Given that we live in the time of fleeting internet stars and overnight sensations, Anderson .Paak seems like an artist from a bygone era. At 30 years-old, the Californian is a late bloomer by hip-hop’s standards, with his years of independent toil only really coming to fruition since appearing on Dr. Dre's ‘Compton’ album in 2015. His life before that in which he recorded music independently, played weddings, worked on a weed farm and was homeless for a time mean that Anderson .Paak is an artist with a story to tell. Following the eclectic brilliance of Paak's last solo album ‘Malibu’, he has once again teamed up with producer Knxwledge to release the duo's debut album.
‘Yes Lawd!’ squeezes 19 tracks into just under 50 minutes, with the frantic pace of the album reined in by .Paak’s ability to suddenly shift energy as well as Knxwledge's skill in crafting some slower instrumental moments. In comparison with .Paak’s solo project ‘Malibu’, which was intensely autobiographical, his writing on this album seems more laid-back and celebratory. "I'm winning!", he screams on opening track 'Livvin', with this exclamation less an arrogant boast and more declaration of thankful self-affirmation.
That's not to say ‘Yes Lawd!’ is without its more introspective moments, with the album's centrepiece 'Get Bigger' being the clearest illustration of .Paak’s ability to weave reflections on his journey around the general sense of celebration. In this track .Paak discusses outgrowing a dead-end job and a negative relationship in the pursuit of a career in music. Knxwledge's beautifully meditative beat accompanies .Paak’s description of sacrificing opportunities and relationships for music, with the line "She said, "Music or me?" The fuck do you mean," perfectly encapsulating this sentiment.
West Coast producer Knxwledge, perhaps best known for his work on Kendrick Lamar's ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, provides a varied musical canvas for .Paak. The production on this album manoeuvres through elements of soul, funk, jazz and gospel but never strays too far from its hip-hop core, with the beats on ‘Yes Lawd!’ steeped in the neo-soul lineage of J Dilla. Knxwledge does an incredible job of finding the balance between variety and coherence in his production, allowing .Paak to experiment whilst maintaining a consistent aesthetic. Perhaps the one misstep in Knxwledge's otherwise excellent production is the tepid ‘90s R&B-inspired 'Scared Money', which sounds out of place and doesn't add much to the project.
‘Yes Lawd!’ is a feel-good album that isn't afraid to take a step back and reflect. NxWorries brilliantly capture the sense of being carried by the whirlwind of success — disorientated and bewildered but enjoying the ride regardless.
Words: Will Rosebury
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