Now more than ever, the sheer talent and artistry of Californian musician Anderson .Paak can’t be denied. .Paak’s 2018 album “Oxnard” was a soul music and hip-hop epic that boasted bold production, impressive guest verses and infectious choruses. As if this project wasn’t enough for fans, .Paak revealed a few months later that he’d been working on another album at the same time “Oxnard” was being mastered. On April 12, fans got “Ventura,” the elusive second album .Paak had been saving since November.
When .Paak first burst into the music scene in mid 2010, he came with a distinct neo-soul and funk sound that helped him gain his initial fanbase. As time went on, he began to develop an impressive rap voice and started to work with hip-hop legends such as Dr. Dre and members of Top Dawg Entertainment. “Ventura” seems to hark back to .Paak’s success as a purely soul-funk artist, with all of the songs containing more singing than rap flows and the production seeming purely instrument-based.
This return to form for .Paak not only brings back fond memories of his earlier days as a musician, but also displays his growth as an artist. Every sound on this project is authentic and well thought out when observing all the moving parts. .Paak’s voice is top-notch and acts as an extension of the instrumentation. It’s buttery smooth, flows well and is filled with confidence, leaving listeners with a pleasant feeling throughout the whole project.
What makes this album so special is its ability to offer a grounded and comforting vibe. The majority of .Paak’s recent work has been overflowing with charisma and boldness. While these are sounds he wears well, it’s a nice change of pace for him to take a step back sonically and offer a more humble sense of direction with his work. Everything from the lyrics to the production and delivery softly radiates a silky sound.
“Make It Better” is a prime example of .Paak’s purity and groundedness on this project. This song centers around the idea of wanting to rekindle the feeling of true love with someone you’ve invested so much in. The chants of “Do you want to make it better?” throughout the chorus are filled with genuine heartfeltness. “Come Home” carries a similar direction and features production that’s simply beautiful. Gorgeous pianos, choir harmonizations and blaxploitation-style flute rifts all work together to build on the theme of just wanting one’s lifelong lover back.
With this being a pure soul-funk album, the proper guest features needed to be recruited, and .Paak made some great choices. The legendary Andre 3000 makes an appearance on “Come Home,” with every single word of his lightning fast verse delivered in a classic and commanding fashion. It’s clear he put a good amount of thought into his lines in this song.
Jazmine Sullivan’s verse on “Good Heels” may be a bit on the short side, but her chemistry with .Paak is so spectacular that it’s barely an issue. Lastly, Nate Dogg’s verse on the final track of the project, titled “What Can We Do?,” is a collaboration made in heaven. Dogg is more melodic than one would expect on this song and overall gives the album a satisfying finish.
As a follow-up to “Oxnard,” “Ventura” offers a much more comforting and laid-back performance from .Paak that’s just as enjoyable as its predecessor. However, as a standalone project, ‘Ventura’ is a love letter to soul-funk as a whole and proves that no matter what he does, .Paak cannot seem to falter in the music industry and will go down as one of the greatest success stories of this generation.
Contact Julian Denizard at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.