As the year draws to a close, what better way to use Modern Monday than to work through the best albums of 2016. Despite its disastrous reputation 2016 has given us some damn good albums (including last week’s Big Baby D.R.A.M.), and many of them draw heavily on pop history for their sound and vibe. Anderson .Paak’s Malibu is no exception.
Riding on the success of .Paak’s collaborations with Dr. Dre on Compton in 2015, the Grammy-nominated Malibu was released only a few into the new year. It has been critically revered ever since and has been followed by a spate of high profile features for .Paak. Far and away the(my) best choice for number one artist of 2016, his unmistakable voice has graced some of the best tracks all year. Not to stray too far from my train of thought and focus on Malibu, but I insist you listen to these:
BJ the Chicago Kid – Church (Westcoast Remix) feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Anderson Paak
Mac Miller – Dang feat. Anderson Paak
Kaytranada – Glowed Up feat. Anderson Paak
The finely crafted Malibu exhibits .Paak’s multi-talents as a producer, songwriter, singer, and rapper. Called a “kaleidoscopic mix of ’60s funk, ’70s soul, hip-hop, R&B, electronic music, and rock ‘n’ roll” by NPR’s Scott Simon in his fascinating interview with .Paak early this year, Malibu is heavily influenced by stylistic trends pioneered by Black pop artists. These elements, combined with soundbytes from the 1960’s Malibu surf scene, and and Paak’s pensive and nostalgic lyrics, firmly establish the album’s back to the future vibe. The above interview is really worth a listen for the insight it provides into .Paak’s artistic process (“the dot stands for detail” ) and some of the hardships referenced in .Paak’s lyrical reminiscences.
.Paak grew up in a mixed race family in Oxnard, California. His mother, an orphan abandoned in Korea and brought to California in the 1950’s, raised him alone while running her own strawberry-picking company after .Paak’s estranged father attacked her and subsequently went to prison. “The Season/Carry Me” is a testament to her strength and reflection on .Paak’s family hardships, much like the buttery neo-soul track “The Bird.” “The Waters,” also included in this video, uses BJ the Chicago Kid’s gospel vocals to signify .Paak’s salvation, his arrival in success.
The commercially successful singles such as “Am I Wrong” display .Paak’s edge with modern R&B and electronic music. However, the tracks that most stood out to me were those that masterfully used the stylistic legacy of Black pop music to add depth to .Paak’s reflections on his personal experience, like “Celebrate,” a perfect throwback to early Sly and the Family stone.