This is exactly what happened with Anderson .Paak.
When he released his debut album Oxnard on Aftermath Records in 2018, the album was intended as a star-studded, big-budget epic to mark his move from indie labels to Dr. Dre’s behemoth Aftermath Entertainment.
Oxnard turned out to be a commercial success, despite mixed reviews. Fans felt Anderson lost his musical identity on Oxnard, as the album seemed to be an attempt to cross over to the mainstream since he had the backing of hip-hop legend Dr. Dre.
But Anderson seemed to pay close attention to those critiques, as just five months after his last album Oxnard, singer/producer/drummer/entertainer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak redeemed himself with his latest effort Ventura, his fourth studio LP.
Ventura opens with “Come Home”, a dreamy track that sets the tone for an album oozing of nostalgia of Anderson’s previous work. Out the gate, the song’s soulful production is the sound that fans are accustomed to hearing from Anderson.
His previous album was stocked with verses from luminaries like Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip, and Kendrick Lamar; but Ventura’s only guest rapper, Andre 3000, appears on the first track “Come Home” and doesn’t disappoint.
Since Idlewild, Andre 3000 has made a habit of releasing guest verses when he feels like it, in a sense. On “Come Home” he raps over a free-flowing soulful instrumental and shows why fans, despite never releasing a solo album of his own, praise him.
The song is a great opening and gives listeners early glimpses of what made Anderson so popular amongst his core fans.
In 2015, he emerged into the national spotlight, thanks to six features on Compton, the long-gestating Dr. Dre album formerly known as Detox. Anderson then released two full-length albums in 2016 with Malibu and Yes Lawd! – a collaboration with producer Knxwledge under the name NxWorries.
The albums were a breath of fresh air, as they were grooves musically. Ventura returned to the root of his musical range. This is evident on the album’s second track titled “Make It Better”, featuring legend Smokey Robinson. The song speaks on keeping a timeworn relationship intact.
“Make It Better” sounds like a song Smokey would have written during his Motown days with a modern day twist. The song doesn’t sound outdated, as it is a natural groove that can resonate musically with all generations.
The album touches on various topics, mostly dealing with different aspects of love. On “Winner’s Circle” he sings “Cause if I know I can get it, then I’ve already had it/I’m cool.” Even a moment of infidelity on “Good Heels,” a short interlude-like track featuring Jazmine Sullivan, has the simmering warmth of a dimmed-lights affair.
But on one of the standout tracks, “King James”, he takes a more serious tone and discusses the African-American experience in 2019; including prejudice, protest, and responses to the protests from white people.
The lyrical content is a direct dedication to four-time NBA MVP LeBron James and all the contributions he has made to communities across the country, despite the many walls that have been put in his way.
The album ends with “What Can We Do?” featuring vocals from the late-great west coast legend Nate Dogg, who died in 2011. Nate Dogg apparently laid down hundreds of verses for Dr. Dre, as the vocals on the closing track have never been heard before.
The song flawlessly blends the vocals of both singers, creating a sound that exists in neither the future nor present. “What Can We Do?” is a funky, goofy and serious song that ends the album beautifully.
Ventura proves that Anderson has learned from his mistakes on Oxnard, and has learned to satisfy his nostalgic soul musically, while still slightly catering to mainstream audiences.
It’s the sound that fans have grown to love from Anderson. It’s funky and soulful. It’s not his peak musically like he displayed on Malibu, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.