Anderson .Paak’s last album, Oxnard, was uncharacteristically one dimensional. It was drenched in dated G-Funk, which many fans were angry about. Ventura, in stark contrast, is full of gems from a wide array of genres. .Paak and the Free Nationals deliver danceable grooves from front to back. This record blends disco, soul, hip-hop, and jazz into what can only be an Anderson .Paak record.
The opening track starts off remarkably similar to “The Chase,” the opening track from Oxnard. Both tracks include dramatic crash hits, flute stabs, and panned background vocals. However, one thing that “Come Home” has that “the Chase” does not is a verse from the legendary Andre 3000. His flow is simple, but quirky resulting in yet another spectacular feature from him.
Smokey Robinson also shines in his feature, although he is only singing background vocals. His ethos solidifies “Make it Better” as a throwback track to the days of Motown and Stax records. This is probably the most soulful song off the album, featuring prominent melodic strings, a rather subdued feel, and Smokey’s signature vibrato.
The following track, “Reachin’ 2 Much,” features a change of feel before the halfway mark of the song. It suddenly but smoothly morphs into what is essentially a soulful reinterpretation of .Paak’s “Am I Wrong” off his acclaimed sophomore album, Malibu. There are several beat switches on this record, all of which are impressively seamless even though they sometimes take the song in a completely different direction.
Tracks like “Winners Circle” feature fantastic bass along with some very expressive slides and melodic lines. This is probably the best .Paak record for bass as it ranges from fast and funky to silky and slow. This is all down to the masterful work of Kelsey Gonzalez.
Lyrically, .Paak continues with his usual themes of relationships and his own journey. He also continues his foray into social and political themes that he started on Oxnard’s “6 Summers” with tracks like “King James” with lines such as “if they build a wall, let’s jump the fence I’m over this.” This gives some of the tracks a “summer of love” vibe, which works really well with .Paak’s style.
Apart from a handful of songs, this really isn’t a true soul record like Anderson .Paak promised in his TV interview with Jimmy Fallon. However, .Paak cannot be pigeonholed into one genre for an album, let alone just one song. Instead, Ventura perfectly encapsulates .Paak’s genre-defying sound, culminating in one of his best records to date.