Yes Lawd! NxWorries Returns
As the horns kick in atop rolling drums, a scratchy, bright voice cheers “Let’s get it!” The downbeat hits like a wedding DJ dropping the needle on the first track of the night. The fanfare heralds the union between singer Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge, the duo known as NxWorries. The song is “Livvin,” and it kicks off the group’s debut album, “Yes Lawd!”
Knxwledge, born Glen Boothe, bubbled up from the Bandcamp scene. Frequent digital releases led to proper indie albums, now found on orange vinyl in an Urban Outfitters near you. The beatmaker flew to international prominence on a mixtape beat repurposed for Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly.” Anderson .Paak’s Compton connection was Dr. Dre. The G-funk legend included .Paak on six of his comeback album’s tracks. Since then, the singer released his sophomore album, became ubiquitous at festivals and recorded features for artists across genres.
Their collaboration as NxWorries began as an EP, named “Link Up & Suede” after its two singles. It also included three instrumental interludes and a Knxwledge remix of a song from .Paak’s debut album. Fulfilling the promise of that scant offering, NxWorries released their debut on Stones Throw this month.
The duo’s creative chemistry yields a new-school soul record built on the shoulders of giants. The album’s hyperbolic energy feels like a faded exploitation movie poster come to life. Knxwledge’s instrumentation is a patchwork of dusty samples and off-kilter drums, recalling the funk of legends like Madlib and J Dilla. .Paak seizes the opportunity to croon with the rhythm of a rapper. On “Get Bigger,” he spins a rags-to-riches tale sounding like he’s freestyling to endure a long commute. “At night I working grave, just counting the time, on my break I wrote a song about the love of my life,” he sings, popping syllables with utter conviction. A keyboard melody moves into the foreground like a radio signal bursting through static.
Beyond pure bravado, NxWorries spend most of the record focused on the ladies. The slinky groove of “Link Up” is an absolute smash. It’s a dance song for all the hip-hop heads, coasting along like a vintage Michael Jackson song stripped for parts. “Wngs” is a brief come-on to an old flame, with the singer deciding that “we hitting the town, it’s been a long time since we drank all night.” On “Khadijah,” .Paak finds solace from everyday stress with women and weed, while Knxwledge plays a busy bass line with the fervor of Bootsy Collins.
The duo does not always link up properly. Though NxWorries has a charmingly stoned sense of humor, when they bring it to the forefront, it’s all the fun of watching a friend try to perform inside jokes at an open mic. “H.A.N.” is all salt and no flavor. Over a plodding beat, .Paak adopts a preacher persona that recalls the unfunny antics of André 3000’s faux-British accent. The track mocks wannabe stars hustling to distribute their music, and the duo’s chemistry is absent. Given that .Paak’s lyrics make his dedication a central part of his mythos, it feels hypocritical at best. Similarly, final track “Fkku” squanders a sea of Beatlesque .Paak harmonies by dropping a spiteful pitch-shifted monologue on top of it.
Midway through the album, .Paak drops the duo’s mission statement, chanting “scared money don’t make none, talk is cheap.” Unafraid to embrace their strengths, the pair’s debut can sit comfortably alongside blunted classics like “Madvillainy” and “Paul’s Boutique.” Though they don’t quite reach the heights of their solo work, Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge complement each other perfectly. Songs this smooth will have listeners crying out as jubilantly as the title.
Originally published on NDSMCObserver.