”If you’re a true artist, you’ll be affected by the world around you. That’s why when people get rich, their music goes to shit, and when they’re struggling, their music is fucking amazing. The people around them, the things they’re going through — their art is a direct reflection of that. They need to create in order to live. The people I respect aren’t just living life, seeing things and ignoring them.”
— Anderson. Paak (October 2016 interview with Hunger)
Anderson .Paak’s meteoric rise hasn’t come without its fair share of struggles and life-altering bumps in the road. The suddenly universally-featured artist had a rough trajectory to stardom; the singer has seen everything from his father being imprisoned for domestic abuse to his mother’s gambling addiction to homelessness — but .Paak has never once taken that for granted.
On “Another Time,” .Paak croons: “The solid rock that I stand upon / Yeah, only as strong as the base that you're building on / All this to gain if you can't stake your claim in this great big world / It's nobody's fault but yours.”
Yes, Lawd!, the collaboration between .Paak and hip-hop producer and beatmaker Knxwledge under the name of NxWorries (pronounced “No Worries”), is an album that evokes the silky-smooth sounds of ‘60s R&B, gospel, soul and hip-hop. While much of the focus of Yes, Lawd! lies squarely on .Paak, and for good reason, it is Knxwledge who is one of the true stars of the album. His production, very much akin to and evoking much-deserved comparisons to the legendary producer J Dilla, ebbs and flows through rhythms and serves as the perfect canvas for .Paak’s raspy voice to shine.
At times, Yes, Lawd! feels like a victory lap for .Paak, especially after this year’s star-making solo full-length Malibu, but calling it that would be an absolute disservice to what is an incredible standalone project. “Can’t Stop” sees Knxwledge flexing his producing chops in one of the album’s most brilliant and inventive pieces of music, and “Sidepiece” is one of the smoothest moments on the album. “One won't do and two is not enough for me, no,” .Paak sings in an homage to J Dilla’s posthumous album The Shining, before singing, “I just want you / I want you / So I'll give up my sidepiece and make it come true.”
The album isn’t perfect, however; there are moments where .Paak’s lyrics simply fail to delve deeper than surface level, encroaching the territory of cliché. On several tracks, .Paak borders on sexism (“If I call you my bitch / It’s because you’re my bitch / And as long as no one else call you a bitch / Then there won't be no problems,” he sings on “Suede”), and “H.A.N.” sees .Paak taking jabs at beatmakers and fellow artists trying to ride the wave he’s created for himself. While it’s not uncommon for artists to give self-aggrandizing views of their come up, .Paak’s apparent (and completely anonymous) beef with other up-and-comers feels almost completely out of context.
However, .Paak focuses this confidence on “Get Bigger / Do U Luv” and pulls off one of the most instantly enjoyable tracks on an album already chock full of immediately gratifying music. The chorus oozes self-reliance: “You and me have to get bigger / I'm jumping the wall, raising the ball / Taking no bullshit / You and me have to get bigger.” .Paak finishes off the chorus with “I'm legit, I'm legit” — and it sounds completely natural.
Even through its occasional flaws, Yes, Lawd! is a wonderfully-produced work of art that bolsters Anderson .Paak’s continued rise to stardom.
by Trevor Paxton
Song You Need To Hear: "Sidepiece"
Stones Throw Records