The Secret History Of Anderson .Paak’s ‘Malibu’ Album Artwork

Source: Dewey Saunders & Cory Gomberg

This lead to Dewey doing the artwork for several of Anderson’s singles and for his album Venice.

Venice came about, we did the single for ‘Drugs’ and I kind of knew what I wanted to do—and even Anderson doesn’t know this—I had already done this collage and it was pretty much finished and I presented it to him as a pitch for an idea for the cover and he fuckin’ loved it. I didn’t have to do anything else to it besides design the typography and the border around the cover. It was the new collage style I had been working in and this piece was my crowning achievement. I was so proud of it. And when he chose it, it was if it was for him.”

With Anderson’s buzz reaching a fever pitch, Cory got a call from .Paak’s manager Adrian, whom he had known for almost 20 years. It was time to establish a visual aesthetic for that artist he’d mentioned to him a while back.
Malibu was recorded on a dented mic and a Mac Mini around the corner from my house.

READ: The Secret History Of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s ‘The Magnificent’ Album

It was a ragtag thing,” Cory recalls. “But the production value was so rich because of Anderson’s ability to truly compose music with a vibe and sound. And part of those things are also in the album cover. There are a lot of hidden, subliminal messages in that album cover. When you listen to the Malibu album, there are very few albums where you can press play and it tells a story all the way through. And that’s what we tried to do with the cover.”

Dewey and Cory were on opposite coasts, but worked out a collaborative process for creating the artwork inspired by the music.

“We listened to it for 15-20 hours a day,” says Cory. “We’d be on the phone because he’s in Philly. We worked on the phone, iMessage and email listening to the album. ‘You heard that element about the bird? Let’s get a bird in there.’ We started making an artwork piece for every song, whether it was going to be a single or not. I think we have about eight of them done.”

The next step was to shoot the core elements for the cover and Adrian and Cory called in favors to use Charlie Chaplin’s Mack Sennett Studios soundstage. They shot for over 12 hours pulled from a variety of influences, including Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. “He’s wearing boxers that I bought at CVS. No lie. Those are boxers,” Cory says of the outfit Anderson is wearing on the cover. “Typically, when you do an album cover you do a shoot and lay text over it. But we wanted to do something different using the collage mentality, it’s kind of like CGI. We’re gonna shoot this subject and place him in a surreal landscape. There is a black label version of a Jimi Hendrix album that was only a UK release, Electric Ladyland, and it had all of these naked ladies on it. So [Anderson] was spitballing saying that ‘I’m in a hotel room in bed with all these girls and I’m hungover at the desk.’ And I told him it’s not gonna be a desk, but a piano and you’ll be in boxers with a top hat. And he [adds] ‘With a Quill pen!’ That’s how that comes about. Our method of working was very much the same as how a song is written. Everyone has ideas. There are no bad ideas, just bad energy. Anderson let us run, but he’d chime in.”

The beauty of the disparate forms coming together is that it still left room for individual interpretation by the viewer.

“On the cover Anderson is above the water on the beach playing the piano, but when you open it up he’s underwater playing the piano,” Dewey explains. “So I saw it as this Homer-esque story like The Odyssey and the girls on the back were sirens luring him into the water. He’s so focused on the music that he doesn’t know he’s under water.”

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Jerry L. Barrow

Jerry Barrow is the founder of NODFACTOR and a veteran journalist with stints at The Source, Scratch Magazine, and The Urban Daily.

Published by
Jerry L. Barrow

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