When: Fri., Dec. 30, 5 p.m. 2016
I’m a latecomer to the abundant charms and talent of LA singer, MC, and producer Anderson .Paak, and I’m still reveling in the sound of his work even more than in his deeply personal words. Dropped at the beginning of 2016, Malibu (Steel Wool/OBE/Art Club/Empire) pulled me in from the first listen as .Paak retrieves the lean rhythmic snap of classic 90s boom-bap-style hip-hop and lards it with warm layers of soul and gospel. His wonderfully raspy voice conjures current LA kingpin Kendrick Lamar more than a bit, but he’s a better singer who regularly toggles between singing and rapping—as well as between the sacred and profane—and his utterances fit each kaleidoscopic track beautifully. As one half of NxWorries, his duo with producer Nkxwledge, .Paak also recently released the strong album Yes Lawd! (Stones Throw), which finds him further finessing a sweet spot between styles and firmly establishing himself as one of the most arresting voices of 2016.
September’s Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)—a hat tip to the opening track from Closer by Joy Division, the band rapper Danny Brown claims is his favorite—is clearly the record that the Detroit weirdo has always wanted to make. It was easy to hear its seeds germinating on his 2010 debut, The Hybrid, and especially on his 2011 follow-up, the instant classic XXX. Since day one Brown has been the freakiest, most idiosyncratic rapper on the scene, spitting outrageous, hilarious rhymes in a rapid-fire, court-jester-like register over drugged-out beats that borrow as much from Detroit techno as they do from classic 90s east-coast hip-hop. But he takes his bizarreness to the extreme on Atrocity Exhibition, eschewing traditional hip-hop almost entirely. The bassy stomp and boom-bap beats that dominated the last three Danny Brown records are entirely absent here, instead swapped out by producer Paul White for abstract, fractured psychedelic rock and experimental synth soundscapes. It’s an unlikely foundation for turned-up rapping, yet part of what has kept Brown so exciting over the years has been his insistence on operating outside of the box, and if the brilliance of Atrocity Exhibition is any indication, he’s only going to keep getting weirder—and better—as the years pass.
Peter Margasak, Luca Cimarusti
Price: $69, $109 two-day pass