Funky mix with vintage slant

When hip-hop luminary Dr Dre released one of the genre's most significant albums last year, Compton, there were plenty of high-profile collaborators ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Eminem.

One relatively unknown name stood out from this group - Dre's fellow Californian native, Anderson Paak, a singer, songwriter and rapper of African-American and Korean descent.

With his sophomore solo album, Malibu, Paak, who previously performed as Breezy Lovejoy, proves once again Dre's knack for unearthing unknown gems.

A beguiling blend of R&B, hip-hop and soul, Malibu is a funky floor-filler that feels current, but at the same time, is firmly anchored in vintage sensibilities. The production, whether by Paak or by cutting-edge collaborators such as Hi-Tek, 9th Wonder or DJ Khalil, is imaginative as he is passionate as a singer and rapper.

Opening track The Bird brings together skittering beats, jazzy trumpets and his smooth vocals. Am I Wrong, featuring a guest verse from Schoolboy Q, is a delectable slice of psychedelic disco and Celebrate pays tribute to the warm, Smokey Robinson-like tenderness of 1970s R&B soul.


    MALIBU Anderson PaakSteel Wool/OBE/Art Club/Empire

    4 stars

Come Down, which has a killer bassline, inspires fancy footwork, with Paak channelling a James Brown-delivery and acknowledging his newfound prominence: "You may never ever come down/ It took too long to get this high off the ground/Don't run, just stay awhile."

Hip-hop star and social activist Talib Kweli appears on lush album closer The Dreamer, adding depth to the song while dropping politically aware lines ruminating on the power of the verse: "My job as an artist is making miracles/To show you how to struggle poetic and make it lyrical/Crystallise the thought to make it clear to you/And make the revolution irresistible."

Towards the end of the track, another choice collaborator, the Timan Family Choir, encourages: "Don't stop now, keep dreaming."

Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the album is the prominence he gives to preaching hope.

The artist - who didn't have the easiest of childhood and vividly describes the hard times growing up in a "lonely castle" when both his parents went to jail - croons: "We never had to want for nothing/ Said all we ever need is love."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'Funky mix with vintage slant'. Print Edition | Subscribe