Let’s teleport back to 2015 shall we? Rap is in the midst of one of it’s most release-heavy years ever. With artists like Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator & Earl Sweatshirt all dropping some of their best works. Then, out of nowhere Dr. Dre made his return with Compton. On a lot of the tracks there’s this guy named Anderson .Paak featured on them. He was very underground around this time, but this placement sent him into the stratosphere. Around that same time he was prepping for his own album Malibu to drop that next year, but that year he dropped the song “Suede” produced by Los Angeles-based legend Knxwledge. Knxwledge, also relatively underground, had just won a Grammy for producing on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. The song fit both of their sounds so perfectly with it’s slowed down sample of Gil-Scott Heron’s “The Bottle” and muffled drum loop coupled with .Paak’s raspy vocal delivery. This track left fans wanting more and more. That December the duo released “Link Up” a groovy R&B track based around a sample of “Onda” by Cassiano, then on December 4th they dropped the EP Link Up & Suede. These two tracks and the EP had listeners hooked and begging for a full length project, and Anderson & Knx delivered with Yes Lawd!.
Knx discovered Anderson by coming across a performance he did of a song off his first tape, Knx remixed it and years later Anderson heard the remix and did a dive of his discography. Knx then hit Anderson up and they made “Suede” not long after. This album sounds like new success for both .Paak & Knxwledge. From the first two tracks “Intro” and “Livvin” the scene is set like a grand entrance. “Intro” begins the album off with a decree of “we’re getting money now, we’re constantly getting better, and we’re better than you.” That energy continues right into “Livvin” where Anderson sounds like he’s on top of the world, paired with the horn chorus behind him he shouts “Let’s get it!” It’s a bombastic greeting that let’s the listener know that they’re in for a treat. There are moments like that all over the album, where you feel proud of just how far these two have come. Now, well at the time, they were both being thrusted into a brighter shine. “Get Bigger” is an autobiographical tale of the trials and tribulations Anderson went through to get to where he is today. Even when he was younger he knew exactly what he wanted to do in life, ” Closing my eyes visioning in Monte Carlos with tinted windows and balling legitimate, Open my eyes, I was in the same predicament, The next day I called in; said ‘I quit’, Bitch, I get bigger.”
With Anderson .Paak manning the vocals on a project his signature subject matter of women and relationships will always pop up, this album is no different. “Best One” sees .Paak expressing his gratitude for a lover that took care of him while he was at a low-point in life. She knows he isn’t in the best of predicaments, but she loves him anyway. Anderson, in turn, prays that doesn’t have to stop talking to her even though he knows he could at a moment’s notice. The next track, one of my personal favorites, “What More Can I Say” finds .Paak trying to remain faithful to his woman through lust and temptation. Anderson asks god for strength because even the smallest things make him question his mental fortitude. He’s trying his hardest, but lust and alcohol make it hard to have control over his emotions. Then there’s “Lyk Dis” where it’s message is so clear, it’s crystal. This is a song about making love, apparently Anderson is really good at it, too. He brags about that on song, but it doesn’t get as annoying as it might sound. Anderson is here for one thing only, no love, just sex. Apparently he’s a little too good as the woman has started losing common sense. “Who turned you on, and crawling, begging? Who told your mum you’d have my babies?“
.Paak trying to be a better person is a main focal point of a good chunk of the album. “Starlite“, “Sidepiece” & “Jodi” are all songs that show that .Paak knows he not the best guy, but he’s trying his best to be better. “Starlite” is about his attempt to get a past-lover back after being caught cheating. After detailing how they got to this point, he invites her back to his home, but before they leave their “song” comes on and .Paak passionately begs her to stay with him forever. “Sidepiece” once again sees .Paak struggling to stay faithful to one person, but he promises if she gives him time he’ll give up his sidepiece to only have room for her. By the end of the song he promises this woman that he’ll never put another soul over her if he doesn’t have to. “Jodi” is about Anderson keeping thoughts about another woman “Jodi” in the back of his head because he knows she’ll be there whenever he “can get it.”
With any tape where Knxwledge is either on a track or manning the entire production alone, you know you’re gonna get his signature brand of sampling. Even though Knx has been making beats forever, no Knx beat sounds the same. His production is in a league of it’s own and this album shows that to a perfect degree. His mastery shines when it comes to knowing what a beat needs more of and what it needs less of. When he discovered Anderson through a live performance he said in an interview with Complex, “I saw this video of this dude playing a tambourine on a roof. Key words: hashtag tambourine on a roof. So I put drums to the words he was saying and sent them on Twitter or email, I don’t remember.” Just knowing that the video only needed drums is a perfect example of his approach to beat making.
From the beginning of the album Knx’s production take you by the collar. “Livvin” hit you over the head with a sample of “TRIBUTO AO SORRISO” by Karma. The sample itself only contains guitar and drums, but Knxwledge being the master that he is, added a horn section. That horn section makes this song. It goes from good, to sounding like a victory parade. The drums and bass line on “Wngs” make the song sound like a jazz club filled with smoke. Since I am a complete sucker for strings “What More Can I Say” has a very special place in the tracklist for me. But it’s not just the strings, it’s the face that Knxwledge didn’t really touch the sample at all. The drums and bassline were already on the original song! “Another Time” is another one where he didn’t add much to make a special track. Knx recreated the bassline to fill in some spaces, but largely this song is Anderson crooning over a great sample. When you have .Paak super unique voice that he can manipulate and hit all the notes you need, you don’t really have to surround that with insane beats. I’m super glad Knx knew that and did it to perfection.
It’s been five years and some change since this album dropped and finally Anderson announced that we’re getting new NxWorries soon. Which is amazing since I wasn’t that big of a fan of Silk Sonic, the project he did with Bruno Mars. With this new tape, I hope and pray on bended knee for a couple things. One, no features. What made this album special to me was seeing what Knx and .Paak could do just by themselves. No terrible rap verses, no co-production, just Knxwledge & Anderson. Two, don’t follow the same formula. Both of these guys aren’t in the same positions they were when this dropped. Anderson has won a couple Grammys, and Knxwledge keeps proving every day that he’s not to be messed with behind the MPC. I hope a new release reflects this. They previewed a new song at 88rising’s Double Happiness show in 2020 called “Where I Go” and if that’s a precursor, we’re in for something special.
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