Earlier this year, in the cold winter of January, Anderson .Paak released Malibu, a fun and summery album that was drenched in Southern California vibes. As I predicted in my original review, the album would grow on me more over the summer, and it did, as I mentally felt like I was in the right headspace for it. Now, after nine months of delivering strong guest work, .Paak is back with producer Knxwledge to form this group NxWorries. I was excited for this collaboration when I originally heard about it and jumped on the chance to listen when it was released a week early on Apple Music.
The end result was different from what I was originally expecting. While still a solid R&B record, the tracks here are short, staying under the three minute mark for the most part, often containing fairly simple lyrical sentiments. That is not to say this album is lacking in content, however, it just chooses to stay on the simpler side, which I can appreciate. Especially since one of my main problems with Malibu was how excessive it felt at times.
This simplicity is found early on with tracks like “Livvin” where .Paak sings about living a life full of sex and joy, with his signature rough vocals, as Knxwledge provides some gorgeous instrumentation to accompany him, complete with a well-developed horn section. The same goes for “Wngs,” a song about finding the time to make love and spend a night out. Even the song “Best One” reminds me of a classic R&B song from the 60s or 70s, adapted for a contemporary audience, a vibe that is all over this record.
These wonderful horns are all over “What More Can I Say,” where .Paak struggles to stay faithful to his partner as various women throw themselves at him. Knxwledge’s use of glockenspiel, I assume that’s what it is anyway, of “Kutless,” another of the several tracks that are ready to be played during an inmate moment.
“Can’t Stop” fits on here awkwardly, using some really heavy vocal filters on .Paak, really taking you out of the vibe this record has. And as much as I love Rick and Morty, the sample on here is a little too silly for this record.
The album redeems itself instantly after this misfire, with the personal story of .Paak’s young adulthood on “Get Bigger/Do U Love.” He talks about leaving home at 17 because his mother could not afford to take care of him. He explains his constant strive to make something bigger and better of himself. This success of his is reflected in the comical “H.A.N.,” where the annoyance of fake friends, trying to use .Paak’s fame to get big, are at the forefront. The little skit during the last half of the track is pretty entertaining, as well.
Knxwledge recreates the 80s with the synth-heavy “Sacred Money,” another one of the more developed songs in the tracklist. The song also starts are goofier leg of the record with “Suede,” which could probably see as blatantly misogynistic, intentionally song, but still coming off as cool and old school. Same for “Sidepiece,” a seemingly sweet song where .Paak lets his girlfriend know he will give up his side girl to show how much he cares about her. Again, this is done for laughs, making it feel smooth and not sleazy.
“Link Up” is a braggadocios song where .Paak walks into the club, takes some guy’s girl and tells everyone to try and keep up with his dance moves. The final track “Fkku” closes things off well, with a woman going over all the ways she wishes .Paak will get hurt, showing the consequences of his actions throughout the record. It ends with .Paak explaining he still loves his girl, even if she can be a little crazy. It is a silly end to a fairly silly album and it just closes everything up well.
The biggest problems here are just the lack of development some of the 19 tracks here get. At just under 50 minutes, there was certainly some room for expansion for songs like “Jodi” and “Wngs.” And the occasional sexist, even aggressive tone towards women on this album, while not sincere, will certainly not be for everyone.
Those who enjoyed Malibu should definitely check this record out, as .Paak continues to prove he is one of the more unique voices in modern R&B and someone who we will certainly be hearing a lot from over the years. I also hope this record will put more of a spotlight on Knxwledge how is proving himself to be quite a unique producer in his own right. I have no idea if NxWorries has any plans to make more music after this, but I would definitely be excited if they did.
Best Tracks: Livvin, Best One, Get Bigger/Do U Luv, Sacred Money, Suede, Sidepiece, Link Up
Worst Track: Can’t Stop