Anderson .Paak Returns to His Roots with ‘Ventura’
Released only a brief five months after his album “Oxnard,” Anderson .Paak’s “Ventura” is the ambitious sequel we didn’t even know we needed. Although both albums were created and executively produced simultaneously with Dr. Dre, “Ventura” showcases a softer and more soulful sound than its predecessor, “Oxnard,” while still extracting nostalgic funk and R&B sounds. During an interview with Esquire, Anderson revealed that Dr. Dre gave him more creative freedom on this album, and listeners everywhere will appreciate the casual richness birthed from that freedom, along with Anderson seeming more comfortable and sure of himself. The album features big names in hip hop and R&B from both today and yesterday, with André 3000, Smokey Robinson, and Jazmine Sullivan included as some of the highlights. Here are five of our favorites from “Ventura.”
Come Home (feat. André 3000)
The first track on an album has the burden of setting both the tone and feel of the project while also being compelling enough to make listeners want to stay for the rest of the album. “Come Home” plays this role perfectly and introduces “Ventura” in the best way. On this track, Anderson .Paak creates a dream-like state for funk, crooning for a former love to come back to him while melodious background vocals accent each verse. André 3000 adds elaborate variety to the track, with his quick-fire verse contrasting with Anderson’s soulful singing.
Make It Better (feat. Smokey Robinson)
Released as the album’s second single, “Make It Better” embraces the elemental sounds of both Motown and hip-hop. This track is sweet in its nature, making it stand out as the most mellifluous song on the album. Here, Anderson sings about the ups and downs of a relationship while pleading to his love to help mend the situation, so that they could again share the love they use to have. Smokey Robinson only offers background vocals for a handful of lines at the end, yet creates an impression that makes the song feel complete while still letting Anderson’s expressive vocals shine.
Reachin’ 2 Much (feat. Lalah Hathaway)
“Ventura” is the quintessential Anderson we know and love. This time around Anderson teams up with Lalah Hathaway over vintage-like production. “Reachin’ 2 Much” starts off as a groovy track with a funky bassline, then a minute-thirty in, the song switches up to a two-steppable track. Anytime Anderson uses his raspy voice to sing, hum, or rap about relationship woes, I’m in.
Good Heels (feat. Jazmine Sullivan)
“Good Heels” is the shortest song on the album and probably the most simplistic, but a gem nonetheless and proves the saying that less can be more. Jazmine Sullivan lends her raspy, sultry voice and plays the role as Anderson’s “girl on the side” while the two trade verses of their perspective of their short-lived affair.
On “Twilight”, .Paak teaches us to look up when we’re upset. The song serves as one of many life lessons on Ventura. The track echos that, without clear directions, it can become hard to focus. True to Anderson .Paak’s style, he plays the lesson off cool with a light-hearted thumping beat that lifts you up into the groovy atmosphere. Pharrell shares space on the song as the producer too, adding his own polyrhythmic twist to the song by pairing claves and a dreamy trumpet that stays true to the song’s uplifting nature.
Due to the laid back style of the record, “Twilight” could easily fade into the tracklisting of his previous albums, “Malibu” and “Venice.” From this, .Paak shows us that he is still everyone’s soul-influenced rapper. However, “Twilight” still shines through, acting as a guiding light to inspire: “You’re my twilight when it’s awfully dark and I lost my way / ‘Cause when my life feels off the mark, you put me back in place.” Looking deeper, you’ll find that “Twilight” is actually an ode to his wife, Jae Lin, that has been with him through thick and thin. The song sets the scene that hopefully, one day, we will look up and find our own twilight during tough times.