Virtuoso singer, rapper and instrumentalist Anderson .Paak is back with his third solo album. Named after his California hometown, Oxnard is his first release on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label.
Paak’s intoxicating skill, artistry and charisma truly make him a once-in-a-generation talent. If you’ve heard his debut, Venice, his brilliant 2016 breakout, Malibu, or his NxWorries projects with producer Knxledge, you’ll understand why Dre signed him immediately after hearing him. My expectations were sky high for this project, and initially I was disappointed. Dre’s engineering seemed too polished and I missed the rawness of the NxWorries projects. It took a second to shake those distracting preconceptions, but when I finally did, Oxnard sank its hooks into me.
Paak’s interpolation of M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” (“Take chains off / take rings off”) on the track “6 Summers” was the first thing to fully grab my attention, and now the song has grown into a minor obsession. Halfway through the track there’s a transition from a rapped hook to a sung hook that I can’t stop fixating on. With a uniquely soulful twist on G-Funk and a glorious feature from Snoop, “Anywhere” is one of the best songs of the year. On “Cheers,” Q-Tip provides another high point, offering moving memories of his late partner, Phife. J Cole, Pusha T, BJ the Chicago Kid, Kendrick, and the amazing Khadja Bonet also contribute strong features.
Oxnard isn’t perfect. “Mansa Musa” falls flat, and Dre’s own feature is sterile. “Left To Right” is horrendous, but at least it’s the last track. I’m a little salty that the rumor that fellow Oxnard native Madlib would contribute a beat was untrue. These are just minor distractions, though. Oxnard isn’t soulful hip-hop, it’s hip-hop soul, a genre that no one but Anderson .Paak could deliver.