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She was a farmer, born in South Korea and adopted in the '50s before moving to Compton, where she was raised. He was in the Air Force, a young man from Philadelphia, who wound up behind bars and eventually, in an early grave. A cinematic synopsis, yet this isn’t really about He or She. This is about the product of them, their son, Brandon Anderson Paak and his vibrant kaleidoscopic story – a swirling, brilliant narrative of a young boy from California, who grew up performing in church, from bare beginnings, before a manifested maturation around Los Angeles' underground beat scene uncovered and nurtured one of the West Coast’s most exciting alt-rap pacemakers.
"My sister used to sing to Whitney. My mama caught the gambling bug. We came up in a lowly castle, my papa was behind them bars. We never had to want for nothing, said all we ever need is love," the Oxnard artist recounts on 'The Birds,' a jazzy morning conversation with his piano and trumpet over coffee, on the 29-year-old’s sophomore opus, Malibu. The spectral album is more than a 16-track piece of shape-shifting mid-tempo R&B, hip-hop, funk and 70's soul-fused compositions over trundling drum-loops and manic basslines, although all the organic groove-based production sustained by live instrumentation is a testament to .Paak's fascinating sonic palate. A sensory experience, no doubt.
But Malibu's brilliance lies in the core of him – Anderson's raw, vulnerable and powerful voice, dense in shades and tones that fill contemporary voids with its fluidity and texture, grit and goodness. His syncopated flow, soul harmonies and trap cadences, dig their dirty fingernails into .Paak's words, which scribble over music notes with a golden pen, identifying his sins and reliving his glories. In a story that pits him in the foreground, Anderson juggles the part of protagonist, narrator and oftentimes the villain of his own story. On 'Put Me Thru' he accounts his struggle with self-inflicted pain and pride-directed decisions. But on brilliant album stand-out 'The Season/Carry Me,' (which should have been two separate tracks,) .Paak is gracious, vulnerable and vivid, recounting the symbols that stuck with him through childhood, with which he now fosters and grows, while thanking his mother for giving him the tools to harvest.
Preceded by the biggest year of his entire career, a short time-frame that welcomed the release of two commended collaborative EP's, along with an all-encompassing six-track assist on Dr. Dre's critically acclaimed Compton LP, Anderson has been submerged under hype ever since, branded as a sonic representation of club kids, Cali weed and Tumblr music. But Malibu’s millennial jazz appeal not only lived up to .Paak's hype but elevated it, proving vision and brilliance are not manufactured and marketed equipment. New-found notoriety did however garner larger features than past work, welcoming seasoned guest-roles from ScHoolBoy Q, Talib Kweli, BJ the Chicago Kid, Rapsody and The Game, who puts forward one of his most disarming verses on single 'Room in Here.'
"Mama was a farmer. Papa was a goner." But their son is somebody defying the odds of societal constraints while building a plush sonic palace to play in – the kind he never had growing up. "Who cares ya 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," Anderson .Paak spits on album closer, 'The Dreamer.' And re-run and repeat is exactly what we’ll be doing with Malibu, the year’s first R&B masterpiece.
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