It isn’t often that Dr. Dre handpicks an artist to mentor, coach, and mold into his next superstar. After NWA, he did it with Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg; then Eminem and 50 Cent. The format seems to be that when he finds his new generation of talent, he releases a solo album with the help of those artists and then supports them as they build their own discography. When Dr. Dre put out Compton three years ago and Anderson .Paak was the most featured artist on it, a lot of people took note. We sure did. .Paak’s next album Malibu was the first project we reviewed on The What and we’ve kept a close eye on him ever since.
Henry: Blank Face is hard to read. Schoolboy Q’s latest release has me staring, trying to read its expression. The problem with being on TDE is that the Kendrick comparisons are inevitable, and although he still isn’t winning those, Q has clearly been in the classroom, honing his craft alongside some of the best rappers in the game right now. His vocal delivery here is solid, varied, laid back yet energetic, and complimented by a host of producers who maintain a steady energy throughout. What the album lacks is a clear statement. The series of videos released for Blank Face tell a story of Q getting caught up in a robbery with his homies, but the songs only loosely correspond to the narrative in the visuals. Given just the music, it’s hard to discern any particular focus. Maybe this unreadability is the meaning of the title, an inscrutable facade, empty as a blank page. Then again, maybe I’m reading too far into it…
Micah: I’ve been very excited about the release of this album for a while now. Like a lot of people, I discovered .Paak when he was featured all over Dr. Dre’s Compton. I fell in love with hiscollaboration with Knxwledge on “Suede”. He reminds me of a raspier, more prolific Frank Ocean-Andre 3000 hybrid who croons more than he raps. Malibu is warm, blissful, groove-dominated and smooth as hell. It’s enthralling the entire way with no filler and no sound out of place. I will be very surprised if this album does not make the top 10 for this year.
In Rotation: The Bird, Heart Don’t Stand a Chance, The Waters, The Season/Carry Me, Put Me Thru, Am I Wrong, Parking Lot, Room in Here, Come Down, The Dreamer
Henry: I picked up Cover Art a few years back off of Hellfyre Club’s bandcamp, and it’s been a pleasure watching Anderson .Paak come up since then. Pretty much everything the dude touches is fire. What strikes me most about Malibu is its timelessness. .Paak’s voice weaves through a spectrum of genres and periods to capture an aesthetic that is unmistakably Californian in its sunny optimism. Even in the dark places it manages to be bright, hot, gleaming like candy paint on a vintage low rider that has been kept alive since the mid-sixties with equal parts love and elbow grease. There’s something for everybody in Malibu.
In Rotation: The whole album. I think this project flows very well from start to finish, and should be listened to that way. I’ve pretty much had it on repeat since it dropped.