Anderson Paak’s rise has been slow and steady. After years as an underground artist, he broke through in 2015 with an appearance on Dr. Dre’s Compton, following that with his stellar second album Malibu the next year. His latest album though, Oxnard, feels like his most explicit push for big mainstream success – packed full of potential hits and Paak’s palpable charisma.
While not as thematically and stylistically ambitious as Malibu, Oxnard is a lot easier to digest. It’s a smooth 13-track ride, filled with great moments, some carefully selected guests and just enough variety to keep things interesting. After opening with a couple of so-so tracks – the aimless ‘The Chase’ and ‘Headlow’, which is marred by a cringy blowjob skit – ‘Tints’ really gets the ball rolling. The track is pure pop perfection, featuring a funky bassline and Paak’s bombastic sense of personality. It also has a top-notch Kendrick Lamar feature, who fits into the singer’s world effortlessly.
And things don’t really let up from there. ‘Who R U’ matches some swaggering bars from Paak with a top-notch beat, while ‘Smile/Petty’ acts as a great one-two, approaching relationship troubles from two different angles. ‘Six Summers’ stands among the artist’s best songs; while the political theme is a little unfocused, the track features a gorgeous shift in tone halfway through – moving from pompous to melancholy in an instant.
Oxnard‘s greatest asset is its production – it’s stunning throughout. Every song features its own gorgeous instrumental touches, from the layers of percussion on ‘Tints’ to the saxophone solo on ‘Cheers’. While it generally hovers around funk and rap, the album dips its toe in a lot of different genres – sometimes multiple ones on the same song. And it never feels forced. The production is even strong enough to hold together some of the album’s weakest songs, such as the bonus tracks, ‘Sweet Chick’ and ‘Left To Right’.
The album mellows out in its second half; the pace slows down and the songs take on a woozy, almost psychedelic vibe in some places. It’s also more feature-heavy than the first half, though luckily no one feels out of place. Snoop Dogg and Pusha T in particular steal the show on their respective songs, with the production on their tracks complimenting their usual styles well. While ‘Cheers’ isn’t a particularly exciting closer, it wraps up the album well.
Oxnard comes together as a strong whole, making for a dizzying display of Anderson Paak’s talents. While it might not be quite as satisfying as 2016’s Malibu, it makes for a superb, accessible introduction to the artist’s world.
Best Tracks: ‘Tints’, ‘Six Summers’, Brother’s Keeper’