Oxnard is the name of the Southern California city Anderson .Paak grew up in, but the album isn’t really a nostalgic look back at the singer/rapper’s origins. “This album is bringing the things that I’ve learned from going out and experiencing life outside of my comfort zone and outside of my natural habitat,” he tells Apple Music. “I had to leave and go into the bigger city, into the world, and learn all these things, and now I’m bringing it back to my home front.”
Since dropping the highly acclaimed Malibu in 2016, .Paak has basically stayed on the road, touring the world a few times over before buckling down to complete his third offering since changing his name from the exponentially cheekier Breezy Lovejoy. As .Paak, he was coming off a star turn as a featured artist on Dr. Dre’s 2015 album, Compton, when Malibu established him as one of the most original voices in popular music. With Oxnard, though, the challenge came in breaking from that norm.
“Sometimes we would have a good record, but it was like, ‘I’ve said this,’” .Paak says. “‘I don’t need to talk about how good the p*ssy is five times. What else should we say that I’m going through?’” The most striking answer comes in the form of “6 Summers,” a protest song in two parts: the first, funky resilience; the second, a smooth and steely rumination on American politics. Throughout the track, .Paak calls out President Donald Trump by name, addressing immigration, gun control, and the anxiety a large part of the population feels whenever the commander-in-chief tweets.
Still, Oxnard is all of the feel-good vibes and upper-echelon hip-hop flows that fans have come to expect, with a plethora of musical influences to boot. Blaxploitation-era guitar strums and flute spurts power album opener “The Chase.” Dramatic strings and bass-drum hits set the table for a particularly venomous Pusha T verse on “Brother’s Keeper.” .Paak himself rhymes in patois on “Left to Right.” The album also draws out vintage rhyme performances from kindred OG spirits Snoop Dogg (“Anywhere”) and mentor Dr. Dre (“Mansa Musa”). There’s a lot to digest, but in .Paak’s own words, his mission with Oxnard is to release an album that touches all corners of the culture from which he comes. “I want the cuts that they’re going to play in the barbershop, the cuts that the pretty girls are going to play while they’re putting on their makeup,” .Paak says. “I want the hoods to love it.”