Anderson .Paak’s “Malibu”

A soundtrack for the outcasts...

Don’t forget the dot.
Rapper, singer, songwriter and producer Brandon Paak Anderson, known to fans as Anderson .Paak, doesn’t want you to ignore anything about him, especially the period before .Paak. For him, it’s all about the details.

.Paak’s newest album, Malibu is a meticulous chronicle of his love interests and family hardships, a declaration of his insecure virtuosity that deserves your undivided attention. His attitude becomes apparent on “The Season/Carry Me,” as he stresses his pique for being overlooked, rapping on 9th Wonder’s melancholy track, “But I’m short on my patience/See, I don’t play that shit, I don’t ever forget/And don’t forget that dot, nigga you paid for it.” His raspy bravado dances over the effervescent swaying of Wonder’s drifting rhythm—a unique blend of soulful boasting that .Paak does so well.

Malibu hits the expository ground running with “The Bird,” a tale of .Paak’s unremitting chase for greatness despite his uneasy past. “My mama caught the gambling bug/We came up in a lonely castle/My papa was behind them bars,” he professes with a twirling piano riff and an oscillating bass line. He speaks to the tribulations of his upbringing, but his message is one of sanguinity and expanded wisdom: “I got my patience and I’m making do/I learned my lessons from the ancient roots/I choose to follow what the greatest do.” .Paak is an old soul who feels connected to his predecessors as mentors.

He’s studied the best, and he looks to follow in their footsteps.

.Paak moves from vaunts of brilliance to vulnerable confessions in swift waves. On “The Waters,” he asserts his suave, old-timey prowess: “It’s the visionary/In the vintage Chevy/It’s been awhile but wow you still care,” only then to reflect on his personal anxieties: “And I can do anything but more backwards/The hardest thing is to keep from being distracted.” It’s obvious that .Paak is conscious of his growing fame, but his uncertainties keep him grounded in his craft. Acknowledging the pressure to keep moving forward, .Paak lets you into his heart to feel his inner battles. 

This album doesn’t fit tidily into any category or genre. Each song feels rooted in various golden ages of musical eras past, but together they amalgamate into a collage of .Paak’s inherited influences. “Put Me Thru,” which feels right out of a James Brown album, details a toxic relationship that .Paak can’t help but find masochistic pleasure in: “Self inflicted pain, sickness over you/Way over you/Here I stay time and time/It must be what you put me through.” This track, among others like “Am I Wrong” and “Come Down,” infuses the customs of distinctive musical decades with .Paak’s soulful, spunky raps. The upshot is an entirely unique and tailored sound that tenderly holds onto .Paak’s cherished bygones.

Despite .Paak’s disses at wannabes and haters, Malibu feels like a heartfelt project aimed at uplifting and inspiring. His track, “Celebrate” is a call for celebration for the things we take for granted: “But you’re doing well, I mean you’re not dead/So let’s celebrate while we still can.” Its simple—you’re alive, so enjoy the view because you’re okay, for now at least. “On a clear day you can see West LA, even downtown,” he croons over blissful, doubled-up harmonies.

It’s the nuances of the city, the way you can see downtown when the clouds are gone, that .Paak wants people to observe and show gratitude for, even when the glass is half empty.

The album’s finale, “The Dreamer,” has a message that’s hard to ignore—following a snippet of dialogue, the song gently builds with a crescendo of choir voices chanting over airy guitar chords, “Don’t stop now, keep dreaming.” .Paak preaches his identity to his listeners: “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.” In lieu of his father’s presence, .Paak turned to old shows for guidance and comfort, another clue into his vintage feel.

More than anything, Malibu is a soundtrack for outcasts and misfits, for dreamers and underdogs alike. His story empowers those who stray from the conventional—.Paak is by no means your typical rapper, but his unique makeup blossoms from the circumstances of his past.

If .Paak’s life teaches us anything, its that love and the pursuit of passion in the face of struggle makes us invaluably strong and worth knowing, no matter how small the detail.

Rating: A