Anderson .Paak is one of the latest very deserving talents to blow up onto today’s music scene. As with most “overnight successes”, he’s been working at music a long time but his talents are just now getting their just recognition. Part of what helped that was the staring role he played on Dr. Dre’s most recent album, 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” companion, “Compton.” This year his songs have been featured prominently during NBA broadcasts. He’s concocted a package of funky, richly textured music, idiosyncratic vocal tone, and charismatic personality that has won over both young fans and seasoned fans of “real music” alike. Today’s feature, “Am I Wrong”, is one of the funkiest cuts on his “Malibu” album and a song that has received extensive play through various media outlets.”
“Am I Wrong” begins with a steady four on the floor drumbeat and some very pretty Fender Rhodes sounding chords. The intro reminds me of the type of intro and chords that a group like Slave would use in the late ’70s and early ’80s on songs such as “Watching You.” The chord pattern anticipates the next beat slightly, and cycles around for 8 bars before .Paak’s vocals come in. When he begins to sing, the funky, gliding synth bass comes in with him, a syncopated 16th note bass line that begins and ends on the upbeats, which along with the brisk drum march and the pretty chords all contribute to a general uplifting feeling. .Paak adds to that feeling with his first line, which is “I’m only comin’ out to play.” The music and the lyrics create the perfect “stepping out tonight” feeling. .Paaks slightly raspy vocals are fed to the ear in a very upfront and dry manner, as wistful guitar chords lurk in the background. As the verse progresses other touches are added, such as cowbells and synth sequences, as producer Pomo doubles gets .Paak to double and harmonize his vocals in specific spots. .Paaks good time lyric develops into a song about appreciating a good time because life is not a thing to be wasted, and he delivers a great “romance like you dance” lyric, saying “Am I wrong to assume/if she can’t dance/then she can’t ooh”, which is one of the best implicit funk/soul lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. The groove just keeps on rolling as Pomo and .Paak add tasty textures that lay just right over the relentless drumbeat and serpentine funk of the baseline. The middle section of the song has a more sparse rhythm with sweeping pad chords and pretty tones while Schoolboy Q promises to “pay your whole damn mortgage.” After that section the drums are dropped out completely as .Paak recites the chorus, after which a festive, celebratory horn line from BrassTracks is introduced, during which the vocals go tacit, leaving plenty of room for the groove to take its impact, even adding funky scratch rhythm guitar as the song fades on out.
Last weekend I made it out for the first time in a long time, and during the mix of classic funk I heard, local Bay Area D.J’s dropped “Am I Wrong” right into the mix alongside “I Know You, I Love You” by Chaka Khan and other funk classics. It was a special thing to hear a modern day, current song that mixed in well and kept the dance floor moving. “Am I Wrong” is a very positive, uplifting groove, but it also had the advantage of recognition. Most D.J’s have noticed that these days, people are reluctant to dance to songs they aren’t familiar with. This is something that has hurt much of the excellent modern funk coming out these days, a lack of popular recognition on radio, video, TV and in the community. That’s why its very important Anderson .Paak has broken through those barriers with his appearances on other major artists projects as well as his high visibility on television. “Am I Wrong” is one of the best good time, original funk recordings I’ve heard in many years and I’m glad its currently getting its shine! Anderson .Paak has already moved on to another project, the “Yes Lawd” album with Knowledge as a part of the group NxWorries, but “Am I Wrong” will continue to stand tall in his catalog as a funky introduction to how nice he is!