If you and yours are tired of studying/chilling/euphemism-ing to Top 40 R&B, try some neo-soul. It’s a good time to get into it, considering artists like Solange, Xenia Rubinos, and Frank Ocean have released emotive, sensual, and universally acclaimed projects just this year. If you’re in a rush, put any of their Spotify pages on shuffle and godspeed–but if you’ve got a minute, take some time to appreciate the undisputed neo-soul maestro of 2016, Anderson .Paak.
.Paak kicked this year off with his second album Malibu, a staggeringly smooth record that set the tone for the rest of his 2016. With features on big-name projects like Kaytranada’s 99.9% and Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP, as well as top-billed sets at Coachella and Outside Lands, the man has established himself as a heavy hitter in today’s alternative music scene. Watching .Paak explode in popularity has been an incredibly satisfying experience, especially with the added hype of finding out earlier this October that his 2015 EP Link Up & Suede with producer Knxwledge was going to result in a full-length under the collaboration NxWorries. The promise of hearing .Paak’s velvet-smooth vocals over the J-Dilla/Madlib-inspired Hud Dreems producer’s beats has been one of the most anticipated prospects this year, and as of October 21st, 2016, Yes Lawd! is streaming worldwide.
48 minutes of Anderson .Paak macking on top of Knxwledge’s jazzy, soul-sampled production doesn’t sound like it can go wrong, and for the most part, it doesn’t. The whole project is what fans of either artist can expect, with an irresistibly playful atmosphere maintained throughout it’s length. .Paak’s crooning fits Knxwledge’s style of production perfectly, and no track seems clumsily arranged or awkwardly delivered. It’s a lot of fun the whole time too, with .Paak excelling at swinging from goofy to dirty with an unmatched mastery, managing to maintain a healthy balance of introspection and sexual boasting. Knxwledge, in the style of the Stones Throw Records temperament, lays out minimalist yet nuanced loops of soul and jazz samples over heavy percussion, complimenting .Paak’s vocals with clear proficiency. Yes Lawd!, if anything, is cohesive and consistent–but it is lacking.
Despite offering an honest performance with little error, if ever, .Paak has few truly memorable hooks or addictive melodies that stand out, and often seems to be relying on the same style of delivery throughout many of the songs. He seems to truly shine when switching up his flow and tone on tracks such as “Lyk Dis” and “Link Up,” and in contrast can seem slightly uninteresting on tracks like “Get Bigger” and “H.A.N.” It’s also worth mentioning that while .Paak is no wordsmith, he has a tendency to present absolutely uninspired lyricism on tracks that are otherwise quality, distracting from what would otherwise be superb performances. And while Knxwledge is far and away from being known for complexity, he sometimes comes off as indistinct, with some beats standing in the shadow of .Paak’s vocals, especially “Kutless.” It should be stressed that Knxwledge is indeed doing what he does best–but simply covering the bases for .Paak’s singing doesn’t quite satisfy, and in contrast to the polished sophistication of Malibu’s instrumentals, the production sits a row too far in the back. It’s all very, very safe.
But it’s still nice, and fans of either of the two will find something to enjoy throughout. The album certainly has its highlights in tracks such as “Scared Money” and “Lyk Dis,” and jogs a consistent pace with an air of confidence. The occasional listener will find themselves hungry for a bit more, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it falls short of both Malibu and Hud Dreems–but it’s a solid album, a good performance from both, and perfect for whatever it is you do with these kind of records.
Article by Adil Siddiqee