On the heels of last year’s Oxnard, Anderson .Paak is back six months later with Ventura. Recorded during the same time period, the two albums feel like competing siblings, striking out to declare their individuality within the singer’s discography. Stylistically different from its predecessor, the (presumed) last in the singer’s series of California records can be listened to as an evolution from 2016’s Malibu, with its soulful flavorings and the funkadelic grooves feeling familiar and more reminiscent of .Paak’s rhythmic past than his rap-adjacent present. It’s a welcomed course correction, proving the singer gets his point across in easier terms when he’s singing and not spitting.
Ventura’s focus on funky R&B is most evident in the features of the album; while Oxnard was patterned with male rappers, Ventura sprinkles in female R&B legends to add incredibly beautiful textures. They all bring something unique to the table, but nothing comes close to Jazmine Sullivan dominating the sidepiece interlude “Good Heels” and Brandy harmonizing throughout “Jet Black.” Even with a roster of singers, .Paak also boasts rap royalty André 3000 and the late Nate Dogg on the front and back of the record, respectively.
Despite being a feature-heavy album, Ventura is at its best when .Paak allows himself the full space of a song. Lead single “King James” — a stab at celebrating black excellence and commenting on the volatile nature of American race relations — mixes the singer’s singing and MC skills into a masterful creation, and “Winners Circle” allows him to both croon and spit about an exceptional woman to marvelous effect. Alongside the rest of the album’s cuts, Ventura puts .Paak’s multi-hyphenate talents on display, producing a sunny example of feel-good soul that will stand the test of time as R&B continues making its mainstream resurgence.
Standout tracks: “Come Home,” “Winners Circle,” “King James,” “Jet Black”