Anderson .Paak ★★★
Oxnard AFTERMATH CD/DL/LP
Uneven but compelling magnum opus from SoCal funk-rap wunderkind
After two acclaimed indie-label long-players that profitably danced between the gauzy frontiers of funk and hip-hop, the third in Anderson .Paak’s “beach trilogy” – named after his SoCal birthplace – finds him signed to Dr Dre’s Aftermath imprint, and setting out his credentials for greatness. Certainly, the music here is very often brilliant, funk merely a helpless plaything at his inventive fingertips, from the restless Blaxploitation bustle of The Chase, to the blissed-out, sun-bleached groove of Headlow – though that particular tune is wasted on a car-sex scenario unworthy of a between-song skit. Indeed, .Paak’s tendency for juvenile and preening badboy bluster is a recurring weakness; better are the mournful break-up mope of Trippy, Brother’s Keeper’s withering examination of the justice system, or 6 Summers, where his deranged slew of insults and filthy talk takes an unexpected (and often on-point) left-turn towards seriousness. May his lyrical eye mature to match his musical vision next time out.