Posts tagged Snoop Dogg
Album review: Anderson .Paak lets you into his eclectic world with "Oxnard"

Oxnard is the 19th most populated city in the entire state of California. Approximately two hours northwest of: El Segundo, where the transcendent Kamaal The Abstract left his wallet in a legendary tale; Compton, where the cerebral Andre Young recorded a seminal masterpiece titled The Chronic, and; Long Beach, where Calvin Broadus linked up with Young to create a definitive West Coast classic nearly 25 years ago to the day. It's also home to a multi-hyphenate musician by the name of Brandon Paak Anderson - a man working on a lasting legacy of his own.

His laid-back mannerisms embody the spirit of the Greater Los Angeles area that has the essence of summertime year-round. The artist formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy makes his performances on stage and in the studio seem effortless, but a tremendous amount of work was required on this difficult path to reach the crest of his profession. Even after all he's accomplished, he's not even close to his full potential; alike to the next evolution of music consumption after streaming, the listeners won't know what to expect next, but it could potentially shift the way we view this art form.

Seven years ago, he was homeless with a wife and child after unexpectedly being fired as a weed farmer. Today, the GRAMMY-nominated 32-year-old Anderson .Paak dropped an instant album of the year contender: Oxnard, the third (solo) studio album under his current moniker. The previous two are vastly different from each other but are important to the development of a style that can't be replicated. Venice (2014) was an ambitious electro-R&B project, mixed with guitar licks and trap sounds, had a few moments but as a whole, felt unfocused. However, 2016 yielded more fruitful results. At the top of the year, the arsenal of his creative genius was on full display with Malibu, featuring his close friends The Free Nationals. The band's steady yet lively instrumentation and unforced chemistry with Andy helped to congeal any loose pockets that plagued the clunky Venice. This allowed .Paak to settle into his signature groove by exploring and destroying conventional aspects of music by combining neo-soul, funk, rap, and jazz without sounding disheveled.

The results were a critically acclaimed album in a class of its own, unbothered with fitting a singular trend; rather, Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals were inspired by various genres and smartly crafted their own vibe on Malibu. Bookended between soulful, show-stealing guest spots, a highly regarded, more "traditional" rhythm & blues performance as one-half of Nxworries further cemented .Paak as a bona fide star.

While decades of trial & error and a strong background in the church were integral to the process, the free spirit of Yes Lawd! was refined thanks in part to Dr. Dre. “You need that, because you’ll go crazy when you’re making these albums if you don’t have nobody to be your co-pilot,” said .Paak of Dre and his meticulous focus in the studio. The iconic producer-turned-mogul played the role of mentor as he's done for the past 30 years. A well documented, near-peerless industry track record like Dre’s gave .Paak a major co-sign. 16 years after the flawless 2001, Dre triumphantly returned in 2015 with Compton: a soundtrack to the summer box office hit Straight Outta Compton that was meant to showcase the rising talent from the West Coast. Nobody shined brighter on Compton than Anderson .Paak.

Three years later, fully formed as a dangerous versatile threat, he returns to the lab with The Doc to put the finishing touches on Oxnard.

“'We went in for a few more weeks and that’s when the bulk of the album actually got done,' .Paak says of the more than 10 new tracks that form the core of the record. 'And these were songs that I never thought I’d write.'"

The mission was to let the entertainment world know that he and his hometown weren't solely "LA-adjacent"; they are distinct entities worthy of more than being generalized with the rest of the mold. The cinematic feel of Oxnard reflects the rockstar life he's experienced since 2014. There's a larger-than-life boldness to this record, similar to blaxploitation era films from the '70s. The album opener The Chase featuring Kadhja Bonet, sounds like a crisp remake of a funky jam found on the Dolemite soundtrack. As he does throughout the hour-long project, .Paak vacillates here between a slick rap flow and a cool, easy, yet powerful croon. The meticulous nature of Dr. Dre's handprint is obvious in more ways than one. Relative to his previous releases, it wouldn't be out of line to say that Oxnard is Anderson .Paak's *rap* album; in that, he rhymes in a lyricist's prose for a large portion of his verses like the 9th Wonder-produced Saviers Road. The shit talking and confidence with the way he spits in on par, if not better, than a lot of rappers currently in the game.

However, it would be unfair to just categorize it as his *rap* album. It's a multi-dimensional walk down a vibrant landscape that only an engineer on the level of Dr. Dre could so expertly arrange. Oxnard, like .Paak, is genre-less. Smile/Petty featuring Sonya Elise and SiR balances smooth vocals and nasally raps over a mellow RnB tune before ending with strong, spiteful singing over heavy g-funk production. Tints is a fun groove of lead single with a Kendrick Lamar - who co-habits the space on his best behavior - as they deal with increased stardom ("Paparazzi wanna shoot ya, shoot ya, niggas dying for less here"..."I can't be flying down that 110 with a bad bitch in my whip, I need tints"). The first half of 6 Summers doesn't mesh with the stellar second half, but it's meant to be a satirical "holding a mirror to the goofy commander-in-cheeto" in the Oval Office. Cheeky Andy doesn't seek to be overtly political, but when necessary, he can make a statement on behalf of his people.

On Animals, a standout off Compton, he sings:

The police don't come around these parts
They tell me that we all a bunch of animals
The only time they wanna turn the cameras on
Is when we're fuckin' shit up, come on

The refrain for the second half of 6 Summers goes on to say:

This shit gon' bang for at least six summers
But ain't shit gon' change for at least three summers
They tryna kill a nigga faith, we need a little truth, brother
Pop-pop-pop goes the shooter
Reform, reform shoulda came sooner

Contributing to social commentary as an artist, whether heavy-handed or subtle, can never be understated with a growing platform such as his. "Ain't shit gon' change" right away, but with a concerted effort, change is possible; stating so on a project that's "gon' bang for at least six summers" is a good way to spread the message. Aside from .Paak's multi-faceted performance and expertly mixed production, the strength of Oxnard lie in the guest appearances from a star-studded lineup. The mean 808, guitar infused banger Brother's Keeper, featuring the legal malice of Pusha-T (Am I my brother's keeper, they still asking 'bout the duo // Applaud his finding salvation, But I'm still rhyming 'bout the you know); Trippy with J. Cole - a calm soothing ballad dedicated to the love of their lives; Sweet Chick featuring the great, colorful, and soulful harmonics of BJ the Chicago Kid. On Anywhere, 25 years after the creation of Doggystyle, Dre & Snoop, still, in rare form as a pairing, reconnect to help give .Paak a fresh, relaxed melodic West Coast sound. On Cheers, the rapper who lost his wallet in El Segundo 18 years prior, talks about a different loss. Q-Tip (RIP Phife) and Anderson (RIP Mac Miller) share sentiments of losing close friends and collaborators, but choose to treat it as a reflective celebration of life. The result is a vibrant Dre & Tip production brought to life with upbeat percussion and synthesizers.

Venice to Compton to Malibu to Oxnard is a modern journey unlike anyone else's in popular music today. Each project has a distinct standalone presence, using previous experiences to carefully build towards this exact moment in 2018. An artist on the precipice of becoming a mega-star is learning to become more of himself. It can't be a coincidence how the path of the location first trended towards the actual city of Los Angeles then rerouted back to the place of his birth. Oxnard is an ode to and a return presentation to his hometown to share life experiences after traveling the globe in the limelight. It's evident that he grew as a lyricist, songwriter, composer, and musician as a whole...but we're nowhere close to the peak of his abilities. Oxnard, if only a glimpse, is a step in the direction of his full potential. It's a project that'll appreciate with time.

From CRWN, a sit-down conversation with Tidal:

Elliot Wilson: you have a wide musical pallet...with your classification of music, sometimes people don't necessarily know if they should put you in the idea of what RnB is...do you hate those classifications and feel like it's just music?

"I think that people need to just first listen to the music. Like stop tryna put it and compare it and immediately say it's like this or it's like this. A lot of people aren't even listening to the music, on God. Like they not really digesting the music; they're just like one time through and they're eager to compare it...just listen! I just leave it up to the people...my job is just to make it and make sure it's honest."

He doesn't fit a particular genre because he's his own genre. He’s Anderson .Paak.

The Internet, Buddy, and the Pursuit of Timelessness
Columbia Records

Columbia Records

RCA Records

RCA Records

“I got inspired by what she was talking about, and that night I did the drum beat and piano part for ‘Back to Black' and put tons of reverb on the tambourine. She’s deceivingly nonchalant, and when I played it for her the next day, she said, ‘It’s wicked,’ but I couldn’t tell if she meant it. Then she was like, ‘This is what I want my album to sound like.’

She would come in every day and play me songs on the acoustic guitar, and we’d try different arrangements to find something that felt authentic. The reason everyone goes back to those Motown records is that there were amazing musicians playing together in a room, and that’s what we tried to do.” - DJ/Producer Mark Ronson on creating the classic album Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

We are living in the most prolific time in music history, in terms of output; which is great because it offers fans a wide selection of new material to listen to from their current and new favorite artists. It's also disorienting for avid fanatics; it feels like a chore to keep up with the latest releases on a weekly basis. A project could receive critical and universal praise, only to be shuffled into the ether and forgotten about merely weeks later. Something like the Kendrick and TDE-curated Black Panther OST are a distant memory six months later.

With the rapid pace of material being produced daily (and with social media playing a role as an accelerant), six weeks ago might as well be six months ago in this current climate. There's an argument to be had about whether or not an artist should excessively drop multiple projects (3-4 or more) in the same calendar year. Experts like Curren$y and Future are revered for such a tactic because they meet the standards of what their loyal fan base approves of; at the very least, a handful of tracks can be taken away for high replay value beyond the life of "opening weekend."

It begs the question, though: is a compilation of greatest hits, in the long run, more valuable and more memorable than a discography filled with individual bodies of work with the most cohesion from front to back? What trumps all is having a bold authenticity to your craft. Far too often many artists on the urban scene catch the most popular wave, with the hopes of hitting a crest and ride it until the crash into the shore. We all hear it. Certain flows, cadences, vocal effects, drum patterns, hi-hat tempo, rhyme schemes, etc. get recycled into mediocrity. It's reheated microwave shit. It's digestible, but the quality is noticeably poorer. 

Important pioneers like Chicago's laidback rapper Valee has created a new style that's catchy and infectious in the best way possible. His "Ijustwokeupgaudyrapsthatflowlikerunonsentences" is already getting bitten by other rappers. Like his overall demeanor in his raps and interviews, he's not worried about it.

"I never get the time to get mad [about other rappers stealing this flow] because I'm so happy that they didn't do it right...you're so big [popular, well-known]...but you can't do something right" - Valee

Separating yourself from the crowd with authenticity and being distinctly unique has the best chance of success beyond the life of a current wave. In this fast-paced digital age of new music, The Internet and Buddy slowed things way down with their latest efforts, Hive Mind, and Harlan & Alondra, respectively. These California natives took the scenic route, via different paths, to their most mature and complete sounding records to date.


It's only been three weeks since the release date, but Harlan & Alondra already sounds nostalgic.  The foundation of this soundtrack, provided by Los Angeles residents Mike & Keys (Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies), DJ Khalil, Terrance Martin, and Scoop DeVille among others, helped create an atmosphere that felt true to the region they were raised in. Without sounding forced, the production could easily replace the scores to Menace II Society or Boyz in the Hood and it wouldn't sound foreign or out of place. Sonically, Harlan & Alondra is an ode to its predecessors like Dr. Dre's The Chronic, DJ Quik's Way 2 Fonky, and Doggystyle by Snoop, who makes an energetic and youthful cameo on the groovy "The Blue." Soulful and g-funk-inspired, Buddy doesn't forget the roots that influenced him musically growing up in Compton, CA.

Despite being only 24 years old, Buddy has more than half a decade under his belt in this industry. As he raps on the introspective Find Me 2, "the last nigga signed to Star Trak" has had connections with Pharrell since the early 2010s, and they "still keep in contact," (he co-produced the final track on the album, Shine). Having that experience lends to the composure he displays throughout the album while talking about his trials and tribulations with slick raps and soulful crooning. Growth with his personal development from a reckless youth to a productive young adult is evident throughout this 12-track project. The album's peak, Trouble on Central shows Buddy's range as he melodically raps, bops and sings about his past situation and how he dreamed of something outside the view of his hood.

Just so good at being in trouble
Spending my days out in the ghetto
Papa say that I need to be careful

Heard a nigga just got popped at the Arco
Pros on the hoes stroll, junkies on narcos
Long Beach, Compton, Watts to South Central
Damn, I just can't wait 'til I get home (shit)
That's when a cop had pulled me over

“I feel relieved,” he says. “It’s like taking a shit. I had it in me for so long and now it’s just out into the world, just flushed.”

Buddy has crude humor about his debut album, which was nine years in the making, but judging by how well put together it was, one can tell how seriously he took this project. From the aggressively hype and proud Black featuring ASAP Ferg, to the cool, breezy, and light Hey Up There featuring Rev. Ty Dolla $ign, Buddy's range as a captivating musician is on full display. Named after the cross-street he grew up on, Harlan & Alondra is extremely personal to Buddy, both lyrically true and sonically native to his home environment.


Hive Mind, as of December 2017, was 95% finished, yet it only came out on July 20th, 2018. The hype was plenty, but the crew wasn't bothered by that pressure. It was fine-tuned to the highest of qualities. There's a certain maturity that comes with independence; branching out to do solo projects definitely contributed to their growth as a group. The opening track Come Together literally does that, as if it's a collective "oh what's good?" to the homies you haven't seen in a while. Every single element of the band is audible on this airy song, sounding sharper than ever.

I feel like this is on a higher echelon than Ego Death. I love Ego Death, that was a great record, but I know this one is a step up." - Steve Lacy

It's incredibly grown. Like, if you get passed the aux cord at your family's annual cookout, mixed with younger cousins and great-grandparents, this album is a safe medium that'll be impressionable to both crowds. Funk, soul, jazz, RnB, and electronic music are blended together for a groove-filled entertaining mix from start to finish. Syd hang-glides as a vocalist and constantly shows her versatility. On Stay the Night for example, her verses are delivered as relaxed jabs right before she hits a breathy stride into the bridge. One of the major standouts, the somber It Gets Better (With Time) evokes strong emotions from her vocals alone.

The lyrics are even more of gut punch:

Is something wrong?
'Cause you seem mighty low
Tell me what's going on
Probably been there before
Sit up and fix your face
You see me, I'm okay
We ain't got time today
Throw on your darker shades and
Smile for the camera

Balance is important; songs like the bass and percussion-driven Steve & Syd duet Roll (Burbank Funk) and the light-hearted upbeat groove of La Di Da provide just that. Girl chasing, love makin', heartbreak, self-care are universal themes in not only soul and RnB, but life in general. The Internet connected on these from a maturely confident point of view.

Staying true to self is something that'll never go out of style. Why be a copycat in an increasingly artificial world? Eventually, hit chasing is bound to lead to fatigue and it's even worse when it's not legitimate. It's not sustainable long term.

In the quote at the start of the piece, Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson were aiming to create something authentic with lasting effects and used the Motown era as an example. He wasn't equating the two directly (I hope) but was showing how important it was to take the time to make the best possible thing as best as they can.

Slowing down the pace to focus on the long-term isn't always a bad idea. Even if wide-spread love isn't immediately shown, Harlan & Alondra and Hive Mind are two bodies of work that'll live beyond 2018. If done correctly, the culture will always accept and respect, futuristic throwbacks rooted in authenticity. The Internet and Buddy did just that.