The quasi-grunge cover art for Malibu tugged at my fancy long enough for me to want to give at least two of its tracks a fair listen. Three-quarters of the way into “The Season”, I’m on another web page streaming the entire album. The next day, its ‘most played’ on my playlist. I’d never heard of the name .Paak till I saw the strings he pulled on Dre’s “Compton”, and even at that, I wasn’t motivated enough to search him out. Who would’ve guessed that a four minute peep into his latest work would have me doing an about-face.
Malibu is high-society. I’ll be faintly surprised if I don’t find myself sipping champagne or loitering around in tiger skin whenever this album comes on. Anderson .Paak’s fizzy rasp has a charisma of its own, lending luster to an otherwise matte lyric or dull turn of phrase. On first listen, you can be sold by the blunt eclecticism it asserts. Touting an extensive capital of sound, the album appears to reinvent itself as it progresses; a key aspect of production many artistes frequently elude for the sake of convenience, or by way of slackness. Save for a few exceptions, 70% of the singles on a good number of albums these days sound like stock reiterations of a common blueprint, consequently resulting in a hackneyed aesthetic. Major vibe-kill.
Malibu manages to eschew the dissonance and instrumental clutter that plagues most efforts at ornate production. Kanye’s variety of maximalism squares evenly with .Paak’s on a few levels; where each song houses a set of melodies that jibe smoothly with all other aspects of the piece, twinning elements of tenuously linked sub-genres in a manner that sieves out stylistic excesses and retains the essentials. Malibu is an exercise in lottery; the chance meeting of tone and phrase, the loose coincidence of chord and cadence, bound to either meet you on a good note, or not.
Generally, if an album under-performs lyrically, it should compensate for that lack, in either sound, structure, or both. The epochal stretch of ‘good riddance to good writtens ‘ brims over into 2016 with albums like Jeffery, Young Thug’s most recent churn-out, and New English, Desiigner’s animating debut album (both trap albums).
These lyrical compromises in the one don’t necessarily cloud the integrity of other similarly related and frequently referenced genres by way of shared kinship, as much as they play up the efforts of albums that choose to finesse these lyrical shortcomings, outright. Personally, I never expect much in terms of lyrics from anything bearing the R&B or Neo-Soul tag, because to me, vocals are more stressed in these cases; but on Malibu, .Paak decides to mirror the efforts of the avant-gardes in the game, namely, Frank Ocean… &… Frank Ocean, placing equal emphasis on his pen and his vocals, leaving you with an upshot where abundances outweigh deficits.
Sheering between amorous come-ons in the Game assisted “Room in here” and introspective yearning on the second-half of “The Season/Carry Me”, .Paak projects a level of self-awareness that’s convincing enough to sell his catalog of lines to the average listener, creating a case where sound and pitch are used to lend heft to the weight of his subtexts. Occasionally there’s the lo-fi crackle of old vinyl that pushes that 90’s feel closer to the heart of the project. .Paak is an old soul who realises that sonic cleanliness when in excess, comes off as synthetic, and at times, sterile.
Culling Hank Moody, ” …while I’m down there it might be nice to see a hint of pubis. I’m not talking about a huge 70’s Playboy bush or anything. Just something that reminds me that I’m performing cunnilingus on an adult.” Taking this quote in context, I’ll go out on a limb to say that music is like sex. It’s the slight imperfections and the teasing flaws that reassure you you’re still making love to an actual human being, not a mannequin. Sometimes, images of people on the net get digitized beyond the threshold of humanness, rendering them cosmetic and impersonal, and by default, stripping them of the kind of organic appeal that endears you to a woman, fresh out the shower, hair damp and out of place, wrong in all the right ways. On this album, Anderson .Paak uses irony to his advantage, masquerading flaws as strengths, and foibles as fortes.
Living in an age where children bear the names of inter-cardinal directions, Kim gets robbed by n#ggas in Paris, and Kanye makes slave-wear fashionable, everything is left to chance. You can either get blindsided by fumbling stupidity, or caught unawares by a wave of genius. With reference to the latter, Malibu excels. But as a side note, Malibu isn’t necessarily an album for everyone. A half-hearted listen will wring out little more than an “oh, nice” from the casual listener. Wakefulness is urged if you genuinely want to enjoy this album. Submit yourself to the sound, if you have an ear for art, you just may catch the magic.
From an admittedly subjective standpoint, Malibu “brings it”. If Queen Elizabeth were to reincarnate as an audio file, she’d come back as this.
SixSays: Anything with ears should have this album, that means you and your dog.
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