Malibu is an expansive opus that flows in multiple directions like a classic ’70s double album.

I’ve recently been listening to Anderson .Paak all the time. His Malibu album in particular. Whenever I open Spotify I click on it almost mechanically. So I thought, why not do a review of Anderson .Paak’s Malibu album.

The opening

Just a minute into the opening track “The Bird”, the West Coast-based rapper and singer/songwriter shares a glimpse of his childhood.

My sister used to sing to Whitney, mmm
My mama caught the gambling bug, mmm
We came up in a lonely castle, mmm
My papa was behind them bars, mmm
We never had to want for nothing, mmm
Said all we ever need is love, mmm

Anderson .Paak – The Bird ; [Verse]

His voice is warm, strained, and conversational. It’s immediately clear. This is a sincere, soulful project, brimming with honesty and humble perseverance.

Brandon Anderson Paak has spoken about his kinfolk and childhood openly in several interviews. His mother was a farmer. She grew up in Compton in the ’60s, but was born in South Korea and adopted in the ’50s. His father served in the Air Force and later worked as a mechanic until he was sent to prison. All of his life experiences are reflected in Malibu, which is both his most assured and most personal project yet.

Malibu celebrates .Paak’s progression

.Paak’s name became more prominent due to his work on Dr. Dre’s Compton, where he appears on 6 out of 16 tracks. But even his sophomore album, 2014’s Venice, shows flashes of brilliance. While Venice is an easy listen, on Malibu .Paak celebrates his progression by acknowledging where he’s come from, the trials he’s endured and the things he’s seen.

I spent years being called out my name
Living under my greatness
But what don’t kill me is motivation

Anderson .Paak – The Season / Carry Me ; [Verse]

He grew up performing in church, and on the song’s second half, you can hear a rich gospel flair in his voice.

Your mom’s in prison, your father need a new kidney
You family’s splitting, rivalries between siblings
If cash ain’t king it’s damn sure the incentive

Anderson .Paak – The Season / Carry Me ; [Verse 1]

.Paak’s musical and emotional generosity

Much like Kendrick Lamar, .Paak skillfully depicts his surroundings while remaining in the foreground. And Kendrick’s spirit feels present at many points on Malibu. .Paak’s quicksilver flow on “Your Prime” feels it teleported indirectly from To Pimp a Butterfly as the music flows expansively from creamy soul harmonies to trap cadences.

But .Paak is a confident and unique presence, with a strong command of style and genre as a producer and songwriter. He leapfrogs three eras in a festive suite of songs mid-album that examine heartbreak: ’60s soul on “Put Me Thru”, ’80s club grooves on “Am I Wrong”, and ’90s hip hop on “Without You”. His musical and emotional generosity ties everything together, making Malibu an expansive opus that flows in multiple directions like a classic ’70s double album.

Guests on the album

Malibu is a community-oriented project, much like Chance the Rapper on last year’s Surf, informed by voices from the past and full of guests who are given ample space to do their best work. The Game drops one of his most disarming, winning verses in a minute on “Room in Here”, Rapsody flows affectingly about heartache over Dilla-style boom-bap. Many songs ride out on extended breakdowns, like “Parking Lost”, which feels like a studio band was given room to stretch.

Final track

On “The Dreamer”, the album’s celebratory final track, .Paak shares his success with his community, people who look like him and work to avoid similar pitfalls.

And who cares your daddy couldn’t be here?
Mama always kept the cable on
I’m a product of the tube and the free lunch
Living room, watching old reruns

Anderson .Paak – The Dreamer ; [Chorus 1: Anderson .Paak]

This is powerful art, not only for people of color but for everyone who exists beyond societal constraints. It’s for those who’ve been told they don’t quite fit, those viewed through a different lens because of their circumstances. It’s a beautiful reminder that, no matter what you’ve endured, you can go anywhere and reach glorious heights.

Drop me a line in the comments and tell me your thoughts about my review of Anderson .Paak’s Malibu album.

If you’re looking for more, check out my Nasir album review.

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