Album Review of Yes Lawd! by NxWorries.
Release Date: Oct 21, 2016
Record label: Stones Throw
Genre(s): R&B, Alternative Rap, Alternative R&B
The singer Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge, though both acclaimed for their solo releases, deliver some of their most creative work under the collaborative NxWorries alias. On this highly anticipated debut, Paak’s husky half-singing, half-rapping vocals are the perfect match for Knxwledge’s intricate and experimental arrangements. The producer’s heady mix of soulful harmonies, old funk samples and laid-back hip-hop beats provide a luxurious backdrop to Paak’s intimate confessions on tracks such as the lusty What More Can I Say and the humorous finale, Fkku.
For all the appreciation Dr Dre’s 2015 comeback Compton endured, critical consensus deemed the long-awaited project sorely missed the silky vocals of Nate Dogg (R.I.P.), who was the dependable soulful fixture of many Dre-helmed albums over the past two decades. Yet Compton was nonetheless lit up by the appearance of the then-largely-unknown Anderson .Paak on six of its tracks. His distinctive, gravelly tones added an earthier feel to proceedings, bolstering those eyebrow-raising claims that the man once known as Breezy Lovejoy could be a possible successor to the late, great Nate, who had tragically passed away in 2011.
Imagine it: You grew up in Oxnard, Calif. Your dad went to prison for beating your mom. You had a kid with your second wife. You lost your job, and a place to live. You were homeless. Your friends looked out for you. You slowly picked yourself up. You changed your name: Breezy Lovejoy became ….
NxWorries is the collaborative project between producer Knxwledge and vocalist Anderson .Paak. Both men have enjoyed recent success; with Knxwledge supplying the mesmerising beats to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly-highlight Momma, and .Paak following up guest turns on Dr Dre’s Compton with this year’s stellar solo effort, Malibu. Paired together, they produce a taut, snappy brand of R&B that neatly fuses their respective styles.
Anderson.Paak has one of the best voices in hip-hop today, a froggy croon that’s like Professor Frink from the Simpsons crossed with Cee-Lo Green. Following the psychedelic neo-soul of Malibu, he puts it to good use on his second album of 2016, a collaboration with producer Knxwledge who serves up a series of heavily sampled tracks in the vein of Madlib or J Dilla – country soul, sassy disco and gospel funk bump into each other with reddened eyes and bulging trousers. Together, the pair find beauty even in the most basic of lyrical conceits, be it non-specific beef with entire swathes of their peers (HAN), or the hardships of having an endless stream of beautiful women trying to have sex with you (Livvin, What More Can I Say).
If each year were delegated a musical zodiac sign, there is no question: this would be the year of the .Paak. He doesn't need a Top 10 on the Billboard to cement his status as an industry essential. Catapulted to the forefront as part of the obligatory slew of newcomers given their shot last year on Dr. Dre's masterful Compton, and he was certainly the most exciting voice present – and the one to make the most of it.
‘Yes Lawd!’ has been a long time coming. This isn’t because Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge, the duo that make up NxWorries, have struggled creatively. But in the time since they started working together, both their lives have changed. Upon settling down to record ‘Yes Lawd!’, seemingly instantly, both were poached by hip-hop heavyweights.
Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge's Yes Lawd! feels in many ways like the spiritual successor to Below the Heavens, the 2007 collaboration between Blu and producer Exile. Both albums eschew the fashion of the day, instead marrying post-Dilla samples and break drums with a West Coast breezy vibe, and both bend time as if they belong to no single era in particular..Paak's rising celebrity and heavy touring schedule following features on recent Dr. Dre and Kaytranada albums that teased his excellent breakout LP Malibu could have forced side projects like NxWorries to the back burner.
This could have been, oh, so much more. Anderson .Paak has been one of the most exciting new talents that deserves the spotlight that’s been thrust upon him ever since stealing the show on a handful of tracks of Dr. Dre’s Compton. .Paak shifts effortlessly between rapping and singing such that calling him either a rapper or a singer is hopelessly myopic.
NxWorries appeared in early 2015 on Stones Throw with "Suede." Knxwledge provided the dazed production, its beat a clipped gait -- Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson's "The Bottle" stretched and dragged to support Anderson Paak's freewheeling vehicular exhibition and macking seminar. Dr. Dre then sought Paak for extensive work on Compton, while the rising Knxwledge produced "Momma" on To Pimp a Butterfly and released a Stones Throw album.
Producer Knxwledge and singer/rapper Anderson .Paak both sit comfortably at the intersection of hip-hop, R&B, funk, and soul. Their respective solo projects are potent stews of disparate elements, cooked down into delightful new flavors altogether. Knxwledge’s particular strength is his ability to deconstruct samples yet keep them intact, building new layers from a song’s splayed parts.
Yes Lawd!, the full-length debut of Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge’s duo NxWorries, is a mixtape dressed as an album. It follows the grand tradition of Stones Throw classics by Madvillain and Jaylib, though it’s slighter and more one-note than both. Composed of 19 tracks, only one of which exceeds four minutes, the project seems far more concerned with vibe than any kind of narrative cohesion or thematic depth.
What did we do to deserve not one, but two new projects from Anderson .Paak in 2016? Ever since breaking out last year with repeated guest spots on Dr. Dre’s Compton, Paak’s star has been rapidly ascendant. His warm, soulful sophomore record Malibu is one of the best albums of the year — a kaleidoscopic epic that moves fluidly between genres and moods while basking in an aura of breezy positivity and undeniable musicality.
A weekly roundup of required listening from the Times music team. D.R.A.M. “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” (Atlantic / Empire). As if those two big smiling faces on the cover of “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” — one human, one floppy golden poodle mix — weren’t enough to draw you in. D.R.A.M. — first known ….
After bumrushing hip-hop with his contributions to Dr. Dre’s Compton album in 2015, then wowing the naysayers with the progressive soul session that was his own album, Malibu, earlier this year, Anderson .Paak has positioned himself as the centerpiece of a modern-day renaissance in Black music. This time, the 2016 XXL Freshman looks to merge the two genres on, Yes Lawd!, his latest release as one-half of the duo, NxWorries.
Yet there’s no ‘Heart Don’t Stand A Chance’ here. There’s no classic, stop-everything track to grab to you by the heartstrings. Then again, ‘Suede’ (also featured on NxWorries’ 2015 EP ‘Link Up & Suede’) comes close enough – which is closer than anyone else is likely to come before the year is up. .
Anderson .Paak is having a very good year. After breaking through on Dr. Dre’s comeback album, Compton, in 2015, the 30-year-old Californian rapper and singer/songwriter spent much of 2016 touring in support of his acclaimed second album, Malibu. Although .Paak is now officially signed to the West Coast rap legend’s Aftermath Entertainment imprint, his latest release is a detour back into the indie-sphere with the debut full-length from NxWorries – his project with producer Knxwledge – for Stones Throw.