Anderson .Paak - Ventura - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Anderson .Paak - Ventura

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2019-04-12
Anderson .Paak - Ventura
Anderson .Paak - Ventura

Only a few months after Oxnard brought with it a sonic texture that fans were somewhat hesitant to embrace, Anderson .Paak has continued his sonic exploration with an ambitious companion piece, this time nailing the recipe. A bit more focused this time around, the genre-bending Southern California MC is reaching back to a time in R&B when men weren’t afraid to swallow their pride (”I'm beggin' you, please, come home / No one even begs anymore”). In a sizzling return to form, Ventura infuses the old school cool of funk, blues, and soul with 21st-century touches, as if attempting to condense the last 50 years of black music into a single definitive statement.

Above all, Ventura is a carefully curated collection of assorted featured players, understanding precisely how to showcase each of their varied strengths. Many of the pairings gel seamlessly, as with André 3000’s sharp flow amongst the flute whistles and piano tingles of smooth and sultry "Come Home," the nostalgic, summertime bounce of "Make It Better" that gracefully incorporates Smokey Robinson’s timeless charm, or the marriage of the R&B stylings of Lalah Hathaway and the funky disco groove of "Reachin' 2 Much." Some of the songs appear as though they were constructed with each specific supporting artist in mind, as with late 90s throwback jam "Jet Black," which would feel right at home on a Brandy album.

Still, the record doesn’t strive on star power alone. As Paak brings the sounds of the past into his modern agenda (will the help of seasoned producers like Dr. Dre and Pharrell Williams), he isn’t simply banking on nostalgia. This is a new beast altogether. Even though it’s pulling from so many different influences, the only apt comparison to Ventura would be other Anderson .Paak endeavors. The starting point may be recognizable, as with the futuristic, pulsating experimental jazz of "Winners Circle" or the mid 70s rhythm and soul of "King James," but they blossom into a vibrant gumbo that, while retaining each of the individual flavors being added into the mix, boasts a bold taste that far outreaches the sum of its parts. We’re left with cosmic, exploratory tracks like the flowing, amorphous "Yada Yada."

With its sweet, breezy melodies, Ventura is primed for ushering in the summer. Where Oxnard was grungy and rough around the edges, its follow up is delicate and sugary. From the driving, soulful vibes of "Good Heels" (featuring Jazmine Sullivan) to the spirited bubblegum pop of "Chosen One" (featuring Sonyae Elise) to the laid back Southern sway of "What Can We Do?" (featuring Nate Dogg), all that’s missing is a cold drink and a few good friends to enjoy it with. The luscious celebration of the past is intensely felt on "Twilight," which isn’t far from a Kool & the Gang single.

Dripping with nods to Motown and Philly soul, Ventura effortlessly brings the past into the present. Anderson .Paak has once again subverted expectations, proving himself to be one of contemporary R&B’s most spectacular forces. As long as his talent and appetite continue to operate at this intensity, he’ll remain that way.

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