Embellished with an abundance of high-profile collaborations and pulsing with tangible ambition, last year’s Oxnard saw Anderson .Paak soaring into new territories with brazen confidence. Nevertheless, it faced mixed reviews; critics argued that some of the intrinsically Anderson .Paak elements were lost in the pursuit of such a star-studded, polished record. Five months later, Ventura sees Paak having found his feet in these new territories, maintaining the strongest parts of Oxnard, but dialling them down so they don’t feel quite so contrived. Instead, Ventura is self-assured and strong; the perfect follow up.
There’s a beautiful irony in the fact Ventura opens with a song called ‘Come Home’, as this is undoubtedly Paak’s homecoming: a return to the carefree, undiluted funk that catapulted him into the public eye. It has the experimental, ambitious nature of Oxnard, but it feels more fully-fledged here. Though the wealth of featured artists found on Oxnard are still present, with the likes of André 3000 and Brandy, they don’t overshadow Paak as they sometimes appeared to on Oxnard. Paak’s signature seductive vocals are stronger than ever, returning to a slick romance which works perfectly; ‘Twilight’ is particularly arresting. Ventura is fundamentally grounded in earnestness, something previous works were perhaps lacking, and it works in his favour.
It feels fitting that this series of albums (Venice, Malibu, Oxnard and Ventura) take their namesakes from sun-kissed beaches near where Paak grew up. For fear of sounding all “I went to Thailand and discovered myself on my gap year”, Paak completely radiates positive vibes; Ventura feels like a slice of sunshine in the perpetual cold of the North. Even in the (admittedly minimal) political moments on the album, such as single ‘King James’, Paak remains buoyant and playful.
Retro and joyous, Ventura is edging towards some of his best work; not quite Malibu, but incredible nonetheless. Multi-talented and unapologetic, Ventura stands as a reminder of why Paak is one of the biggest names in music right now – a testimonial to his growth as an artist, and crucially, the perfect summer soundtrack.