We spoke with Dewey Saunders and Cory Gomberg about their work on Malibu, as today marks the second anniversary of his genre-bending album.
On Thanksgiving night in 2015 Dewey Saunders and Cory Gomberg were putting the finishing touches on a pot of gumbo. Having finished their respective meals with family, the designer and art director behind Anderson .Paak’s Malibu were still finalizing the collage that would become the face of the Grammy-nominated project by the artist from Oxnard, California. Even though this was his third album (second since dropping his Breezy Lovejoy moniker), it was by all rights an introduction of his solo might to the world after making a splash as a contributor on Dr. Dre’s Compton album just months before. The duo—along with photographer Erik Ian—had the enviable task of confining a singer, drummer, rapper and producer who defied convention into a neat, flat, two-dimensional box.
“The next day on Friday, Apple Music needed the visuals for pre-order, but the record still wasn’t done,” says Gomberg, who cut his teeth as an Art Director at The Source Magazine in the 1990s before taking his talents to Loud Records, Tommy Boy and Def Jam, to name a few. “We had the track list, but everything wasn’t mastered.”
The duo also had to finish the single artwork for “The Seasons” because Dr. Dre was premiering the song early on his Beats One Radio show, The Pharmacy. To say the pressure was on was an understatement, but the team had built a strong rapport with each other and .Paak, ensuring the highest quality outcome.
“We worked in tandem and put that cover together very much the same way a band would make a record,” says Cory. “You’d have a drummer, keyboard player and a guitarist. That’s how [Dewey] and I worked and why we have success as a team. We kind of jazz improv off of each other.”
Dewey, a musician in his own right who performs under the name Dewey Decibel, was introduced to Anderson through his friend Dumbfoundead, a battle rapper out of Koreatown in Los Angeles. .Paak was drumming for Dumbfoundead and sang on several of his singles. “Around that same time Questlove had tweeted about Anderson’s first album (OBE Vol.1) and was like ‘This kid is the truth.’ It was an early, early co-sign. Right after that he switched his name [from Breezy Lovejoy] and Adrian Miller started managing for him. No one knew where his genres were going. He was a drummer doing all this gospel-esque stuff but he was rapping and R&B and people were confused because he didn’t fit it any boxes they’d built.”
Dewey began doing artwork for .Paak after he hit him up on Twitter inquiring about some portraits he’d been doing for other artists, including one of Dumbfoundead.
“I think he was a little jealous. Because he hit me up in DM and asked ‘Where’s my portrait at?’ I was like OK send me some photos and I’ll get you a portrait together. It just so happened that he needed a poster for a show and the portrait came out so sick that we ended up using it for the poster. It was his weekly show at the Lyric Theater in L.A. This was in July of 2013.”