Anderson .Paak’s feel-good genre fusions and lightly political messages makes his third solo album both dynamic and accessible. His cutting edge production techniques and soul, funk, and 90’s influences are expertly weaved together in “Oxnard.” The record’s features tend toward established artists, including Dr. Dre, Pusha T, Q-tip, and Snoop Dogg. Each feature accents his musical sensibilities while generating a lot of attention for the album.
As a whole, “Oxnard” is easy listening. Many of the tracks seamlessly blend into each other. This makes for a cohesive album that lends itself to single-sitting listens. The standouts among the album are generally songs that switch up .Paak’s comfortable soft funk sound or depart from his go-to lyrical topics of relationships and success.
The first standout track on the album is “Who R U?” Dr. Dre had a heavy hand in making this one of the most unique sounding cuts on the record. .Paak’s flow changes throughout the verses, but clear production and a focused instrumental keep the song from derailing.
“6 Summers,” on the other hand, boasts the record’s most interesting, layered lyrics. .Paak creates a playful premise — Donald Trump having a rebellious lovechild — to dive into the issue of ever-present gun violence. The self-aware chorus tells us, “This sh*t gon’ bang for at least six summers/But ain’t sh*t gon’ change for at least three summers.”
The majority of “Oxnard” doesn’t directly address politics, so “6 Summers” stands out as a piece of cathartic topical art. As a counter to the jokey lyrics that open the track, the song devastatingly closes with the line “reform shoulda came sooner”—making “6 Summers” one of the best cuts from the album.
The rest of “Oxnard” features songs like “Smile/Petty,” “Mansa Musa,” “Anywhere,” and “Sweet Chick,” which recall the joyous rapture of .Paak’s summertime single, “Bubblin’.” “Cheers,” a similarly joyful cut, offers a more bittersweet moment. The track takes time to give a tribute to those who helped .Paak get to where he is — specifically the late Mac Miller.
“Oxnard” is an uplifting feel-good album that transcends typical restraints in genre. Although .Paak incorporates an impressive list of co-stars and a well-crafted fusion of genres, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of his previous record, Malibu. “Oxnard” could be interpreted as a reassertion of optimism in the face of hardship, but it could also be classified as a hedonistic album crafted in the face of hardship. The record’s smart lyricism suggests the former. Anderson .Paak’s joy serves as a source of brightness that persists regardless of its environment, and “Oxnard” is no exception.
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