Anderson .Paak is a singer and multi-instrumentalist who blends soul, funk, hip hop and R&B to create a warm, timeless sound that’s distinctly his own. Knxwledge is a technically skilled hip-hop producer with a knack for finding perfectly obscure records to sample and supporting them with crisp, thick percussion. After meeting on Twitter, the pair released an EP under their collaborative alias, NxWorries, in 2013, and though it’s beautiful, its brevity inevitably left fans wanting more. Both artists have evolved independently since — Anderson .Paak released his second solo album, Malibu, earlier this year, while Knxwledge produced for Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt. Another collaboration began to feel like fantasy, obviously doomed by tour schedules or other complications. However, on Friday, NxWorries released their first full-length LP one week ahead of its scheduled arrival on iTunes and Apple Music.

Yes Lawd! is a lighthearted project and its artists seem at ease, like they’re creating music solely for the fun of it. Its instrumentals archive the brightest sounds of earlier eras and Anderson .Paak dances atop them, the stages for his vocal theatrics. He is a an old-school emcee: neither rapping nor singing exactly, he keeps his tone somewhere in between the two and still never fails to turn spoken words into song. The album opens with a brief skit featuring gangster braggadocio, then segues into “Livvin,” a proper introduction on which .Paak delivers soulful, celebratory anecdotes about persistence despite hardships and drought. The beat is built around suspenseful, looping horns and .Paak establishes humane sensibility through his affirmation: “It ain’t all about the money, you dummy / But if it’s out here, why don’t you get it?”   

Initially, the album feels dedicated to romancing Anderson .Paak’s loved one. “Wngs” is a smooth, jazzy plea for an overdue night together and on “Best One” he basks in her perfection, assuring: “I hope I never have to cut you off / You’re my best one.” “What More Can I Say” complicates the love story by introducing .Paak’s most sensitive relationship tendencies — he confesses his inability to be leashed, but still feels hopelessly attracted to the idea of a relationship. On Yes Lawd!, Anderson .Paak is not just an infatuated poet — he is a classically cool male entertainer in obvious parallel to Marvin Gaye.

“Lyk Dis” is a confident, sensual bedroom rap delivered with swagger and sensitivity and “Scared Money” campaigns for sexual urgency, relying on the metaphor “scared money don’t make money” to spark an immediate fire. On “Starlite,” .Paak delivers the album’s most technically impressive rap verse, bragging over piano and choir loops: “I’m nothing like your Ken and you got bigger tits than Barbie.” His fast words are slyly spoken in striking similarity to Andre 3K’s prophetic tone on “International Player’s Anthem.”

Songs are short and change frequently on Yes Lawd!, often transitioning through oddly comical skits or beat changes that serve as interludes. It’s an unconventional form for an album, but business as usual for Stones Throw Records, the independent label that backs NxWorries and many other underground hip-hop heroes. Their albums are often jumpy and packed with quirky skits, which could be off-putting if done by an unfit producer, but such spaces allow Knxwledge to infuse his personality with subtlety. “Can’t Stop” starts as a hypnotic break-beat with ad-libs as the only vocal accompaniment, then becomes moodier, with drippy instrumentation and vague, monotone singing, before concluding with sampled dialogue from the Cartoon Network show, “Rick and Morty.” Anderson .Paak is completely absent from the song, yet every moment is musically exciting. 

Still, the most rewarding moments arrive when the artists’ distinctions disappear and NxWorries becomes a truly combined entity. “Kutless” is a smooth, hazy, minimalist ride on which Anderson .Paak repeats an invitation to “cruise for the moment,” and the beat perfectly balances his lyrical simplicity. Knxwledge and .Paak co-author an elaborate musical sketch on “H.A.N.,” a shaming of the leeches that often ruin the artists’ moods, and “Jodi” is a short interlude with similar intentions.

Yes Lawd! is half beat tape and half 1980s nightclub performance, but it’s sharpest when the two forms intertwine. The album’s epic, “Get Bigger / Do U Luv,” offers a bone-chilling reflection on .Paak’s steep climb to happiness, then switches into a moody sing-song in which he wonders emphatically: “Do you love?” Knxwledge’s impossibly thick, textured strings perfectly score the serenity. It’s the magical, collaborative masterpiece that we waited for, even if it’s only one song.

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