It’s. Really. Fucking. Good.
I’m sorry if the expletive is too much for the introduction of this, but it is the simplest way for me to describe it. I thought I had my album of the year wrapped up when I first heard Anderson .Paak’s Malibu which came out earlier this year, but this just surpassed it for me. I listen to alot of music and “Yes Lawd” stood out head and shoulders above most of the releases this year.
Just some background on the album:
- It is the follow up for the “Link Up & Suede” EP that NxWorries put out in December of 2015 that includes two songs that made it onto “Yes Lawd” as well as a remix of the song “Drugs” from .Paak’s 2014 album “Venice” subsequently called “Droogs”.
- NxWorries is comprised of Anderson .Paak, singer/songwriter/drummer/rapper/music from Oxnard whose breakout came from working with Dr. Dre on his 2015 album Compton and Knxwledge, producer that has over 60 projects on bandcamp and has worked with the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and Kendrick Lamar (“Momma” on To Pimp a Butterfly).
- This album is released by the label Stones Throw Records which has worked with the likes of J. Dilla, Madlib, Aloe Blacc, and Madvillain.
- It was slated to release on October 21, 2016 but dropped a week early for those with Apple Music.
This is a project that I’ve been really excited for and I can’t stress enough that it turned out better than I could have expected. Stones Throw is exactly the sort of label that would release music with the sort of sound that Knxwledge provides. His samples provide a very jazzy vibe and feel to them. Some of the samples come from songs that reflect the soulfulness of their time, with Knxwledge using songs from Ahmad Jamal (“Ghetto Child” was sampled on “Wngs”) to Evelyn Champagne (“I Think My Heart is Telling” is sampled on “Can’t Stop”). Hell, even Rick and Morty was sampled (It’s commonplace for movie or TV dialogue to be sampled and I just got a real kick out of the fact that this scene got used). It’s very textured, melodic, and mostly smooth. The songs transition so seamlessly, it’s hard to gauge when one song ends and when another begins. It’s cohesive in the best sense of the word and Twitter user @Dragonflyjonez has the most accurate representation of how I react to each track on this album:
If I had to compare this album to another it would have to be Madvillainy, another Stones Throw release that came out in 2004. That also featured a duo of musical savants in rapper/producer MF DOOM and producer Madlib. Madvillainy is more hip hop based. It had shorter songs that also has smooth transitions that let’s the album flow take the listener from everything for the 46 minutes of the album.
Yes Lawd does not sound like it is from 2016. It has this old school vibe to it which comes from Knxwledge’s masterful sampling of songs from decades ago. If I were to play this album to anyone who was not aware of it’s existence, they would think it was from the 80’s. This is pertinent in “Scared Money” which samples “(I could never say) It’s Over” the B. B. Q. Band. You can get a real feel for the 80’s R&B vibe on this track and it’s just so damn good.
As for content, there is a lot of swagger to this, which can be attributed to the songwriting and vocals that came from Anderson .Paak. Let me tell you straight up, this guy is just cool. If you see him in any of his live performances he dresses like he just came out of a Delorean from the 80’s. For NxWorries’s Boiler Room set in Moscow he rolled up in a fur coat and a fedora.
His style matches the content of the album in the sense that it sounds like it was taken from another era. It’s very sexual to say the least. A lot of the songs have content regarding either a significant other like “The Best One” Where he’s talking about loving and fucking as if their relationship will dissipate into oblivion within the next moment.
“I think she could be in it for the long run
My niggas said I’m on one
I never knew a love stronger
My heart great big boulder
Hey, you fuck me like you know this could be something like your very last moment
I could leave it at the drop of a Fedora
But damn it girl I want you”
Or talking about lust and temptation in general ON THE VERY NEXT SONG “What More Can I Say”:
But they make it so hard to be faithful
They make it so hard on me
The top of the day, baby, look what they wearin’
Then talking about giving up his sidepieces for his girl on a later track, “Sidepiece”.
On the song “Get Bigger/Do U Luv”, .Paak talks about his hustle and eventual rise as a musician from working a minimum wage job at the age of 17. Knxwledge takes Webster Lewis’s “The Love You Give to Me” and slows it down to make the beat of this song. It’s another great example of him capturing the soulful essence of this album.
My absolute favorite stretch of this album is the start of “H.A.N.” (stands for Hoe Ass N***a) to the end of “Sidepiece” In between those songs are “Scared Money”, “Suede”, and “Starlite”.
“Starlite” is my favorite track off of this album (for now. I actually fluctuate because every song on this album is fucking incredible and I cannot just pick a single as a favorite song). Even though it is a weird blend of the infidelity that is present on previous songs, it’s sort of a story telling of a relationship between .Paak and his woman. Talking about how they first met to how they are as a couple now, even going on to talk about his wish to be faithful but sometimes it just does not work. The hook of this track shows the dichotomy of music and this album sometimes as it can be romantic and borderline misogynistic (referring to women as bitches and all that) at times. It reminds me of older James Brown tracks. You know, those “It’s a Mans world” type of songs.
Hey, got damn, bitch, they playing our song
I wanna stay with you all night long
Forget every single word I’ve said, I was dead wrong
And ooh baby, they’re playing our song
I wanna stay with you all night long
Forget every single word I’ve said, I was dead wrong, dead wrong
“Suede” was my first introduction to NxWorries and it’s such a fantastic song. The way that .Paak says “All my chicks cook griiiiiits” might have been one of my favorite things about music from 2015. The music video is fantastic as all hell too.
This shit set my expectations high for the album and really gave me a sense of the chemistry between Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge. One of my only complaints about “Malibu” was that it felt all over the place. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but with .Paak just working with just Knxwledge, this project feels a lot more concentrated on soul, which I think works masterfully with .Paak’s singing. The potential of this was met and what we have is a gift of an album with some hip-hop that is infused with groovy beats and soulful melodies. The entire album just flows so seamlessly together that I feel like I can only listen it straight through from beginning to end with no skips. Just to reiterate this, it is really fucking good. Nelson spoke about how Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book had a more gospel feel to the album and rolled with it, I’m telling you now how “Yes Lawd” takes soul and does the same thing. It is able to take the soulful groove from the past and work it’s way to create an album that acknowledges it’s inspiration while still sounding modern and current.
And for that, I thank Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge for blessing us with this.