You know I’m not a big hip-hop head; it’s mostly not my cup of tea. But where the genre intersects with soul, jazz, and r’n’b, that’s where I like to be sometimes. One of the records that cemented my preferences in that regard is Malibu by the inimitable Mr. Anderson .Paak, singer/rapper/drummer/songwriter extraordinaire. This album was one of my first major obsessions after joining Everything Is Noise (back when our old moniker was still a thing), and it really shaped a certain pocket of my comfort zone by introducing me to a modern take on sounds I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid.
Before I keep you for too long, I’ll pass the metaphorical baton to Dan, one of our resident hip hop experts, who shares my passion for all things Paak and Malibu. Take it away!
Anderson .Paak is most definitely the torchbearer of modern genre blending. Plenty of rappers employ singing at various stages in their career, to varying effect. Sure, some can sing, but mostly just fall flat with the vocality needed to smoothly ride a beat. Paak is different; he played it in reverse. A very talented crooner who can make sandpaper feel like butter with a smoothness that is just the epitome of cool learned to rap, and he can rap his fucking ass off. Look no further than the recent reminder of his verse on “Feel No Pain” from the Big Boss Rabbit’s stellar 2022 effort $oul $old $eparately, and that wasn’t even the first time. He popped up with Freddie Gibbs on Bandana on the track “Giannis” as well, with a stellar flow. The dude just has hard-ass hitting bars, and it’s amazing. His singing has never been in question either, obviously. Paak graces every melody he gives, and has proven this time and time again. Silk Sonic, Oxnard, Yes Lawd!, and the plethora of features that keeps his cup runneth over with smooth as fuck melodic grace.
All of this was in full display in the best way possible on Malibu. Paak coming off a solid debut effort with Venice showed the proof of concept, but made a fucking statement with his sophomore effort.
There’s so much to love about it. The production is stellar, the vocals flux between smooth utilizations to raspy bars and back again. Everything floats and feels light; music to drive around city lights in with the windows down type shit. It’s precious and precise in its delivery, and never misses a mark.
I tend to decry too much perfection, as it can be onerous to enjoy classical music, or too much curation, yet Paak expresses individuality and enough creative expressionism to keep a listener reeled in. Stale is a concept he probably can’t even understand, because he’s too busy delivery nothing but fucking flavor, over and over again.
All of that delivers him an easy win, and leader in the mixed genre world hip hop as wholly adopted these days. While crusty old-head gatekeepers bemoan about the mumble rap soundcloud generation, Paak delivers a product that appeals to both. Melody and bars, and it’s all done with enough flash and cool to make the dorkiest of dorks strut (or that might just be me).
Before I dip, I want to give a specific shout out to “Come Down”. This was the first Paak song I heard, it was on the local public radio (shout out to KUTX, please keep up your great work), and it rattled around in my brain almost driving me insane with how catchy it was. This party banger can fit in on a backyard party playlist, or a hip cocktail party to the same effect. Everyone will sway, and take note, because it’s just that infectious. If there’s some off chance someone doesn’t, or even expresses distaste, kick that nerd out of the party. They don’t enjoy joy. The rest of us will be over here, jamming the fuck out to one of the coolest to ever do it.