oxnard, but also builds on all its best attributes.
One of music’s finest genre-blending names, Anderson .Paak returns to our playlists and radios with his fresh offering, Ventura. Not including his work under his earlier moniker Breezy Lovejoy, .Paak has released four studio albums now. From his debut album Venice, to the critically acclaimed Malibu and the foundations for Ventura, Oxnard, .Paak’s reputation as an artist to willingly and successfully ascend genre stereotypes has only grown over the years. On Ventura, that beast of a reputation is fed and grown stronger.
The opener, Come Home, sets the tone of the album right from the off. A stripped-back, soulful bassline is overlaid with melodic piano and vocal harmonies. Where Oxnard had often dived a little too deeply into extravagant production, Ventura restrains itself and the effect is the rectification of one of Oxnard’s most glaring issues. Ex-OutKast member now turned coveted feature artist Andre 3000 offers a technically and lyrically superb verse, exemplifying how those album morphs more classical hip-hop lyricism with soulful and funky production.
However, .Paak proves that he doesn’t need Andre to convey the albums qualities of versatility. On Winners Circle, the Cali native explodes in the third verse with an incredible flow and cleverly derogatory wordplay. Then, as a representation of the albums shape-shifting abilities, one song after Winners Circle, Yada Yada begins, and I make a point about it beginning due to its epic introductory build up and layering of the instrumental. It’s so good in fact that even when .Paak jumps on the track with all the bravado of a Texan Outlaw, the jabbing piano, eccentric bubbly bass line and crisp drum kick are still reverberating within the ear canals.
Lyrical content of the album, whilst immature at times, is thematically developed and consistent. .Paak has previously referenced Ventura, the town, a place where he “found his feet” as a teen. This is evident through subjects that are symptomatic of that relatable teenage period of discovery. Such subjects include complicated relationships and world issues (many of which are referenced on King James, including Trump's border wall and Colin Kaepernick's protest against police brutality).
As a county, Ventura is an extension of land around and including its largest city, Oxnard. Metaphorically, the album Ventura serves the same purpose. It is a genre defying soundscape that is an extension of positives and strengths of Oxnard without all the hustle and bustle of the often blatant commercially driven production. To finish, the only gripe to be found within Ventura can be some repetition of themes. Songs like Good Heels and Chosen One don’t add much to the album- whilst they undoubtedly fit with the overall sound, they are not memorable. Nevertheless, Ventura is an exceptional entrance within Anderson .Paak’s discography and cements him as one of the most talented and culturally holistic artists on the scene.
Best song: Make it Better (feat. Smokey Robinson)
Worst song: Good Heels (feat. Jazmine Sullivan)