The genre “neo-soul” might not be considered to be intimidating for a lot of people who are not familiar with the music. However, those who are familiar with the genre are aware that cementing a position in this style of music is definitely an uphill task. Being a culmination of funk, jazz and at times even hip-hop, in order to create a sound that is organic and fresh, a great amount of creativity is required.
It entails that your competition are great musicians such as Frank Ocean, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Solange and who are all artists whose projects have reached a level of innovation that has created a style that is critically acclaimed. One might wonder as to why such great music gives you the chills. But on hearing the music, the familiar-yet-unique nature of the sound is perhaps why it is so, and on hearing .Paak’s latest work, one can see why.
The star-studded cast
Recently the singer-rapper-drummer featured on the Soundtrack for “Black Panther” and he even went on to put a stunning performance at the Grammy Awards in 2017 along with acclaimed hip-hop acts Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest. In this performance of the track “Movin Backwards” required Mr. “Yes Lawd!” to only use his unique voice and his drum skills to capture the attendance of the audience.
Through his network he managed to assemble a star-studded ensemble with the likes of Dr. Dre, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg, Tribe’s Q-Tip and the mighty Kendrick Lamar for his latest release “Oxnard”. With such a cast, it allows for the ability to create a strong sonic experience due to their ability or to build hype around the record trough their fans and give additional commercial value. However, in this record, even .Paak’s name was enough to bring recognition as well a big sound to the record.
Stylistic choices and lyrical content
From the outset the listeners are submerged into a realm of coolness in the form of “The Chase”. The second song on the record “Headlow” brings unique flavour with its scintillating guitar licks and unique percussion. The lyrical direction however, is a slight diversion as it talks about his escapades, but that does not take away from the fact that the record has strong storytelling. The single “Tints” which features Kendrick Lamar even has a strong message wherein the singer laments on the idea that fame requires tinted windows. However, this track and the other single “Who R U” stylistically are quite plain in terms of sonic choices.
The second half of the album has the Pusha-T feature “Brother’s Keeper” which is strong in delivery, but the lyrics are not enough to turn heads in the hip-hop community. With respect to the neo-soul side, we can see his strongest on the track “Cheers” with the backing vocal done by the inimitable Q-Tip, it leaks nostalgia. It also has all the defining features in the form of horns, electric keys and a great rapper from the golden age of hip-hop.