In Retrospect: Anderson .Paak is Really Good

After Nick’s post at the top of the year, I really started thinking more about the staying power of an artist’s body of work. Does being great at the time outweigh remaining great a year later? To me, timelessness is one of the most important criteria of any piece of art (no matter if that status comes instantly, or a little later on). This series will focus on revisiting albums that were considered great within the last few years, and talk about their impact at present, if any.

This is ‘In Retrospect‘.

In Retrospect: Anderson .Paak is Really (Really) Good.


Album: Malibu

Artist: Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

Release Date: January 15th, 2016

I’ll admit it. I let myself fall victim to hip-hop imperialism. A mere jester in a game of thrones, joining in on chants of “SLAY THE KING… OFF WITH HIS HEAD!”

Now, perhaps Kendrick Lamar really is the king. Not because of king-level bars (though I’ll gladly admit that he evidently has those), and not because of his kingdom full of loyal servants & (keyboard) warriors. No, but rather because I let King Kendrick champion my opinion.

I understand that this post isn’t supposed to be about Kendrick Lamar at all, but let me explain (I swear this is going somewhere). Much like others against my favourite artist, I’ve always blamed a large majority of my dislike towards Kendrick on the sound of his voice. Considering he is a vocalist, I feel as though this is a fair point of grievance. What about his voice specifically?  That little effect that he likes to employ that could only be described as “the jigaboos screech” (and I use that term very carefully, only as I believe it to be the intended effect). Employed most heavily on TPAB and on parts of untitled unmastered, it is used almost as an imitative voice for the soul of black America and how it is portrayed. Seemingly fitting, but also equally cringeworthy to me for whatever reason. The ‘screech’ literally and figuratively causes me pain each and every time (Read: i cri evritiem).

As the story goes, when I heard Paak for the first time, that was the exact feeling that was triggered. I immediately associated his music with Kendrick’s own (I believe I heard him first on Dr. Dre’s album, which also featured Kendrick). The wannabe deep, black radical exclusivity, and I was swiftly uninterested. As a black guy, I suppose I can appreciate the style. But as a rap fan, I’ve seen it before.

Fast-forward to early last week; something changed. I finally learned HOW to listen. It took a reluctant click on an old NPR Tiny Desk concert by the aforementioned, and his Free Radicals. (un)expectedly, it was magical. Do you remember watching The Lion King for the first time? Perhaps it was the intimate setting of the performance or something else all ttogether, but I was finally able to understand and appreciate the appeal and vibes being delivered with each snare & voice quiver.

On the song “The Dreamer” from Paak’s most recent solo collection, Malibu, featuring artist Talib Kweli says “this is the music that you gotta feel”. It didn’t take me long to figure out which homonym of ‘feel’ he was referring to.

As of right now Malibu has been out for a little over a year; I’m a little late to the party. A little late to the party, but best believe I’m here to celebrate with everyone else.

Even though I didn’t get into it in 2016, Malibu was undoubtedly one of the projects of the year. Remember when I mentioned watching The Lion King for the first time? Now imagine a 22-year-old Disney forum pleb watching The Lion King for the first time in 2017.

Hakuna Matata, Anderson.

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