Anderson .Paak has evolved from a cult gem in hip hop to a truly universal performer. His new record collects some of the strongest voices in the genre while bringing so many great songs behind the vocals that you’ll be finding something new on every listen. Though I would rarely say a record slaps in a review, .Paak delivers so consistently on this record that it’s one of the most accurate ways to describe how great this record feels.
So much of this new .Paak record soars on collaboration, that it’s only made all the more exceptional that he got such great talent to start off with. “The Chase” is grooving hard in its funk glory and jazz attacks that additions like Kadhja Bonet ground the listen in a wonderful way. Each chorus fires off loud harmonies before the two singers achieve a vocal synergy of their own. “Headlow” on the other hand beats out with a much more beat-focused groove, letting hip hop infect the music in wondrously fun ways. Just when you think it can’t get any more exciting, “Tints” just drives like nothing else, with its bass hooks hitting so fat that you’ll be overcome with dance energy. As usual, Kendrick’s mix of poetic lyricism and rhythms that can play in and out of the band makes for a listen that takes you higher.
It’s cool however that .Paak sequences the record more like a story, as he moves in and out of tracks with his friends to his own solo ventures, with very distinct separation between the two. This sees a track like “Who R U?” taking a much darker direction, letting percussion overcome as his vocals hit out with equally obtuse rhythms. “6 Summer” slaps hard as its hook just oozes a since of seduction and danger, with every cry of “Trump’s got a love child” revealing a new end of the world .Paak is exploring on this record. .Paak even switches energies seamlessly to try and bring a sense of hope back to his political commentary. Though “Saviers Road” simplifies things down a bit, it still lends a strong sense of atmosphere to its narrative-centred rap. Speaking of which, the relaxing tones of “Smile/Petty” is able to let its more frustrated reflections feel pensive and more addictive than abrasive. Though it shifts pretty aggressively into its second half, the new sense of gospel chorus that surrounds the pounding drums really evolves the song.
When the album gets aggressive again, the energy moves to more futuristic tones, as .Paak sees his collaborators as much as song-leaders as himself. “Mansa Musa” kicks out with all the swagger and ambition of a modern classic, as Dre and Cocoa Sarai find their own soul within a track that .Paak can easily hold down on his own. Every chorus will have you chanting, and the growing urgency in the sax and weird background tones shows .Paak is ready to move hip hop somewhere weird again. There’s a much calmer and R&B driven atmosphere to “Brother’s Keeper” that while tempered, sees Pusha T dropping some of his strongest verses in recent memory. .Paak is also one of the few people to get a song out of Snoop Dogg recently that feels effortlessly smooth rather than borderline goofy, which reminds us exactly why Snoop is such a gem. Even the chorus chants of “Anywhere” are too fun to ignore here, as the song rocks with something as simple as groove and vocals. Equally J. Cole’s vocals on “Trippy” ride in a wonderfully smooth way, that returns to his less mainstream roots in the best way possible.
With the punchy arrangements of “Cheers” .Paak goes all out in his delivery to have you hanging on his every word. Q-Tip drives the song through its much darker and slower bridge, and is seamlessly able to evolve his performance over whatever the track demands. Going into the final moments of the record, .Paak is just as hungry, bringing out hilarious lyricism on “Sweet Chick” and some truly exciting rhythms on the abrasive but utterly infectious “Left To Right.”
Words by Owen Maxwell