Review Summary: Promise undulating with staid posturing.
Part of the Anderson .Paak hype- and part of why his sophomore effort, Malibu
, is at least somewhat disappointing- is that he emerged as a promising standout on The Documentary 2
, two of 2015's most overstuffed hip-hop albums. Of course, .Paak had every right to emerge triumphant, his smooth and sultry tones recalling better vocalists whilst tempering unruly album lengths. The problem was that, given such a context, .Paak emerged as a superpower when his execution errs closer to the side of imitator. Don't be mistaken, .Paak certainly has the ability to be the performer his featured appearances strongly hint at; as it goes, though, Malibu
does not entirely deliver on that potential.
Despite his emergence as a humbled, 20-something, Dr. Dre protege, Anderson .Paak relies on a remarkable amount of clichés to pad out Malibu
's hour-long run-time. His gimmick, a deeper throwback to black music tropes than his peers care to muster, is well executed on lead single "The Season / Carry Me", a 5-minute slice of sincere and nostalgic R&B. Of-the-minute hip-hop inflections are best executed on tracks like "Put Me Thru", where .Paak's delivery is enhanced from a dry impression to a sexy swagger. However, whether due to record company politics or a general lack of confidence, songs are often forced to play host to unnecessary features and awkward production choices. Accordingly, BJ the Chicago Kid and The Game make customary appearances to bolster the idea that Malibu
is a throwback record with commercial hip-hop credentials to boot. They don't hinder the affair- "Am I Wrong"", stripped of its ScHoolboy Q verse, could very well be one of .Paak's most infectious and well-rounded tracks- but it's difficult to argue the importance of their presence when the most notable aspect of their appearance is a name in parenthesis. From a marketing standpoint, Malibu
appears poised to assume the backpack rap mantle, glib in its reliance on Motown nostalgia and Top Dawg Entertainment modernity. Predictably, neither source of influence adds up to much, existing merely to buoy .Paak's ideas across 16 tracks of occasional genius and inconsistent glory. Perhaps my words would be far less damning were it not for how .Paak relies so heavily on crutches to explore his ideas. But he does, and Malibu
reaches its forgone conclusion- 'Don't stop now / keep dreaming
,' "The Dreamer"- with predictable trajectory. For all of its misgivings, .Paak can easily render criticisms moot when he writes confidently smooth R&B tunes, such as "Come Down". That he instead chooses to trade in platitudes and trends is one of the reasons that Malibu
fails to standout as much more than promising.
It's funny; although .Paak doesn't make much of a gambit to be at all enigmatic, he's still obviously trying to make his delivery as inimitable as possible. Malibu
isn't bad because it's predictable, it's frustrating because it's confident in achieving little. When he wants to, .Paak tosses of undeniable pop songs without a care in the world- "Come Down" being the prime contender. When he wants to sell Malibu
, he becomes lost in attempts to emulate the classics and the hits. If he had any sense about him, he'd ignore the background noise and pay attention to his own vision, the promise that undulates with Malibu
's staid posturing.