Neither musician Anderson .Paak nor producer Knxwledge, the individuals who make up musical duo NxWorries, have taken a moment’s rest since their relatively recent breaks. Paak dropped his first studio album, “Venice,” in 2014, “Link Up & Suede” (a NxWorries project) and six features on Dr. Dre’s retirement album, “Compton,” in 2015, as well as his expectation-blowing second studio album, “Malibu,” in January 2016.
Knxwledge only has one major production spot to his name, but it’s an incredible mainstream break: “Momma,” off of Kendrick Lamar’s monumental “To Pimp a Butterfly” from 2015. Despite minimal public exposure, he has produced a staggering 75 beat tapes over the past six years to a slowly growing cult following.
With the year still not nearly finished, while constantly on the road and in the studio, NxWorries delivers us “Yes Lawd!,” the follow up to “Link Up and Suede” that will, after a listen, make you lean back with a satisfied grin and say, “Yes, lord.”
Although neither was obsolete before their mainstream breaks, “Yes Lawd!” is the best work by either artist. It is an album with character, combining Paak’s raspy voice and unique style with Knxwledge’s Dilla-esque production in a way that leaves a listener feeling warm and fuzzy after each spin. It is also an album with characters; Paak displays a compelling swagger that Knxwledge’s laid back atmospherics compliment rather than contradict. Although he rarely strays from the well-worn topics of relationships, Paak delivers every line so perfectly, encapsulated in the warm mold of Knxwledge’s soul-heavy samples, that even the time-tested remains captivating.
Predictably, women receive a lot of airtime. Paak abandons rhyming for sheer sensuality when he croons, over bluesy keyboards, “Baby, get your shit together / I’m talking right now/ Take out your shoes and your favorite smelling perfume / I’m on my way home, you know exactly what I wanna do” on “Wngs”. Almost as soon as Paak convinces the listener that when he says right now, he is talking right now, “Wngs” ends, transitioning with a drum flourish to the gospel-driven “Best One.”
When he claims “I never knew a love stronger” midway through the song, it sounds so beautiful Paak could be exalting his girlfriend or God – except he follows with “My heart is a great big boulder/ Hey, you fuck me like you know this could be something like your very last moment / I could leave at the drop of a fedora / But damn girl I want you.” Only a true player says shit like that.
Paak pulls off pompous swagger and casual sexism because he is not just “smootha than a mothafucka,” as he sings on single “Suede” – he is most likely the smoothest motherfucker alive. In “Link Up,” the other single off Nxworries’ EP, Paak seductively tells a lady, “Don’t hate the groove / If a bitch wanna chose gone and shake it loose/ If a nigga act rude imma take his boo/ Cause I only wanna dance wit-cha’ / Come on!”
There is more to Anderson than the braggadocios womanizing character he sometimes inhabits. “What More Can I Say” sees Anderson struggle to resist infidelity; “Starlite” is a powerful declaration of love, and “Sidepiece” is unexpectedly about giving up his sidepiece, promising, “Lend me your ear / I’ll swear to never break your heart if I don’t have to do it.”
Paak steps away from romance for a few songs scattered throughout the album, giving a taste of the potential to broaden his subject matter. “Get Bigger/Do U Luv” elaborates on the trials along the road to fame Paak initially refers to in “The Season/Carry Me” off of “Malibu.” He pays tribute to his inspirations in “Another Time.” Some of these songs are pure fun: The Hoe Ass Niggas of the world receive a shout-out on “H.A.N.”; “Kutless” is a classic ode to the car. The album maintains cohesiveness because Paak is able to adapt any song to Knxwledge’s diverse stylistic palette.
Knxwledge, keeping to form, wastes no time reveling in his own genius — the album’s frequent moments of productive brilliance always feel fleeting, the music constantly moving along. With the longest uninterrupted song barely topping three minutes, most tracks left me satisfied yet unsatisfied, bewildered why fantastic songs ended so soon but always happy to hear what came next.
Too-brief sample-loops pepper the ends of several tracks. “What More Can I Say” abruptly transforms into thirteen seconds of tooth-achingly sweet chipmunked harmonies. “Sidepiece” ends with distorted vocals and the kind of mindlessly-musical keyboard playing one expects to hear at a jazz show. Anderson himself gets looped into the production in the final minute of “Get Bigger/Do U Luv,” potentially hinting at collabs to come like NxWorries did on their 2015 EP “Link Up & Suede” with “Anthrtime (Intro),” which became “Another Time” on “Yes Lawd!”
As sweet as these many moments are, they all pale when compared to Knxwledge’s single solo spot on the album, “Can’t Stop.” He lures the listener in with soothing flute and gentle keys overlaid with a mysterious speaking voice. Suddenly, fat bass, warped vocals, and electric guitar induce a minute of sustained eargasm. It’s so unexpected, and so good, that when it fades out to a “Rick and Morty” skit you can’t tell if your goofy smile is from the skit or the face-melting music.
Laugh-out-loud skits add personality to “Yes Lawd!” beyond the stunning musical arrangements. The album starts with “Intro,” forty-eight seconds of a voice musing about how good life is. “H.A.N.” breaks up the middle of the album with a skit in which Paak warns the listener, “you may be unaware, even at this moment you could be standing next to a hoe ass nigga. Now, no, don’t be alarmed. This is a very serious moment.”
While the skits help convey that NxWorries did not take the album too seriously to have fun, it also conveys they didn’t take the album too seriously in general. On “Fkku,” the album’s closing song, Paak hopes that someone “can find a new and inventive way to kick your ass.” We don’t know whose ass he is referring to, and we never get to find out that or anything else (or continue listening to Knxwledge’s deeply satisfying slow-jam groove) because, after speaking for almost a minute and half, Paak sings two half-assed lines, the song fades to light keyboard, and the album ends. This is the most striking example, but NxWorries misses opportunities throughout the album to further develop musical snippets.
“Yes Lawd!” is then hopefully only one stepping stone of many down the career paths of Paak and Knxwledge, as well as for NxWorries, where they should have opportunities to master creating the perfectly timed album. It is certainly a leap of a stepping stone — “Yes Lawd!” is far and away the most cohesive project from Knxwledge and the most comprehensive showcase of Paak’s incredible talent. If their pasts are any indication of the future, listeners can look forward to a steady stream of work from both artists, and for that we can put our hands together, close our eyes, and say, “yes, lord.”