Double review: Anderson .Paak's 'Oxnard' and Jaden Smith's 'The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story'

 

This weekend Anderson .Paak and Jaden Smith blessed us with two of the most feel-good, ambitious and contemporary hip-hop albums of 2018. Oxnard and The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story represent a new era in hip-hop that transcends copy-cat beats and recycled lyrics through earnest experimentation. Let me break it down…

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Anderson Paak: Oxnard

Anderson .Paak has been around a lot longer than most realise. Six years ago, under pseudonym Breezy Lovejoy, he released two atmospheric funk albums which went largely unrecognised. After some rebranding and time away honing his craft, his moment arrived with breakthrough album Malibu in 2016. On Malibu, .Paak collaborated with live percussion band The Free Nationals to produce bangers like ‘Come Down’ and established himself as a truly unique voice in an oversaturated urban music market. It wasn’t long before he was picked up by hip-hop elite Dr Dre and signed to the prestigious Aftermath Entertainment label.

Dr Dre’s influence is tangible on Oxnard but .Paak retains his individuality all the same. The album weaves seamlessly in and out of genre and era while showcasing the endless facets of .Paak’s outstanding vocal ability. His voice ranges from raspy R&B harmonies on ‘Headlow, to the quick-tongued sharp-witted bars on ‘Mansa Musa’ like it’s the easiest thing in the world. A theme of celebration and prosperity underlies the album — If ever there was a track to play when you’re feeling yourself a little bit too much it’s ‘Tints’, one of a couple of stellar Kendrick features on the album. Over a psychedelic guitar riff .Paak announces his celebrity is now at such a level he can’t drive around without tinted windows. It’s a well-earned shift in status if this album is anything to go by.

Standout songs:

‘ Anywhere’ feat. Snoop Dogg and The Last Artful, Dodgr; heavily reminiscent of early-noughties R&B, it’s sexy without being crude and makes me want to drive around in my non-existent drop-top, nodding wistfully along to the beat. 

‘Left to Right’; a compelling medley of 70’s funk bass and dancehall-inspired lyrics, this is the only song on the album that truly had me shaking my ass. 

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Jaden Smith: The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story

Jaden Smith is more than just Will Smith’s son — that much has been evident for some time now. The release of 2017’s SYRE proved his commitment to shaking off the shackles of straight hip-hop and eschewed the rigid template that many emerging rappers have followed over the last couple of years. Tracks like ‘Icon’ and ‘L’ on SYRE showed his capacity for gritty rap and cemented his position as a serious new name on the scene, not just a Smith kid fooling around with some beats, but The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story shows how far he’s developed in both musicality and lyricism. He seems interested in a more contemplative, eccentric form of rap, a form that he’s been experimenting with since his 2012 debut mixtape The Cool Café. Sure, Smith still lacks a bit of direction (his scatter-gun approach is particularly evident on ‘Better Things and ‘Syre on Abbey Road’) but he more than makes up for it through well-crafted beats and a richness in his voice that makes for some successful slow jams.

Standout Songs:

‘Soho’; the first song on the album is a combination of trap and R&B and though I’m not the slightest bit G, this song makes me wanna milly-rock like 2 Milly himself.

‘Rolling around’; a song to get in your feelings to, the dramatic bass and subtle backbeat of make it a perfect candidate for either a) chilling-with-bae or b) crying-over-lack-of-bae.

@MemandMs 

What did you think of ‘Oxnard’ and ‘The Sunset Tapes’? Let us know in the comments below!