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.
Malibu was partially heralded as a boom-bap revivalist move, but with NxWorries, .Paak continues to show that he’s a sponge for so much more than the smacking drum sounds of the 90s. Lately it feels like a lot of hip-hop has streamlined into bass-obsessed minimalism, and Yes Lawd! is clearly a reaction to that. From the opening gospel harmonies and .Paak’s raspy voice belting out the titular invocation “I’m livin’!,” the album has the easy confidence and swelling momentum of a victory lap. NxWorries fill every song to the brim with colour, texture samples and melody.
It’s definitely one for the beat nerds, stitching together buttery harmonies, jazz chords, dusty drums, 70s soul and bits of synth funk, evoking the detail-oriented soul of D’Angelo, Madlib and OutKast. For the most part, .Paak doesn’t so much rap as orate, swooping and swaggering on songs that often find him playing the part of conflicted manwhore. “I’ll never break your heart – if I don’t have to do it,” he sings on Sidepiece. The album is very much about the tension between doing the right thing and doing what feels good. Sometimes those two feelings overlap, sometimes they don’t.
“Let’s groove for the moment,” he sings on the cruisey slow jam Kutless. “Let’s do what they say can’t be done.” What’s refreshing about Yes Lawd! is that is approaches the topics of sex and trust issues from a place of playfulness and joy, even though consequence and morality are never far out of frame. As the exclamation and band name suggest, this is an album about feeling good, and the freewheeling abandon .Paak brings to his delivery is matched by Knxwledge, who keeps up with him by absorbing as many sounds, voices, eras and influences as he can.
Top track: What More Can I Say