A true return to form for Breezy Lovejoy Anderson .Paak and his boys. ‘Yes LAWD!’.
I have been a die-hard Paak fanboy since Malibu and was enamoured with the electric chemistry between Paak and The Free Nationals, the gospel influences, the bells and chimes, the syrupy basslines and Anderson’s untouchable talent. I went into Oxnard with high hopes, despite knowing The Free Nationals weren’t creatively involved and that most of the production was being orchestrated by Dr Dre. I’m ashamed to admit that the Doctor let me down. The carefree, soulful SoCal funk that I grew to love didn’t seem to be there despite the album’s obvious merit, and I missed it. Knowing that The Free Nationals were involved in this record reignited my anticipation and I’ve been waiting for Ventura for longer than it’s been announced.
The whole album is packed with dazzlingly sharp production, and within the first 30 seconds of ‘Come Home‘ you just know that Anderson is back to his shiny-toothed antics
The whole album is packed with dazzlingly sharp production, and within the first 30 seconds of ‘Come Home‘ you just know that Anderson is back to his shiny-toothed antics. The soul on this track is leaking everywhere, and the choral effect between verses is a nice nod to Paak’s days as a church drummer. André 3000, of course, can’t tackle his verse in any sort of normal way. Yet, being such a lateral thinker, he spits all over it with the most unpredictable flows and rhymes, creating a very clear border between Anderson’s methodical soul and his own unorthodox lyrical ramblings.
A precious and intimate love song about attempting to rekindle a romance follows in ‘Make it Better‘, and the strings paired with the bumbling swaying beat and bassline create the musical illusion of skipping, which matches the sentiment of the song even more; “Oh baby, do you want to make it better? / Do you want to stay together? / Hey, if you do then let’s please / make some new memories.”
Anderson and Lalah Hathaway throw this record way back to the 1980’s with a disco-like first verse on ‘Reachin’ 2 Much‘, which breaks down halfway through with a jazzy, wobbly second half, reminiscent of the mad hatter Jay Kay and the acid jazz phenomenon Jamiroquai pumped into the late 90’s and 2000’s. The production on this record just gets better and better from here; ‘Winners Circle‘ incorporating some scat and vocalisation on top of some bass improv in the bridge, before yet another breakdown and a smooth verse from Paak, featuring the presidential burn ‘I go dumb like the President’. From one song to the next, the production stays focused and funky, but my favorite song on the record has to be socially aware ‘King James’, not just because I’m a basketball fanatic (what on earth is Bron doing sleeping on defence this season, by the way?) but because it has everything: soul, horns, funk, and Anderson’s trademark raspy yet smooth gospel pipes.
it has everything: soul, horns, funk, and Anderson’s trademark raspy yet smooth gospel pipes
The final track on this record is fraught with what sounds like an Indian influence, with a sitar bouncing through the rest of the instruments on show, and is a bittersweet conclusion with guest samples from the late Nate Dogg; Paak interacts with Dogg’s studio chitchat in such a believable way, you’d think he was still alive. It’s a wonderful and realistic manifestation of Nate’s legacy, and for a minute I felt like I was listening to the man himself, as though he really did record this song with Anderson.
This entire album is a whirlwind of smooth soul, jazz, funk, and R&B energy; a true west coast record that, in my eyes, brings Paak back to the glory days of his Malibu hijinks.