‘A force to be reckoned with'
Sarah Thomas
09:00 15th April 2019

More about:

Working on a release schedule that drops two albums in the space of six months might just be the future in an age of streaming. We’ve witnessed pop mogul Ariana Grande reach the peak of her success with albums Sweetener and Thank U, Next arriving within months of each other, and it seems the industry are catching on. Anderson .Paak a.k.a. Brandon Paak Anderson had only just released Oxnard – his first album with Dr.Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment label – before hinting at the possibility of a second album not far behind. 

The album was met with critiques of lack-lustre impressions and dissatisfied fans, leading to whispers that the quick turnaround of his brand-new record Ventura was to shift the focus away from its bad publicity. Whatever it’s reasoning, .Paak has undoubtedly redeemed the views of his critics with an album crafted of slick hip-hop and 70s soul.

Harnessing once more the delectable production of Dr.Dre, .Paak claims Ventura was held back after finishing production of Oxnard simultaneously. Yet, Ventura’s laidback stance and old-school soundscape is far from its prior. Opening up with the heavenly sounds of soulful choir-like vocals on ‘Come Home’, the album instantly resonates with .Paak’s church upbringing as glimmering percussion runs and funk basslines frame André 3000’s quickfire rap. 

Lead single ‘Make It Better’ follows up with .Paak’s sweet vocal rasp carrying this blissful slice of soul alongside Smokey Robinson, as flourishing strings sound almost cinematic against a modern hip-hop beat. Juxtaposing perfectly ‘King James’ pays homage to Lebron James and serves up protest lyricisms against the current political landscape as jolting basslines catch .Paak stating, “If they build a wall, let’s jump this fence, I’m over this.” Whilst critics have questioned its blasé sound, the delivery of lyrics on the gun crisis and Presidential failures against a brass section so sanguine is the kind of light relief such heavy topics demand. 

Playful contrasts of social commentary and social mockery is what .Paak does so effortlessly on this album, and ‘Yada Yada’ is its monarch. It strikes out as a summer anthem as echoes of kids playing diffuse over vibrant piano chords. Yet, its irony deters from its jovial beat as he raps, “casually talking that global warmth, as if the temperature didn’t blow out your perm, our days are numbered I’d rather count what I’ve earned”. Undeniably, .Paak’s ability to switch his listeners’ focus from hard-hitting rhythms to political lyricisms is truly adept.

Experimenting further with cross-genre nuances, ‘Winners Circle’ infuses RnB backing singers and shifting rhythm progression as vocals, claps and bass build up its hip-hop beat. Closing the album, the soul of 60s Motown resonates as plucked guitars and dreamy male backing vocals sing their woes of love on ‘What Can We Do’. Working with samples of the late Nate Dogg, the track tows the line beautifully from hip-hop to sounding like a lost record of The Temptations.

In all his lyricisms of casual affairs on the intimate cymbal dusting ‘Good Heels’ and yearning for love in the synth psychedelia of ‘Chosen One’, .Paak never strays too far from delivering an album of effortless 70s soul and fresh hip-hop. All that was preconceived surrounding this release has been undone in one of his best works to date. For fans of Paak’s work with Mac Miller and live shows with Thundercat, this album is for you. And so, listen if not for .Paak’s extraordinary musicianship but for its deft production, old-school influences and Ventura spirit on some of the best hip-hop and rap of 2019. Ventura is surely a force to be reckoned with.

Ventura is out now via Aftermath Entertainment.

Issue Two of the Gigwise Print magazine is on sale now! Buy it here.

More about: