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April 16, 2024

Paak and Knxwledge strike beautiful gold

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | October 20, 2016


Amheil/CC-BY-ND-2.0 Producer Knxwledge lays down the drum tracks for NxWorries.

Smooth and sexy: These two words completely describe singer Anderson .Paak and quirky music producer Knxwledge’s collaborative project, Yes Lawd!, named for .Paak’s trademark adlib. Released a week early on Oct. 14, 2016, this project burst onto Apple Music unexpectedly. Working under the moniker NxWorries, the pair created a nearly perfect project with smooth, layered instrumentals, beautiful vocal performances and a thick layer of silky, confident charisma.

Many have been referring to this project as an R&B or Soul version of Madvillainy, in reference to Madlib and MF DOOM’s 2004 album. This is an apt comparison. Both LPs were released by Stones Throw, both are collaborations between a wildly creative producer and a charismatic lead and both are broken up by sampled skits. The contrast is in style. While Madlib and DOOM designed a grimy, dirty and downright evil sounding rap LP, .Paak and Knxwledge made a clean, airy soul album.

“Suede,” the single that sparked this whole collaboration, is still their greatest song. To anyone who hasn’t heard this track yet — you’re slacking. This was easily the song of 2015, and even after hundreds of listens, it continues to impress.

Using just a molasses-slow sample of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Bottle” and a spare drum break, Knxwledge builds this phenomenal, lush soul beat. The rhythm and soundscape are an intimidating challenge for any singer, but .Paak dives into it with trademark flair — “Smooth than a motherf**cker” he yelps, before falling into a falsetto croon and taming the kicking beat.

Yes Lawd! has incredible production throughout. Knxwledge, a producer mostly known for creating hectic soundscapes with lagging drumbeats and complicated rhythms, does not compromise his style at all on this project. He feeds .Paak some absolutely wild instrumentals, almost as if each track is a challenge for the singer. Anderson .Paak passes the test with flying colors.

He rides the wild instrumentation with his trademark nasal falsetto like a cowboy on a bucking bronco. His voice can switch on a dime from modulating lead singing to smooth choral tones before transforming again to melodic rap-inspired delivery, reminiscent of Ty Dolla $ign.

The album is filled with phenomenal compositions. “Wngs” is another beautiful track. Knxwledge starts with a drunken drum loop that feels haphazardly stapled together, almost about to fall apart completely. On the second drum hit, a full wave of sound floods in, supported by a knocking bass line and a sweet choral accompaniment. Anderson .Paak shares the upper register with a clean, beautiful synth riff. From the dirty, grimy drum line, this song rises to a sublime heaven.

“Link Up,” another single, is absolutely golden. The knock of the bass along with the filtered drums and the alien-sounding pitched down sample turns into a wild, rollicking rhythm, and .Paak hops on with unlimited confidence. One can easily imagine him strutting, dancing, while belting out “I just wanna dance wit’cha.”

All of the tracks have an overt sexuality. Replete with dirty lyrics, smooth singing and the groovy, sensual rhythms, this is one of the sexiest projects in a while. Tracks like “Best One,” “Sidepiece” and “Lyk Dis” are flawless sexual ballads.

What’s more, this is also a comedic album. Some great skits break up the honey smooth flow between tracks. There are hilarious samples, including a snippet of Rick and Morty sewn into the LP “H.A.N,” is not only a beautiful ballad but also a riotous track. No explanation would do it justice — go listen.

The R&B/Soul genre, having dipped out of the public consciousness since the ‘90s, has gone through a major revival in the past few years. D’Angelo and Tyrese brought such music back into the spotlight with their recent releases. In the new school, though, NxWorries have been at the forefront of some of the most novel and exciting soulful music of the past decade.

And thank god for that. This project has basically no flaws. To some, the short track times might be an issue; Few songs are longer than two minutes. This is something to be expected on a Knxwledge project. Like his greatest inspirations, Dilla and Madlib, Knxwledge creates LPs out of morsels of songs. With its snappy and diverse nature, this is more of a beat-tape with vocal performances than a straight R&B album.

In my opinion, this is a near perfect album. Both collaborators bring their very best performances, creating a piece that is beautiful throughout. It is strong, smooth, sexy and chock full of charisma. It’s hard to stop listening to.

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