It would be reaching and sorely cliché to tell you Malibu is a state of mind. It’s not. It’s in California. But to argue the ocean-backed community doesn’t wiggle its way into the borders of an idealistic mindset would run moot in no time. Anderson .Paak is a civilian in the latter, feels like a descendant from the first. Formerly an Associate of LA’s weird-guy-rap-pack Hellfyre Club where he was formerly referred to as Breezy Lovejoy is currently holding the highest profile of the young collaborators from Dre’s Compton (minus King Kunta, but that goes without saying), and his second full length Malibu could be called an absolute triumph if it weren’t so inclined to shrug off the notion and casually sip a mai-tai.
Malibu is roughly the equivalent to a day on the beach that Jeremih’s Late Nights was to the opaque air in a hookah bar nearing sun up. Jeremih was the bartender, serving triples and slick talk in equal measure. Paak’s the dude with an acoustic guitar and a straw hat, except he has actual talent and isn’t wearing Toms. The laissez-faire attitude he exudes only adds to the wonder of being enthralled in his world. The soft, Saturday morning soul of opener “The Bird” becomes only more beautiful when he recounts childhood tales of poverty, a fatherlessness or the lonely castles he inhabited with the effortlessness of a lullaby.
From there, .Paak’s infatuation with classicsm seeps through every second, warming the record with his gentle voice and, I can’t believe I’m going to say it, gentler heart. Ugh. It has to be said, because Malibu is a largely autobiographical album. Those tribulations present on “The Bird” are worked over and expanded throughout, like the time he slept on the hard ground with his newborn son in his arms, or his mother’s gambling addiction. But those tales told from the source belie the burden they carry because they’re delivered through such an optimistic lens. By the tail end admiration sets in for the way .Paak’s chin is always held high.
The final stretch of this album, this delightful, sincere album, are what will melt your heart. “Silicon Valley” is a tender ballad nestled between layers of raunch. I can honestly say it’s the most volcanic ode to the heart space of artificially blessed women ever written. “Celebrate” is a block-party anthem, and needs little explanation beyond that. Closer, “The Dreamer,” works as a companion piece to “The Bird” of sorts. They both deal with the pains of his childhood, but while the latter can’t, and shouldn’t, get past the smidge of underlying sadness (for the better, of course), “The Dreamer” is a victory lap indebted to those trials. Anderson pays tribute to the cable; government subsidizes food, and mother that molded him, backed by a childrens choir and Talib Kweli in possibly his least pretentious verse in years. I like Talib Kweli, but not when he panders. He should pander less and talk more.
Malibu is a fantastic album. Anderson .Paak crafted an epic unaware of its own grandiosity because its having to much fun soaking up the sun to notice. 2014’s Venice, was a preview, a very good preview, of the skillset .Paak could display (introspection, soul, humor, seduction) and their all put to great use. Last year, fellow ex-Hellfyre Club affiliate Jonwayne released a five-track EP featuring a guest verse from .Paak*. He kicks it off proclaiming, “I’m beginning to fall in the center of my basis / and with a deep grin, smile in amazement.” It’s a chore not to smile along.
*I maintain it is still his best verse.