Aftermath Entertainment · November 16, 2018
Oxnard succeeds on all fronts — clean production, energetic vocals, complex songwriting, and eclectic sonic variety. .Paak’s artistic vision is clearer than ever and he seems more comfortable combining the different aspects of his personality.
Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard is the latest in the rapper/singer/drummer/producer’s road trip along the coast of California. The polymath, neo-soul king, and protégé of legendary Compton producer, Dr. Dre, delivers a complex and layered album. Oxnard boasts exhilarating verses, beat-switches, hard-hitting baselines, and expert production from the Doctor himself. While .Paak builds off of his previous success on the Grammy-award nominated Malibu, his artistry on Oxnard shows more focus, creativity, and forethought. He expertly balances the different aspects of his identity, showcasing his sexuality, political views, cultural commentary, and humor.
.Paak commences the latest leg of his California road trip with ‘The Chase,’ featuring honey-smooth and haunting vocals from Kadhja Bonet. The track sets the tone for the rest of the album, contrasting .Paak’s more serious lyrics on learning from past mistakes with upbeat drums and bass. The next track, ‘Headlow,’ furthers this contrast, as .Paak boasts about his sexual conquests and finishes by paying homage to 90’s hip-hop with a comedic skit.
Another standout aspect of Oxnard is .Paak’s strategic use of features. In ‘Tints’ and ‘Trippy,’ Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole deliver powerful closing verses that tie up each track’s thematic elements. On ‘Brother’s Keeper,’ .Paak builds up to Pusha T’s verse with a wave of toms and a lilting choir. Pusha is electric, rapping about his relationship with his brother and moving on from their time together as the rap duo Clipse. .Paak also gives mic time to hip-hop legends Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Q-Tip. Q-Tip’s feature, ‘Cheers,’ is an especially powerful tribute to the late Mac Miller and Phife Dawg.
While Oxnard still contains .Paak’s good-natured flirting on several tracks, the artist takes time to pen an open letter to the nation on ‘6 Summers,’ pleading for an end to gun-violence, speaking on gun-law reform, school shootings, and inner-city violence. In what might also be a statement supporting the decriminalization of marijuana, .Paak asks his audience to “put down [their] heat and smoke marijuanas.” On the same track, .Paak also criticizes rappers participating in twitter beefs and preaches unity. On the next track, ‘Saviers Road,’ .Paak raps about a lack of faith in the black community and again preaches unity. .Paak’s verses are even more impactful as he talks about his mother being in prison, pleading “God, if you existin’, help my momma get acquitted.”
.Paak is purposeful in his use of different layers to his music, constantly stripping and adding sonic elements and keeping listeners on their toes. .Paak’s layering also extends to his lyrics, exemplified by his metaphorical representation of the nation as an abusive lover on ‘Smile/Petty.’ .Paak accompanies this lyrical maturation with the best rapping of his career, demonstrating impressive technical ability and confidence on ‘Brother’s Keeper’ and ‘Mansa Musa.’
Overall, Oxnard succeeds on all fronts — clean production, energetic vocals, complex songwriting, and eclectic sonic variety. .Paak’s artistic vision is clearer than ever and he seems more comfortable combining the different aspects of his personality. All of this is supported by Dr. Dre’s production and outstanding performances by the album’s features. Oxnard may be the third leg of .Paak’s California road trip, but it stands strong on its own as an addicting journey through Anderson .Paak’s perspective on his hometown, pop-rap culture, and the current state of our nation.
Listen to Oxnard: