The Breakdown: Yes Lawd! by KxWorries

Henry: .Paak and Knxwledge. are back, stylin’ as always, singing praise on high. Anderson .Paaks’ signature exaltation becomes the title of their second collaboration, which builds on choice cuts from their debut EP,  filling the project out into a 19-track ride that’s about as smooth as smooth gets. Though the scope is perhaps less ambitious than .Paak’s January LP Malibu, Yes Lawd is more musically cohesive, an argument for the one-producer-per-album rule which modern artists often ignore.

Knxwledge. weaves together the relatively short tracks seamlessly to the point that the album feels a lot like one long song, a patchwork of funk, soul and r&b with .Paak riffing over top about past loves and days gone by. His vocals function most importantly here as a sonic element, the raspy crooning that ties together what could easily stand alone as an instrumental release, a-la 2015’s Hud Dreems.

It’s not that Anderson .Paak mails it in on his lyrics either, it’s just that he could be saying literally anything and it would still sound pretty good. The duo has honed in on that rare producer-vocalist symbiosis, where each brings to the track exactly what the other half needed. Yes Lawd is perfectly balanced, and what it lacks in ups and downs, it more than makes up for pure cool, head nodding, fingers snapping, eyes skyward, smiling.


  1. Intro

Produced by Knxwledge.

Micah: A nice little intro. From the get-go it’s clear that Knxwledge signature sound that he’s been perfecting on his prolific mixtape discography will be all over the project. This intro blends perfectly into Livvin.

  1. Livvin

Produced by Knxwledge.

A fantastic track all around. From the background harmonies, to the triumphant trumpets tucked into the mix, to the endless drum fill, this song has the right amount of space to allow .Paak to make his entrance on the album. .Paak is charismatic, comfortable and captivating, making it clear that the collaboration between two artists with a dot in their name will be greater than the sum of it’s parts. Both .Paak and Knxwledge. have a smoothness that is distinct from all their influences and contemporaries, and I’m glad they found each other and committed to completing this project before .Paak’s rise into the hip hop A-list over the last year.

  1. Wngs

Produced by Knxwledge.

If this song came from any other artist I might call it incomplete, but I’ve grown accustomed to the short song lengths from Knxwledge. He has a way of creating cohesive projects with blended and extended loops and interludes that don’t feel unfinished. The drums he brings to this song are textured and rich and the backing vocals really make this short track something special. I can vibe this song much in the same way I can with some of J-Dilla’s shorter pieces. Songs like this are captivating and don’t overstay their welcome.

  1. Best One

Produced by Knxwledge.

.Paak flexes his singer-songwriter prowess on this song in a big way, aside from that debateable “drop of a fedora” line (Henry: I think it’s hilarious, for the record). He recounts a love affair with a woman he contemplates leaving even though she takes care of him when he’s hungry and homeless. The duality of being with someone he cares about while maintaining the attitude of “the grass is always greener” is a theme for .Paak.

Nothing is ever simple for a romantic nomad, and while .Paak is showing himself to be unreliable and unfaithful, I can always count on Knxwledge. to give me what I need musically. This song is no exception. This is one of the strongest tracks on an album full of high-caliber songs and you can bet it will be in my rotation for the rest of the year.

  1. What More Can I Say

Produced by Knxwledge.

Sonically and thematically, this song falls right in line with the rest. .Paak talks about how “you can’t keep me on a leash” and how he feels “so tempted”. He is the consummate flirt and isn’t ashamed of it. He tries to justify his faithless escapades when he says “No matter what broad you bangin’ / You know who you love in the end”. He just can’t seem to settle down.
On the musical side, Knxwledge.’s production is minimal, often only consisting of a rolling bassline, interspersed drums and chopped strings and horns. His genius lies in the simplicity and timing of his samples and rhythms. The wavering vocals at the end are a nice touch to ease into the next track.

  1. Kutless

Produced by Knxwledge.

This is one of my favorites. Even though it’s short and repetitive there is something about the looped descending electric piano line and laid back drumming that creates a vibe I really mess with. A lot of other songs that feel like extended loops fall short on their own, but I can see myself coming back to this track to rediscover it syrupy mellowness.

  1. Lyk Dis

Produced by Knxwledge.

This song is nasty and not just on a musical level. .Paak is spitting some blush-worthy seduction. He might be referencing to Kanye’s “put the pussy in a sarcophagus” line from Monster, but he take it one step further by sending it to the afterlife to be with God. He’s on some transcendent-level sexuality and the bubbling instrumentation matches flawlessly. It just drips with sexy.

  1. Can’t Stop

Produced by Knxwledge.

I’m not saying this track is filler, but it’s the first on the album aside from the short intro that won’t be making rotation. The first half is great, but having a beat switch on such a short song isn’t for me unless both sections are top notch and I don’t love the vocoder on the second half. The Rick and Morty sample is sweet tho. I like that Knxwledge. threw that in there.

  1. Get Bigger

Produced by Knxwledge.

This is a real standout on the album. The production is nearly perfect (I wish the clicking hi-hat was done differently). I can’t tell if he’s flipping a vocal sample or it’s some kind of keyboard, but the heavenly and haunting sound that repeats throughout the track is amazing. I can’t get enough of it.
.Paak takes a break from woman chasing to tell the story of making ends meet with a dream of breaking into the music industry. In his hustle to “get bigger” he works a dead end job and writes on the side until it becomes profitable enough to do full time and eventually allow him to indulge in women and material wealth. Fortunately, .Paak knows that the music is what got him to where he is and if he loses that he will end up right where he started. Even though he loves beautiful women and the finer things, it all comes back to music for .Paak and that’s what grounds him and makes his work so strong and this song is a testament to that.

  1. Khadijah

Produced by Knxwledge.

The smooth doesn’t stop. This track is short, but the contrast between the bare drum and bass instrumentation of the verses and the lush chords in the chorus make the song dynamic enough to keep in rotation. .Paak provides some of his most thoughtful songwriting as he longs for the blissful afterlife where he can feel the love of Khadijah, the wife of Muhammad.
In the meantime, he deals with the duality of the pleasure and torture of his mortal experience. Even though he claims that he yearns for Heaven’s embrace, free from corrupt police, crooked politicians, and his own faults; he hesitates, asking “Lord don’t take me / Laid up with a Libra / I’m battling demons.” .Paak tackles his struggle with the desire to remain in an imperfect world while pining for the warm embrace of the universe after death with a psychedelic cool and a smoothness that I can really dig. I love this song.

  1. H.A.N.

Produced by Knxwledge.

This song works fairly well as an interlude, but I can’t put it in rotation on its own. The production from Knxwledge. is good, but not his strongest on the project, and the vocal addition from .Paak is a little half-baked. It’s funny and works in context, but that’s about it.

  1. Scared Money

Produced by Knxwledge.

Oh boy I love the corny 80’s synthesizer on this song. It’s just fantastic. And the drums, there is a lot of great stuff going on in this song musically. .Paak’s harmonies are thick as ever and his cadence fits the song perfectly. There’s something about the line “My time ain’t long, and it sure ain’t free” that perfectly captures the project’s presence. It’s short, clocking in under fifty minutes, but Knxwledge. and . Paak accomplish so much, that the listener is left wanting more.  I really dig this track.

  1. Suede

Produced by Knxwledge.

Even though this song is nothing new, it’s still by far the best one on the album. In fact, it was my sixth favorite song of last year and I still play it all the time. There is a special kind of cohesion to Knxwledge.’s production, everything seems a little off, but there is elegance in the way he keeps all the pieces together, like a stammering pimp-strut. .Paak is at his most explosive out of the gate, “Smoother than a motherfucker,” and he’s absolutely right. In an album bursting with cool, this song is on another level.. This is my kind of feeling myself braggadocia accompanied by an old school soul soundtrack with a modern twist. So good.

  1. Starlite

Produced by Knxwledge.

I love the wavering vocal harmonies and the pulled back drums on this track that leave a lot of room for .Paak to work within, but it isn’t one of his strongest moments on the album. Don’t get me wrong, his singing one the hook at the end of the song is great and I love his playful wordplay, but every song can’t be his best. Throughout most of the album Knxwledge. plays a supporting role, but here he really steals the show.

  1. Sidepiece

Produced by Knxwledge.

This is about as romantic as an unfaithful partner can get. Sidepiece is .Paak’s lament to the woman he’s with, disavowing his mistress and reaffirming his monogamous commitment. It’s his psychedelic, mellowed out version of Usher’s Confessions. The songwriting is nice and the tom-tom and tambourine-heavy instrumental is appropriate, but the track only adds to the album without making a splash of its own.

16. Jodi

Produced by Knxwledge.

After reaffirming his romantic commitment, .Paak is back at it again lusting after a new sidepiece on this interlude. He says, “Jodi is a friend of mine, but you know she can get it”. While the infatuation is all in his head, it’s clear that .Paak will never stop looking for the next new thing. On a side note, it’s hilarious picturing Knxwledge. and .Paak in the studio recording the back and forth between the male and pitched up female voices on the introduction.

17. Link Up

Produced by Knxwledge.

When I first heard this song late last year I didn’t get it. I wrote it off as the inferior companion to Suede and haven’t given it much thought since, but in the context of the album, I’ve completely flipped. The “bad bitches oughta link up” line is so infectious. The twisted vocal sample is irresistible and the skipping drums add a danceability that is understated, yet intense. Link Up is another example how a loop can be extended to make the kind of hypnotic, meditative vibe that has become Knxwledge.’s signature.

18. Another Time

Produced by Knxwledge.

In my mind this should have been the closer to the album. .Paak casts aside the women he’s enjoyed along the way to instead big up those made him who he is. He says he’s “only as strong as the base that you’re building on”. He is reconnecting with his roots and finding his place is his family’s lineage. This is the kind of stuff I want to hear in an outro and the smooth backing vocals are just right for a send off, but the album squeezes one more in.

19. Fkku

Produced by Knxwledge.

This is a strange and abrupt ending to an incredibly smooth and easy to listen to album. I figured with such an appropriate opening, the closing would make as much sense, but nope. The track is a series of snippets and musings about the future of ass-whipping. This one is a bit of a headscratcher. Perhaps the strange ending is intended to encourage the listener to loop the album over again, a way of creating a perpetual listening experience that mirrors a lot of the loops on the project. Perhaps it’s intended to be anticlimactic to bring you out of the hypnotic spell of the project. Or maybe they just couldn’t come up with a way to wrap up the album nicely into a neat bow.


Henry Whittier-Ferguson & Micah Roehlkepartain