Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back.
Being continuously inundated with hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, electronica, modern funk, and jazz is undoubtedly a blessing – and one that you should try not to take for granted. But even in your attempts to be thankful for what you have, it can be easy to lose perspective. For your taste – for your ear – Anderson .Paak ticks all of the boxes and is in your opinion, as you’ve written before, the greatest artist alive. You love vocalists that are instrumentalists; You love instrumentalists that can rap; You love rappers that can produce; You love artists that can transcend the spaces of traditional genre; and you love artists that defy genre and organizational journalism altogether. Anderson .Paak is quite literally all of those things and has, since you first heard Malibu and subsequently back-listened to his entire catalogue hundreds of times over, done nothing but invent and influence the rest of the larger music scene.
But, while drowning yourself in Oxnard, you need to be honest about your own opinions and tastes, realizing in the process that as much as it breaks your heart (and also bruises your ego), Anderson .Paak is not everyone’s favorite artist.
In fact, there is probably a very select school of fans and journalists that share your opinion on the matter. And though it’s undeniable on just about any respectable ear’s spectrum that .Paak is one of the greatest musicians of our time, he is simply too specific – maybe not specific enough – to be a universal favorite.
Take into account the traditionalist one-genre fan of music. Regardless if they subscribe to one of the many platforms from which .Paak bellows his horn, a listen to Oxnard is a waiting game for their styling of choice to make it back to .Paak’s forefront. .Paak may approach one record with R&B-derived vocalism and sensual lyricism, bringing a world-beloved legend into the picture (Sweet Chick featuring BJ The Chicago Kid). He may recruit some of the most well-respected rappers not only of our time, but of all time, in order to exhibit his own ability next to theirs (Tints featuring Kendrick Lamar and Trippy featuring J. Cole). He may slow it down, revel in his old school roots, and bring on legends like Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip (Anywhere and Cheers respectively). And he might do anything and everything else completely unexpected, merely adhering to rock & roll, hip-hop, rap, R&B, soul, funk, and jazz, existing as a blendaline enigma of his eclectic influence. For the traditionalist one-genre fan of music, although their numbers are dwindling with a constant move in the direction of post-genrefication, Anderson .Paak and his full-length projects especially are too complex and far-reaching to hold a firm appeal to their tastes.
So, what about the other die-hard Anderson .Paak fans? It depends on their reasoning for being such. It’s no huge secret that Anderson .Paak really became a figure of the modern music scene once Malibu was released in 2016. For fans of his debut album, Venice – a grossly underrated project by the way – seeing pack suddenly shot into the stratosphere of musical fame must have been a bittersweet moment. The music his original fans had fallen in love with changed, as does .Paak’s entire auditory aesthetic with each subsequent release, and he was no longer simply their favorite underrated artist, but was one of the world’s newest superstars.
For fans of Malibu, there’s a good chance that the subsequent project, Yes Lawd – a collaborative electro-soul effort with famed producer, Knxledge under the moniker, NxWorries, was brutally polarizing. Though soul, hip-hop, R&B, and funk all played their respective roles in the album, the backdrop and underlying production had shifted entirely. In effect, .Paak expanded his already impossible sonic breadth, gained a slew of new fans from the circuit of electronica, but in the process, estranged some of his existing fan base.
And change is exactly what he does with every release, artistically pushing his own boundaries and redefining modern music, though not consciously pushing anyone away. You’ve seen artists before who dabble in multiple stylistic directions, and the bigger they get, the more polarizing the responses to their new music. Just look at Drake.
But Drake only finds himself a part of two, maybe three differing music scenes, whereas Anderson .Paak might as well find himself a key player in all of them. And that’s what makes the responses to his releases – unless you’re a custom-fit fan like yourself – so challenging.
Oxnard is different than anything .Paak has done before and in the same way, the same because .Paak is an artist constantly growing, changing, and in tune with the ideal that art and music need not revel in the past only because the past found success. Instead, he changes as a person and an artist and makes music accordingly. With so many stylistic influences and differing directions with which to make his music, you never know what you’re going to get. But you do know that it will be of the highest quality and innovation.
Like Venice, like Malibu, like Yes Lawd and Bubblin’, Oxnard is a masterpiece the likes of which few multi-dimensional artists in music’s history have been able to craft. Only the most diverse of artists – George Clinton, Prince, D’Angelo (all fervently under appreciated artists in their own rights) – have been so wide-ranging that they in turn simply become innovative beyond recognition. And .Paak is simply the next evolution of the transcendentalist lineage of artists. With that knowledge, a hardcore fan of Anderson .Paak has to be a fan of everything he has proven himself able to do and ready to embrace whatever he may do next, not because the music is favorited, but because it is some of the strongest directing force on the future of music.
But with that, even the most hardcore Anderson .Paak fans – yourself included – need to understand just how specific and particular a fan must be to fit that scope properly, and that though .Paak is undoubtedly one of the most important artists alive, his range is so massive that unless an ear is likewise tuned for such range, .Paak, Oxnard, and everything else he puts out is bound to find a smaller obsessive audience than most global superstars.