After producing music in his bedroom as a teen and working as a drummer for American Idol in his early 20s, Anderson .Paak produced and recorded his debut EP in 2013. He turned the history of white artists covering blues and R&B songs without compensating the original artists on its head, releasing “Cover Art,” an R&B record consisting of covers of old folk and rock songs written by white musicians.
.Paak kept churning out albums, releasing “Venice” in 2015 and “Malibu” in 2016, both of which experimented with jazz-infused hip-hop. 2018’s “Oxford” represented a shift in which .Paak (along with new producer Dr. Dre) traded in the introspective musings for some more sexed-up rap.
On April 12, .Paak released his fourth full-length studio album, “Ventura,” which should be understood largely as a return to form. “Winners Circle” really hits its stride about a minute and 40 seconds in, at which point it feels as if they are school kids in an alley dropping a new beat. “King James,” with its dissonant whistling over the lyrics, “We couldn’t stand to see our children shot dead in the streets / But when I finally took a knee / Them crackers took me out the league,” is fantastic. The addition of Sonyae Elise on “Chosen One” was a good call. She immediately provides some much needed sass.
But overall, it’s hardto get excited about this record. “Reaching 2 Much” felt extremely repetitive, and “Yada Yada” can be described as exactly that: A lot of lyrics but not much substance. With “Ventura,” .Paak brings a fun, boppin’ time, the album doesn’t leave you wanting to listen to any of the songs again.