The Breakdown: Malibu, by Anderson .Paak

 

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.

1. The Bird

Micah: A fitting introduction to the album. “The Bird” tells you right away this will not be another run-of-the-mill modern R&B album. No stuttering hi-hats or pitched 808s. The instruments are natural, the beat is thick and .Paak’s voice is charismatic and raspy as ever.

Henry: “The Bird” is the word.

 

2. Heart Don’t Stand a Chance

Micah: Might be my favorite on the album, with .Paak on drums and DJ Khalil filling out the production. .Paak says it himself: I know the approach is far from what you’re used to, and in a sense, this song and the rest of the album isn’t like anything else out right now. A hint of hypnotic gospel-like rhythm and harmony with dreamy piano floating over the top. Since the album has released, this song has been getting the most rotation.

Henry: Love that neo-soul bounce. This could be a D’Angelo song. Now there’s a collab I want to see…

 

3. The Waters (ft. BJ the Chicago Kid)

Micah: Madlib’s production on this is incredible. .Paak and BJ the Chicago Kid are both undeniably smooth rap-singers and blend well together here. Really digging this track and looking forward to BJ’s upcoming release.

Henry: I like that we get eased into the more hip-hop side of the album. “The Waters” is a good segue from Malibu’s R&B beginnings into something that feels more like West Coast rap, though .Paak never quite settles into one sound, and that’s what I like about him. BJ crushes the oohs and aahs, and .Paak’s half-sung verses warm us up for the one-two punch of the next track.

 

4. The Season/Carry Me

Micah: I love the production on this song. Oh my goodness. The peculiar combination of reverb and echo-saturated vocal harmonies, vinyl hiss and hugging bass gives me the sensation of flying, or maybe driving really fast. .Paak does some of his most powerful singing and once the beat-switch kicks off, some of his most impressive spitting: ‘Bout the year Drizzy and Cole dropped / Before K. Dot had it locked / I was sleeping on the floor, newborn baby boy / Tryna get my money pot so wifey wouldn’t get deported.

Henry: This twofer is by far my favorite of the singles from Malibu. I was not-so-secretly hoping for a Kendrick feature on this album, but .Paak channels him on this one. The two have apparently become friends after working on Compton, so hopefully that comes into fruition, maybe later this year… A guy can dream, can’t he?

 

5. Put Me Thru

Henry: I love the bass on this track. God damn, I love the bass on this whole album, but this one especially. Strange and elusive, too afraid to lose it.

Micah: Yup, this song is all about the bass. .Paak is credited with providing production on three songs, all of which heavily emphasize natural instrumentation, and “Put Me Thru” is a concise and powerful display of what .Paak can create outside of the vocal booth. Give me a whole album produced entirely by .Paak and accompanied by the funkiest studio musicians available. Please.

 

6. Am I Wrong (featuring Schoolboy Q)

Micah: Very groovy, and very well put together. This is one of the more danceable songs on Malibu and has been in heavy rotation since it was released a few weeks ago. Schoolboy comes through maintaining his highly consistent flow and vocal presence. The interplay between .Paak and Q is fantastic and I would be thrilled to see .Paak featured on Schoolboy’s upcoming release.

Henry: If she can’t dance, she can’t (ooh)

 

7. Without You (featuring Rapsody)

Micah: Rapsody can’t spit a bad verse and she continues to do no wrong on this bass-dominated groove provided by 9th Wonder. A story of a breakup, .Paak’s first verse shows a man struggling with trust and abandonment, while Rapsody attacks a jealous, mooching cheater who can’t get his shit together enough to realize what he’s throwing away. Rapsody’s verse is sharp, expressive and captivating. I can’t get enough of her and 9th Wonder together and .Paak just sweetens the pot.

Henry: Agreed. Rapsody has the best feature on the album. All of the other guests seem like guests, but these verses actually work in dialogue to tell a story. Great songwriting, everything working together.

 

8. Parking Lot

Micah: One of the more overproduced tracks on the album, and it is better off for it. The glowing synthesized pads hover above the bouncing percussion, while .Paak’s vocals are tucked carefully into the mix, propelling the crescendos but not demanding the spotlight. You can really hear what every element is doing at once. I love playing this song in the whip.

Henry: This song seems like the outlier on the album to me, maybe my least favorite although that’s only due to some really stiff competition. .Paak could make a dope hipster rock album if he wanted to.

 

9. Lite Weight (featuring The Free Nationals United Fellowship Choir)

Henry: Again, I prefer the more laid back neo-soul and West coast hip-hop feels found elsewhere on this album, but this song does have a nice groove. I love how crisp the drums are, and the ad libs really bring it all together.

Micah: I have no idea what the story on this choir is. Who they are or how they came to work with .Paak is beyond me, but their fusion with KAYTRANADA’s production and .Paak’s sound is on point. I like this one.

 

10. Room in Here (featuring The Game & Sonyae Elise)

Henry: In which The Game takes another L, this time from a girl who dips out in an uber. I like to think that it’s Rapsody just playing all the dudes on this album.

Micah: I’m confident that Rapsody could body The Game. His verse managed to hold my attention, but isn’t something I can see myself returning to. The song itself is somber, yet driven. I would imagine it would be a great song for driving around in the rain. Not a standout, but not filler either.

 

11. Water Fall (Interluuube)

Micah: Chris Dave, might be my favorite drummer on the planet right now and this strange and slippery interlude is fantastic to me. Short, sweet and very sexy. I like this a lot.

Henry: This could be an R Kelly song. As soon as I break down the wall, I’m riding the wave of your waterfall. Every classic R&B album has to have that over-the-top baby-maker. .Paak & co crush it. These guys fuck.

 

12. Your Prime

Micah: This song is a continuation of the baby-making interlude it follows. I think it was Paul Simon who asked, Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone? I don’t think .Paak is concerned about that eventuality. He just wants them to get back in bed.

Henry: Another one where .Paak channels Kendrick, and also Cee-Lo. Something about the slow, bouncy 6/8 reminds me of Rollin, by Dungeon Family. Man, I love that song.

 

13. Come Down

Micah: The last single to drop before the album’s release, No Come Down is propelled forward by a driving bassline and a deeply funky tambourine shimmy. Not the best song on the album, but certainly not filler either.

Henry: That tambourine shimmy tho…

 

14. Silicon Valley

Micah: I really don’t know whether I like this song or not. It’s cool because it’s like nothing else on the album, but the smoothness and subtlety found on the rest of the album is derailed on this song. It’s great on it’s own but is a little too jolting in sequence.

Henry: What’s behind them tig ol biddies? I think Anderson .Paak just about the only person who could get away with that line. I’d be his Jujube any day…

 

15. Celebrate

Micah: I love the feel of this song. Dirty bassline, cool-as-hell guitar and casually delivered vocals. Here we can really hear the gospel in .Paak. This is his “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”. It’s uplifting, yet challenging and motivating. Most wholesome song on the album.

Henry: This is the throwback for sure, but it’s one of my favorites. This song could sit right in any oldies playlist, but it fits here just as well. Classic.

 

16. The Dreamer (featuring Talib Kweli & Timan Family Choir)

Micah: Malibu’s closer didn’t really seal the deal for me. The production is too busy for my liking, and Talib’s verse doesn’t do much for me. A decent song, but in my opinion one of the weaker points on the album. I would have prefered “Celebrate” closed out the show.

Henry: I do like this song, although I agree that the album would play better for me if the last two tracks were switched around. Still, I love the image of .Paak’s lil dude swaggin’ like his pa, and I understand why this was chosen as the last song. Word to the free lunch, who knew what we would become, says Talib. His formulation conjures the recollection of a present conditional, the anticipation of an artistic triumph which has yet to happen, is happening, has already happened. It’s an acknowledgement of that timelessness I mentioned earlier, a remembrance of the past, but always with eyes on the future. 


Henry Whittier-Ferguson & Micah Roehlkepartain