With a surge of good music this fall — the offerings range from a Khalid album to new Post Malone track and Lady Gaga’s powerful vocals in “A Star is Born” to the long-awaited “Carter V” by Lil Wayne — it’s easy for hidden gems to remain hidden. But, the recently released single “Tints” from Anderson. Paak featuring Kendrick Lamar has received a mere fraction of the attention it deserves, and we owe it a moment of appreciation for the sheer talent on display. The single is an early release off Paak’s upcoming album “Oxnard,” which is expected to come out in mid-November, and “Tints” bodes well for fans expecting the smooth sounds that defined his previous album, “Malibu.” Paak strikes the perfect balance between soothing R&B and uplifting pop, as he layers the song over deep beats and a groovy keyboard. The song’s sound is classic Paak, with lyrics and rhythm that get stuck circling in your head. The song is versatile — you can play it out of a car stereo on a nighttime drive just as easily as you can blast it through your headphones for a run on the treadmill. Lamar’s verse meshes perfectly with Paak’s style, while still retaining the unique voice that defines Kendrick.
Speaking about collaborating with Lamar, Paak told Beats1 in an interview, “I love working with him. Some people you can trust to just send it and they gonna send it back and it’s gonna be flames. I just knew that would be the case with him.”
Paak was right, as the song is an absolute hit. Together, Paak and Lamar are two of the greatest minds in modern hip-hop and R&B, and they actually have collaborated before on both Lamar’s “Black Panther” album in the song “Bloody Waters” and on Dr. Dre’s “Deep Water.” However, “Tints” stands out as a single in which they best hit their shared stride, with neither dominating the other’s sound and each bringing out the best in his partner’s style. Lamar’s rap, which is packed with his usual tight lyrics and clever lines, is one of the most enjoyable parts of the song. Paak echoes this in his own nuanced lyrics, rapping “I been in my bag, adding weight/ Tryna throw a bag in a safe/ Giggin’, tourin’, chorin’, raisin’ babes/ Baby Milo wants some Bathing Apes.” He rhymes words that I never would have thought could go together, and seamlessly turns “choring” into a verb. He even packs in a subtle allusion, through the elite Japanese clothing brand BAPE and its children’s line, Baby Milo, to the culture of luxury fashion that he now finds himself in.
Paak and Lamar give us phrases that stick in our minds and beg for further attention. The song explores both their relationships with fame and paparazzi and their attempted escapes from the public spotlight. They need tints (on their car windows) to obscure them from public view. At the same time though, each boasts about the benefits that come from their fame. Lamar raps, “Everybody get offended by the shit I got on/ Like, can you buy that, n*?/ Nine hunnid horse, can you drive that, n?/ A G5, can you fly that, n?” and sings, “You know I like it presidential/ Stretch it out, that’s a limo.” Fame’s luxury is a theme that runs through past works of both artists; the music video of another recent Paak release, “Bubblin,” depicts the opulent lifestyle of Paak in a song whose lyrics do the same. In a feature on A$AP Rocky’s “Fin’ Problems,” Lamar raps “Girl, I’m Kendrick Lamar/A.K.A. Benz is to me just a car.” The two artists’ lyrics about wealth attain deeper meaning upon consideration each artist’s past. Paak struggled to achieve the fame and wealth he has today, living homeless for some time. In “Bubblin,” he sings, “I been broker way longer than I been rich.” So, Paak leaves us to wonder how he really feels at the end of “Tints.” Is the presidential limo and money that “keeps [him] runnin” worth “feelin’ kinda cooped up, cooped up?” It seems that his answer, as he seeks to retreat from the public eye behind tinted windows, is no.