Anderson .Paak is an artist who has never been afraid of the struggle.
“The Dreamer,” the last track of his standout album Malibu, which debuted earlier this year, was a buttery-warm ballad where Paak, alongside emcee Talib Kweli and the Timan Family Choir, sung proudly about being a “product of the free lunch.”
His songs, such as “The Dreamer,” often craft funhouse mirror reflections of the worlds .Paak has inhabited and the ones he wishes to inhabit, often distorting his fond memories and harrowing experiences into abstract, striking forms.
Nowadays, .Paak finds himself in a radically different place from where he once was. He has collaborated with Dr. Dre, and he has two critically acclaimed albums. He’s playing music festivals the likes of which Freakfest only scrapes the bottom echelon of. Put simply, he’s made it.
This is a point in many artists’ careers where they’re not sure what to do next. What can inspire artists once they’re comfortable enough where they aren’t making music out of necessity any more?
On Yes Lawd, .Paak’s latest project with producer Knxwledge, .Paak — under the name NxWorries — conjures some impressive answers to this conundrum.
The first is to simply take in all of his success, and beam it back out. The album’s first track, “Livvin,” speaks to anyone who knows money doesn’t buy happiness, but also admits it certainly helps.
It also presents the first opportunity to appreciate just how well .Paak and Knxwlege work together as artists. Knxwledge has the same timeless, vintage sensibilities that .Paak is known for. He’s the retro jukebox to .Paak’s cool, coin-flipping crooner. They’re both old souls, but they make exciting, fresh music together.
Another area of .Paak’s lyrical scope on this record reaches back to help those he may have left behind. .Paak is clearly aware of his past on the project, commentating past the album’s halfway mark on “Khadijah,” “cops want to see a nigga dead / My plug chargin’ double for the strain.”
Though cops may not want to see .Paak himself dead, and I’m sure his plug is charging perfectly adequate prices for the strain, .Paak demonstrates he’s still able to step back into his past, either in character or not, without it seeming contrived.
He also throws delightful shade on “H.A.N.” To what the title is acronym for, I’ll let you figure out. But on the track, .Paak sermonizes to the whom the track is named after, instructing how to best pander to him now that he has money and clout in the music industry.
These are only a few of the themes .Paak touches on throughout the album, the one connection between all of them being that .Paak and Knxwledge utilize their natural music chemistry to its fullest extent.
It’s a tidy, kaleidoscopic album that, while not defining .Paak like his past works, should serve as a smooth prelude to the second arc of his bourgeoning career.
It’s also a guarantee that what comes next for .Paak will be something to look out for.