In 2015, Dr. Dre released the loooooong awaited follow-up to 2001, his classic album from 1999. That’s a whopping 16 years, which in musical fandom world is like a lifetime.
The album was Compton, and it was inspired by Straight Outta Compton, the excellent biopic about the trailblazing hip-hop group N.W.A., which Dr Dre was a founding member, main producer and rapper.
You could also say it was inspired by Compton, the now-famous Californian city where Dr. Dre both grew up and ultimately blew up.
Compton wasn’t quite the album Dre had promised over that lengthy performance hiatus. The original album was the oft-delayed, ultimately-shelved Detox.
Thank the gods, too. The only taste of Detox we got was this and I couldn’t imagine that album getting anywhere close to the brilliance of Compton, one of the best comeback albums from a never-really-went-anywhere icon.
Compton wasn’t a reincarnation of 2001, nor an expansion of his iconic G-funk pop production that infiltrated the charts through Eve and Gwen, 50 cent, Mary J and, of course, Eminem – all etched into the history books and candidates for my Best House Party Ever playlist.
Instead Compton was closer to his gangsta rap roots with gutsy-aggression and industrial-funk in equal serves.
Compton cemented Dr. Dre as an eternal powerhouse who could still kill it at the age of 51.
A masterful-if-unconventional curation of his own skills, plus a showcase of new and little-know creative talent, it became one of my favourite hip-hop albums in recent memory.
Along with A Tribe Called Quest’s recent comeback/finale We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service, this was the OGs reminding everyone how it’s done.
As sincere and meaningful all those feelings I just put on the page are, they aren’t the major legacy of Compton, at least for me.
That honour goes to its role in introducing to the world-at-large and yours truly to Anderson .Paak.
One of those relatively ‘little-knowns’ I mentioned earlier, he ended up on six of the album’s tracks. In case you’re just hanging around for the maths, that’s 37.5%.
He makes his grand entrance on track five, the standout All in a Day’s Work, playing the light to Dr. Dre’s dark.
If Dr. Dre is the album’s spiritual leader, then Anderson .Paak is the soulful wingman running along its underbelly. It’s impossible to imagine Compton without him.
After Compton, Anderson .Paak released his third album (the first that us bandwagoners had taken a ride on), one that garnered him a worldwide audience and kudos from the critics.
Rightfully so, Malibu was the freshest breath of air that my ears and soul had been treated to in years.
Unlike Dr Dre, he went with more established producers and collaborators/legends on the album – Madlib, 9th Wonder and Hi-Tek – along with one of my new favourite dudes, Canadian producer Kaytranada.
They all helped to deliver this most-musically diverse but completely cohesive beauty that officially reigned in Anderson .Paak as one of the most interesting and joyful voices and personalities to grace our earwaves.
Every song is like a sunny modern day parable. From the simple beauty of the album’s opener, the Bird, to the two-songs in one Heart Don’t Stand a Chance, and my pick, the Season/Carry Me. The words he speaks/sings are just that much more special and soothing than your average and his voice just helps that medicine go down with a spoonful of sugar.
He even gives us some rap-disco on Am I Wrong with Schoolboy Q and then there’s jazzy runs on Parking Lot. Perhaps the most lush moment is Without You with Rapsody.
Honestly, the whole of Malibu is a sweet talking funky jam. Anderson .Paak and Malibu are equally impossible not to like, not that you would have any reason to try.
Since that album, he has been a go-to man for the who’s who of black rappers and producers alike. He teamed up with Kaytranada again on Glowed Up, an other worldly jam from the producer’s if-you-haven’t-listened-to-this-album-yet-do-so-immediately 99.9%. It’s 110% wall-to-wall happiness-time slinky bangers.
More recently, he was on Kendrick’s creation for Black Panther, bringing some vocal-bounce to Bloody Waters.
Oh, and he was a guest to that A Tribe Called Quest finale album I mentioned earlier too (*inserts imaginary bow and ties it perfectly around the relevant paragraph*).
This week, Mr A .Paak released a new song, ‘Til it’s Gone.
As usual, the track blends seemingly every genre under the sun until it’s nothing but smooth magic. That’s his gift to the world. Along with his voice, which is truly like no other.
The beat and melody land somewhere on the spectrum of James Blake and Rhye. There are even harps .. or something that sounds like harps. I’m going to make a call to the universe for more harps/harp-like sounds/things that sound like harps to the untrained ear that might not actually be harps.
Til it’s Gone is the first from his forthcoming album, which is apparently co-helmed by Dr Dre (*ties another knot in the bow and kisses it lovingly*). It’s a stunner.
It’s a song about finding yourself in a happy place and living that moment as long as it lasts. Probably how Anderson feels about his current burst of success. It’s an attitude we can all learn something from, but I don’t think he has to worry about anything being ‘over’ for a long time yet.
I used to say that there is a hip-hop album for everyone. Jay-Z’s the Black Album used to be the one I would recommend to people. Later it was Q-Tip’s the Renaissance. Both still mandatory listening.
Now, I would say it’s Anderson .Paak’s genre defying Malibu. It’s like the gateway drug and it will leave you feeling high and wanting more.