Welcome to Timeless Affairs, the corner within Steppin' Into Tomorrow, where we shine a spotlight on essential albums that have shaped our culture (and lives in many cases). We lovingly revisit, explore and zoom in on these gems in their full length. Digging out stories and fun facts from the making of the masterpieces that have built the foundation of the music today and continue to shape the future.
Today marks 7 years since the release of one of the best albums of the 2010’s so let's take a moment here to celebrate this modern classic (while we still can). The critically acclaimed sophomore studio album of Anderson .Paak, ‘Malibu’ captures the emotional themes of sentimentality, patience, living in the moment, determination, dependency, love, substance and just embracing life, flaws and all. It is his most personal effort to this date and honestly, always a real delight to keep coming back to. This genre-bending release truly rocked my world at the time when it came out.
Anderson .Paak, Brandon Paak Anderson, is a Southern Cali born and raised songwriter, singer, producer and musician. Also known as Breezy Lovejoy, in his early efforts, one-half of NxWorries, the Westcoast duo made of him and L.A. based producer Knxwledge, and also most recently one half of Silk Sonic (together with Bruno Mars). Born on February 8th 1986 in Oxnard, a city right outside of Los Angeles, to a family of African-American and Korean heritage, as an only male in a household full of sisters. Both of his parents were absent by the time he made it through high school. Growing up, he would be exposed to a wide array of music styles at home: from soul and hip-hop, to Top 40 and a whole lotta gospel. Actively involved with music ever since he was 10 years old, drumming at his family’s baptist church, later performing in various cover and session bands, gigging at weddings and christening parties. Perhaps that explains his wide vocal range and incredibly versatile style. All of the hardships have built his character and a musical gem has been shaped out of the pressure, trials and tribulations.
You may notice the dot and wonder what the purpose is. According to Anderson, the dot before his last name simply represents attention for detail, as many have slept on his talent. The natural wordsmith has been active way long before he got his appropriate recognition, and on this album, he really dives into the entire story behind his come up, by presenting a conceptual lighthearted voyage through a wide range of musical soundscapes.
The cover of the album alone is captivating. Creation of visual artist Dewey Saunders, under Cory Gomberg’s Creative Direction. Dewey is the author of iconic cover art on a few more of my fave albums like Jarreau Vandal’s ‘Anthology’, Chronixx’s ‘Chronology’ or Seba Kaapstad’s ‘Thina’ to name a few.
This release was highly anticipated at the time, as a follow-up to being featured on 6 tracks of Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ Album in the summer of 2015, when most of the world has been put on to Anderson .Paak’s voice. On this project, he really dares to be different. It’s all about the melody and organic instrumentation that shines really bright, with notable contributions of producers like Madlib, 9th Wonder, Kaytranada, DJ Khalil, Hi-Tek, members of The Free Nationals, to name a few. Anderson’s free-spirited and refreshingly authentic presence here is completely unmatched and it has gained him enormous critical acclaim and Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best New Artist.
Straight off the bat on ‘The Bird’, he talks about real things, including his mothers gambling problem and fathers incarceration, promising to pay his dues and continue on the path of virtue til’ he reaches the top. “Said all we ever need is love.” Followed by the seductively playful soul cut ‘Heart Don’t Stand a Chance’ and Madlib produced ‘The Waters’ that features all-star musicians including Pino Palladino on bass, Robert Glasper on keys and drums by Chris Dave himself. The track is made in collaboration with the beloved soul singer BJ The Chicago Kid, revolving around fame and struggles of making it big in music. ‘The Season / Carry Me’ reflects Andersons childhood, contemplates his past and anxiously looks ahead into the future. The dual clip for both of the tracks, ‘The Season / Carry Me’ and ‘The Waters’, will take you through several surreal and beautifully animated sceneries:
‘Put Me Thru’ is another significant album cut that follows. At his NPR Tiny Desk Concert with his world-renowned band, The Free Nationals, .Paak revealed that the song is about the guitarist’s, Jose Rios’s ex-girlfriend. Jose also co-produced the celebratory song ‘Parking Lot’ coming up later on this record. Next number ‘Am I Wrong’ featuring rapper Schoolboy Q, was produced by Canadian electronic producer Pomo, same dude that produced ‘Dang!’ a few months later.
‘Without You’ is a love song dedicated to his wife, who’s believed in him and been with him through thick and thin since the early days. Rapsody’s flow on that track hits the spot, plus the Nai Palm ‘Molasses’ sample by 9th Wonder on here is absolutely gorgeous. ‘Lite Weight’ carries a courageous vibe over a classic Kaytranada-produced beat, which precedes most likely the sexiest song on the album called ‘Room In Here’ featuring The Game, who apparently nailed down his verse in 5 minutes. What follows is a hot 2-minute long interlude, called ‘Waterfall (Interluuube)’, produced by Chris Dave & the Drumhedz and the freaky cut ‘Your Prime’.
The infectious ‘Come Down’ with it’s nasty bassline and Israeli National Anthem ‘Hatikvah’ sample by Hi-Tek is a true gem on this record, followed by smooth fake-boobs debunking, deeper-connection-encouraging number ‘Silicon Valley’. “They say the heart is underneath”.
‘Celebrate’, on the other hand, is the ultimate uplifter that empowers gratitude for all the little things in life that are easy to take for granted. Outstepping the blues and carrying on. The last track on the album beautifully rounds up the ride by encouraging the pursuit of childhood dreams no matter what situation you come from on ‘The Dreamer’. It features Talib Kweli and Timan Family Choir — 4 of Paak’s nieces. It really is a family affair.
Meanwhile, the complete album is intertwined with skits that sample classic lines from surf-themed cinematographic pieces, which segue the songs from one to another, nicely tie in the “Malibu” narrative and complete the story. Some of the sources include ‘Surfers: The Movie’, the Italian documentary Pot Smoking Surfers from the 1960’s, surfer interviews and the 1978 surfer film Big Wednesday. But this would be a whole entire rabbit hole to dive into.
Can you ever get enough of these 15 minutes? The acoustic performance of ‘Come Down’, ‘Heart Don’t Stand a Chance’, ‘Put Me Thru’ and special audience request ‘Suede’ by Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals must be one of the all-time highlights of NPR Tiny Desks. “Tiny Desk, Big Heart.” — Anderson .Paak
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