“Oxnard,” Anderson .Paak’s third studio album, comes as a follow-up to his critically acclaimed breakthrough, 2016’s “Malibu.” On this new record, .Paak continues with an upbeat amalgamation of older funk, soul and hip-hop influences, alongside a slew of high-profile collaborators including Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre and Pusha T.
As usual, .Paak exhibits an undeniable sense of confidence with his music. This time around, the validity of his self-assurance feels even harder to question.
After becoming a popular name with “Malibu,” .Paak toured extensively with his backing band, the Free Nationals, and built up a reputation outside of the studio as an engaging and charismatic live performer.
That same energy works its way into a number of the songs on “Oxnard.” The album’s exceptional opener, “The Chase,” sets the bar high, placing .Paak’s determined hip-hop delivery over a cinematic string section and filtered, ‘70s-style guitar licks.
.Paak comes out of the gate strong with a bold flow and multiple sports references: “Hard to get up from this like Sonny Liston / Feel like it's Ed and Laimbeer with the Pistons.”
The two following tracks, “Headlow” and “Tints,” highlight .Paak’s talent for crafting irresistible hooks, backed by funky, bass-driven instrumentals. The songs also share a loose thematic connection; on the former, .Paak sings about receiving oral sex on the I-9 freeway, while the latter focuses on his need for tinted windows.
.Paak then creates a shift in the lyrical subject matter — with a confrontational beat to match — on the overtly political “6 Summers.” He calls out Donald Trump by name, referencing an affair that allegedly resulted in the birth of a kid. “Trump’s got a love child and I hope that bitch is buckwild,” .Paak sings. “I hope she kiss señoritas and black gals / I hope her momma’s El Salv.”
Halfway through the track, however, .Paak’s mood shifts away from antagonistic banter. He pleas for a solution, referencing gun violence, societal tension and Trump’s presidential term with a catchy chorus: “This shit gon' bang for at least six summers / But ain't shit gon' change for at least three summers.”
.Paak’s lyrics may be on-the-nose, but his cadence communicates sincerity and the musical composition reflects a complex mix of anger and sadness — making for one of the album’s definitive high points.
Still, other tracks on the album feel like unnessercery padding, especially with some of the guest verses. Snoop Dogg’s contribution on “Anywhere” adds a greater context to the album’s G-funk influences, but these types of hip-hop cameos lead to a reliance on star power. Verses from J. Cole and Pusha T also end up feeling lackluster and uninspired.
Recurring elements in the album’s production — bombastic drum beats and dirty basslines — also start to venture into monotony, despite .Paak’s engaged attitude throughout.
But the album finishes on a high note with the Dr. Dre-produced “Cheers,” on which .Paak reflects on the recent passing of his friend and collaborator Mac Miller. .Paak brings a hopeful tone to the somber subject matter. The track also finishes off with a thoughtful guest verse from Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.
“Oxnard” is not a groundbreaking album, and a number of the weaker tracks are more suited for background music at a party rather than active listening. At its high points, however, the album provides well-crafted pop music that is almost impossible not to move to. Anderson .Paak seems be having a lot of fun with it as well, which is worth something.