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Anderson .Paak | Ventura

California's musical polymath returns to familiar turf for his fourth full-length.

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Third time was not the charm for Anderson .Paak. The California R&B/soul/hip-hop/funk phenom’s last album — his November release Oxnard — put some purists’ noses out of joint with its grander ambitions, harder edges and bigger production. (For the record, it sat just fine with me.) Well, I hope they’re happy now. Less than six months after supposedly wrapping up his “beach albums” trilogy, .Paak has pulled a 180° and returned to familiar ground on his fourth release Ventura. I don’t know if the naysayers had anything to do with it, but these 11 tracks find the musical polymath reining in and stripping down his sound once again, backtracking to the warmly engaging and laid-back humility of old. Granted, the VIP section is still in effect — Andre 3000 makes a rare appearance on slow-burn opener Come Home, Smokey Robinson contributes backing vocals on the Philly soulful Make It Better, Lalah Hathaway contributes to the disco-funky workout Reachin’ 2 Much, and Jazmine Sullivan, Brandy, Sonyae Elise and Nate Dogg jump on other cuts. Ultimately, none of them upstages .Paak, whose rusted yawp, dextrous drumming, light touch and topical lyrics remain every bit as potent as ever. And just as charming.