During the early 1960’s Malibu gained recognition as being home to Hollywood’s biggest movie stars, it’s perfect weather, seemingly endless beaches and surf culture – a place for adventure and excitement. Symbolically, Malibu is representative of the American Dream (or at least the propagated version of it), a dream where a person works hard for something and their reward is this euphoric land.
On January 15th the southern California-based artist, Anderson .Paak released his fourth album, Malibu, which delves into .Paak’s version of the American Dream, and his coming of age as an artist. Malibu puts .Paak’s talents as a singer, rapper, and producer on full display. Musically, .Paak shows his ability to merge soulful R&B vocals, hip-hop rhythmic patterns, jazz influenced chord progressions, and the pain and passion of the Blues. Anderson .Paak’s eclectic sound should come as no surprise, as he was raised in the Black Church, playing the drums, and follows a rich tradition of musicians coming from the Black Church.
Malibu boasts production credits from hip-hop giants such as 9th Wonder and Madlib, as well as some up-and-coming producers – Kaytranada and Dem Jointz, and Knxwledge. The collaborations for Malibu are equally as impressive, with features from Schoolboy Q, BJ the Chicago Kid, Rapsody, The Game, and Talib Kweli.
Thematically, Malibu is a departure from .Paak’s previous work, (See Venice and Link Up and Suede) as he takes on a more vulnerable position and delves further into his personal life and childhood. Malibu walks the listener through .Paak’s journey as an up-and-coming artist, father, and husband. While reflective and exposing much of his turbulent past, .Paak is able tell his story without coming off preachy or presenting a sorrowful pity story – it’s a story of perseverance, pride, and hope.
Like the pacific ocean, Malibu moves in waves, from dreams of success and personal challenges, to stories of romance and love.
Malibu begins with “The Bird,” which explores .Paak’s childhood growing up in, what he calls, a “lonely castle. ” His mother struggled with gambling, in addition to spending time in prison, and his father, being in the military, was often away from home. But, this lonely castle would be where .Paak developed his musical roots and learned the importance of patience and developed his ear for music. .Paak carries a similar tone on “The Season | Carry Me,” which is a two-part song, where the 1st half tells the story of dreaming, and working, for his big breakthrough – stating “My faith is buried somewhere underneath the town, until it’s paid for/Strawberry Season, my sweetheart is coming round, I hear it rain and pour.” The second part of the song delves into his desire to pursue, and be successful doing music, yet struggling, and needing to provide for his newborn son, and fearing the potential deportation of his wife. In pursuit of the dream .Paak has envisioned for himself, as well as trying to make ends meet, he tells of the times where he had his older sister claim him on her taxes, pleading with Uncle Sam to pardon him, as well as giving his mother $10,000 for gambling money, in hopes that she could triple her input and he could get half of her earnings.
In addition to telling to .Paak’s story of perseverance, Malibu showcases .Paak’s ability to make up-tempo, dance records as well as slower ballads. The highlight of this phase of the album is undoubtedly .Paak’s collaboration with Schoolboy Q on “Am I Wrong” – an upbeat ode to early 80’s R&B/Disco, driven by horns and a [funky] rhythm guitar. “Silicon Valley” tells the story of .Paak’s desire to know a girl beyond her body, asking “All that body you came with/But where are you mentally?” and pleading for her to open her heart.
Malibu closes with “The Dreamer” – a collaboration Talib Kweli and the Timan Family Choir – which talks about the hope .Paak has for his son, being a “product of the tube and free lunch,” as the choir sings “don’t stop now keep dreaming” in the background. As the choir fades out, a small skit begins with a man talking about all of the wonders of Malibu, the excitement, adventure and its place as an alternative to the controls of bureaucracy. It seems that .Paak has aptly named his potential commercial breakthrough album, as his dreams of success and making it big are beginning to come full circle.