Sex can sell when sung in gospel runs. At least that’s the bet NxWorries—a duo consisting of R&B rising star Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge—is hoping to see pay off on their new album Yes Lawd!. By enveloping sweaty sensuality within a holy aesthetic cruise over beats inspired by MF Doom and J Dilla, NxWorries skirts the line between love making and dry humping. But to reduce the album to pick-up lines and coital exploits does a disservice to how celebratory .Paak is regarding his rise to prominence. Yes Lawd! is a hallelujah to the Most High—an appreciation for the precious gift of life and .Paak’s own career reaching unfathomable heights.
Anderson .Paak’s career was never really promised and he’s never been shy about chronicling his humble beginnings. On “Get Bigger/Do U Luv” .Paak recalls the day he “Left home at 17 to lighten the load” on his mother.

Leaving home at that age with hardly any technical skills he ended up “Bagging groceries, pushin’ them carts.” But he knew he had another calling, one that would be strengthened by this meager start. After a night of getting high on a roof where he envisioned all of the things that could be his, he woke up said “I quit,” then got to work on realizing his potential. .Paak was homeless; couch surfing and making music until Dr. Dre got a copy of his first project, Venice. The producer liked what he heard and .Paak convinced him to come through to the studio where Dre understood .Paak’s limitless potential.
The rest is pretty much history.

.Paak was featured on nearly half of Dre’s critically acclaimed album Compton. And once he dropped his second album, Malibu he’s been reaping the rewards ever since.

As a side project NxWorries features .Paak’s charismatic vocals, which, undoubtedly, set the line between R&B, soul and rap ablaze. Over a smoothly flipped sample of Ahmad Jamal’s track, “Ghetto Child”, .Paak reaches nasally peaks reminiscent of Ronald Isley when he politely urges his lady friend to “Go get the liquor/ Leave the kids at you sister’s” because “It’s been a long time since we danced all night/ Wanna see that ass move around.” .Paak is urgent and playful here and it’s this posture that steadies our ears even when he gets particularly banal.

.Paak’s got a problem with being faithful amidst all the celebrations. But it’s where he’s most playful. On “Lyk Dis” he whispers “Who put the pussy in the coffin?/ Then make it rise to god above.” As the clothes come off his voice crescendos out to match the occasion, “I won’t be long, I won’t be brief/ You at your peak is all I need.” .Paak is adept at lacing rap braggadocio within a larger soul texture. He knows he’s good at lovin’ nasty on a woman and he’s not into beating around the bush about it—”I wish I was Prince Charming, but this is not the fairy tale/ Bitch, Cinderella’s boring.” Later in “Starlite” he revises that hard stance with a more genteel, “I wanna stay with you all night long/ Forget every single word I’ve said, I was dead wrong.”

Perhaps what sets .Paak apart on Yes Lawd is an understanding of his own grimy ways. In one of those moments of personal reflection on “Sidepiece,” he quips, “I do admit I’ve been back and forth on my bullshit/ It’s hard for me to keep the promise ring when I head out on tour/ But if you give me time, I’ve been cleared to love.” The guilt he feels harkens back to the sinner-saint tension imbibed in his spirituality. On “Khadijah,” he raps, “My whole world runnin’ ’round flesh/ The whole world got me so vexed.” Invoking scenes of what Buddhists call samsara, .Paak only finds respite in the women he lusts after and praises. The push and pull of being faithful rarely ends with his sidepieces and his main squeeze—it permeates his relationship with a heavenly spirit that requires stringent commitment.

These heady ideas are grounded in Knxwledge’s boom bap production. With open drum loops made more real by .Paak playing over the mechanical backtracking, the chemistry between the duo is palpable and old-fashioned. NxWorries feels like an effortless endeavor for these two, simply because their styles gel so nicely together. .Paak’s charm and wit are only amplified by Knxwledge’s musical know-how—allowing them both to shine through the modest production quality. .Paak is on the way up and Yes Lawd provides all the reasons why his meteoric rise ain’t gassing out any time soon.

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