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Craig Hopkinson

ALBUM: Anderson .Paak – ‘Oxnard’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

The ‘drop top’ is down, my shades are on, it’s a beautiful, scorching hot day and I’m cruising in my bright green Cadillac down the West Coast, feeling cool. That is precisely what happens to the listener every time an Anderson .Paak album begins. An instant transportation from the grey and very grim world, to the ocean scented west side of LA. ‘Oxnard’, the third album release from the human musical juggernaut that is Anderson .Paak, hosts an onslaught of awesome musicians from Kendrick Lamar to Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip, and was executively produced by Hip Hop giant Dr Dre.

 

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Although he may sing like an angel and rap like a demon, Anderson .Paak is by default, a drummer. This is such an amazing combination with regards to musical skill sets because, as anyone worth their salt in the music industry will tell you, any amazing band, or live act, has an even more amazing drummer. If a band has a drummer that can not only keep perfect time and deliver varying fill sections and rhythms, but can command the whole groove and flow of the band from the back-line; they’ve nailed it. In this case, the lead singer and vocalist is that back-line driving force, and also the frontman.

Anderson .Paak possesses a generalist ability to blend his specialisms into a funky little West Coast flavoured jam and somehow serves it up deliciously every time. He commands each of his albums this way, locking in the groove with live drums, writing and holding down his rap and chorus melodies around it, while later adding layers of bass guitar, funky pad synths and his usual harmonised vocal over-dubs. Just as a side note; Anderson .Paak can be seen on a tonne of videos online, rapping, singing and playing the drums exquisitely, simultaneously.  It’s like watching some sort of musical wizard.

The song ‘Who R U’, number four on the album, is a perfect example of the melting pot of rhythms and rhymes that Anderson .Paak has crafted. When listening to the flow, scheme and rhythm patterns in his lyrics and drum section, it’s hard to imagine such complexity coming from any other sort of musician than a percussionist. Triplets, fills and the suspenseful use of silence, dropping every sound just before the chorus, only to bang every sound back into play as the chorus begins. Very clever stuff.

However, ‘Oxnard’ was produced with Dr Dre as the executive producer, and so not all of the tracks on the album have been arranged in this ‘commanding drummer’ fashion. ‘Saviours Road’, the sixth track of the ‘Oxnard’ album, has a much more obvious ‘boom bap’ drum pattern to it and it’s quite easy to hear how it was arranged when compared to the percussive depth of almost every other song listed. It actually stands out amidst the other less digitally produced songs and lacks the Anderson .Paak formula described.

‘The Chase’ – the albums introduction track – features vocalist Khadja Bonet and is a sonic showcase of .Paak’s musical prowess and comprehension. Both vocally and musically, the song is explosive within moments of the introductory radio tuning sample at the start of the track. The lyrical content revolves around the artists recent successes. It’s surely a testament to how super cool Anderson .Paak is when he sings and raps.

In terms of the overall production, post production and mastering of the album as a whole, ‘Oxnard’ is just another crystal clear and maximised gem to come from the Aftermath / Interscope tribe of funky West Coast hip hop. Some awe inspiring analogue valve warmers and compressors have been used, as is always the case with Dr Dre, to master the tracks of the album.  The mastering work, post production, has also brought every crisp kick and snare to life, popped open every syllable spoken and sung and brightened up and added more brilliance to those sexy 1970’s funk bass guitars and synths. A very lush sound indeed.

All in all, this is another Anderson .Paak masterclass in ‘The Funk’. Heir to a long line of funk-a-teers , from all time grand masters of the funk, Funkadelic, way down the line to the classic G-Funk era of Warren G and Nate Dogg. Even Snoop Dogg carried the torch for a while. Anderson .Paak is the current bestower of all things funky, a funky messiah, and it seems his musical sermons have only just begun.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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ALBUM: Black Josh – ‘Yung Sweg Lawd’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Black Josh is a Rap aficionado, a rising star of the Blah Records hip hop family, an established member of Cult Of The Damned, architects of the underground U.K. hip hop scene, and a lyrical legends in Manchester, at least for anyone with a taste for real ‘Boom Bap’ or ‘Golden Era’ hip hop, and he is here with debut album; ‘Yung Sweg Lawd’.

First and foremost, hats off to the ‘Yung-Lawd’, for he does have the ‘Sweg’. The name of the album, along with its amazing artwork, tells its tale long before the first song of this exceptionally cool record even starts to play. From the tracks listed on the album it’s pretty difficult to pick just one to start and focus on as an example. The production, arrangement, level of post production and mastering that has been painstakingly poured into this work is just obvious to a trained ear. So, it really is full of killers without any fillers. But, to chose just one, it would be track thirteen; ‘2 Fone Shawty’. It’s just impeccably timed and an altogether perfect track.

Produced by Reklews, corner stone Cult Of The Damned producer and engineer, ‘2 Fone Shawty’ starts with a banging kick drum and snare, traditional to the ‘boom bap’ sound of hip hop. The hit of the drums is crisp and precise, delicately touched by a contrasting grand piano chord progression. This loop plays out for the first few bars of the song while a smooth, and somehow familiar, bass-line enters the song, adding another layer. This is then classically followed by Josh’s over-dub style vocal introduction. The whole song has a real ‘wall of sound’ kind of thing going on from the off. The quality and craftsmanship of the song, as well as the myriad of songs on the album produced, really do showcase the Cult Of The Damned and their ‘Sweg’. (Think I’m getting the hang of this ‘Sweg’ thing.)

When it boils down to content, which with rap artists it often does, and probably should, Black Josh has you covered. Again, with such heavy beats and his ‘wall of sound’ delivered by the production and mastering, Josh’s voice, rhyme scheme and message needed to bring some contrast, and in this case it really did. For a rapper poised as a bit of a ‘Jack the lad’, the cheeky character of the Cult, with some pretty raunchy videos out there, here he is; baring his soul. From tales of early strife to bars of underground fame and it’s heights, Josh makes his intentions perfectly clear with the lyrical content of ‘2 Fone Shawty’. The Manchester born rapper makes reference to the loss of his Grandfather and a final promise to protect his Grandmother, which drives his passion for success musically and financially. He’s cool, and he loves his Nan. What more could you want?

Other notable artists featuring on the album include; Lee Scott, rap artist and producer for Blah Records and the Cult Of The Damned, Skepta, with production of the last track of the album ‘Ciggaweed’, along with the introduction of Nah Eeto, Afro swing and dance hall inspired rapper and singer. Both Black Josh and Nah Eeto, the freshest signing to the Blah label, teamed up to deliver ‘Judge Judy’, and it’s one of the albums most pioneering songs.

‘Yung Sweg Lawd’ is potent. It’s a U.K. hip hop classic, nay, just a hip hop classic, a hopeful rumour months before it was even finished. The release of ‘Yung Sweg Lawd’ is a very exciting reality for U.K. Hip Hop fans, and Mancunians alike; a budding example of the culture that the city is infamously known to cultivate, and Josh is taking it right to the very top. The album boasts some serious musicianship, production and mastering skills and offers a trove of emerging artists and Hip Hop heavy weights.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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