Well, I didn’t think we would have another Anderson. Paak album 5 months later, but here we are.
As I’m sure you all remember, Paak released his third studio album Oxnard last year, his first album under his new deal with Aftermath Entertainment. The reception was actually very mixed: while not wholly negative by any means, some were disappointed with the final results, and while I did like the album (it was on my top 20 albums of 2018 list), there were some songs I didn’t care for (“Mansa Musa”, “Left to Right”). Not to mention there was the fact that “Bubblin” wasn’t on the final track list (and yes, I was still let down because of that).
Then as it turned out, he had another album up his sleeve, it is named after a California city, and I think he was working on this album at the same as Oxnard. Then again, thinking about it way more, Dr. Dre leaked the name of the original title before release like .Paak knew what would happen with the release of Oxnard, and well, this video should help explain things.
I’m just going to cut to the chase. Yes, I still do like Oxnard but hot damn, I’m really digging Ventura a lot.
Here’s the thing with this album: upon hearing the singles “King James” and “Make it Better”, I and many others speculated that this album will be very R&B/soul-flavored, and it was cemented with the track list and features he stacked (heh heh) with Andre 3000, Lalah Hathaway, Smokey Robinson, Jazmine Sullivan, Sonyae Elise, Brandy and the late Nate Dogg.
“Come Here” and “Make it Better” were fantastic starters to the album with the former having this beautiful live instrumentation with the piano, the strings, the background vocals coming from BJ the Chicago Kid, SiR, Norelle and Vicky Nguyen, and of course Andre 3000 really stole the show during the last verse. The latter song is all about trying to mend a relationship and seeking what spark can be reignited within. The tone and sound reminds me a lot of ’70s soul music to play to your lover during the night, and while Smokey Robinson blends in more with the production rather than having more of his moment, the man still did his thing on there. Also, I missed this while covering the song on Decibel Boost, but The Alchemist was involved in making this as well, playing on the drums with Fredwreck on guitar and keyboards.
Ventura is pretty much smooth soul music and funky/grooving vibes all around but with more of a mature touch, as the album deals with topics like relationship talk but more in the ‘let’s work it out’ type of way, along with some other usual things like coming up in his career and his current state as an artist on “Yada Yada.” “King James” speaks about uplifting others in his community, seeking justice for all the messed up things happening around minorities, and how we try to speak up but get shut down by others:
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
Now I’m not much for games
But I play for keeps
And we salute King James for using his change
To create some equal opportunities
There were a couple of interesting components on the next song “Chosen One,” with the sampling of Mac DeMarco’s “On The Level” (a song that has me liking him) and this set of lyrics:
Can’t get enough, look at that
Make you walk, pistol grip on
From the kitchen to the livin’ room
To label me as the one, debatable
But second to none, that suit me like a tailored suit
And a nigga up, up like Sailor Moon
Brought a totally different energy up in the room
Heard your fans want to keep you in the underground, cool
When I blow up, said I did it for MF DOOM
No cap, no cap
I keep it one hundred, blowin’ hundreds at The Beverly
While I think the features do a good job, I feel like some were just mainly used in the background. Lalah Hathaway and Brandy on “Reachin’ 2 Much” and “Jet Black” respectively, just blended more into the music rather than standing out, and while the song was short, at least Jazmine Sullivan had a solid and notable verse on “Good Heels.”
“What Can We Do?” may have you feeling a thing or two, especially with hearing the O.G. hip-hop soul crooner Nate Dogg on a track since his unfortunate passing in 2011, along with the way the song ends with him speaking to .Paak as Nate is leaving the “studio”, and from what I heard, it’s the same vein as Kendrick Lamar talking to Tupac on “Mortal Man”, the final track on To Pimp a Butterfly.
If you’re one of the many listeners that was left disappointed with Oxnard, or at least you missed more of the soulful .Paak, Ventura offers that with more of that organic production, live instrumentation, smooth/groovy vibes, and the features blending in well with all the production, showing us why we all love to listen to Anderson. Paak. While I don’t mind him experimenting out of his element from time to time, when he does what he does best with something like this, it is amazing.
FINAL VERDICT: Buy It. Makes a trip to Ventura, you’ll have a damn good time there.
Ventura is available on Aftermath Entertainment/12 Tone Music. You can purchase it on CD and digital download and also available on streaming services.