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“Why Lawd?”: NxWorries’ (Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge) Long-Awaited Second Record

NxWorries' second LP, 'Why Lawd?,' finds Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge hitting the ground running once again.
The cover for ‘Why Lawd?,’ the second record from NxWorries, a duo comprised of Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge.

Jump back to the state of music in 2016 and it seems like an entirely different landscape. XXL’s freshman class is particularly informative in that regard: Lil Yachty just released “Minnesota,” Lil Uzi Vert had yet to pen “X0 Tour Life” and Anderson .Paak was far, far away from the “Leave The Door Open” heights he’d eventually hit. The first piece to hit that stratosphere came later that year, though, a project by the name of Yes Lawd that spawned his biggest single to that point, “Suede.” Featuring gorgeous production from the group’s other half, producer Knxwledge, the song and the LP it was contained on gained a true cult following, and despite the detours in both artists’ careers since, they promised to return to the duo. At long last, this past weekend delivered it. Here’s everything you need to know about Why Lawd?, the second NxWorries album.

The Stellar Start To NxWorries’ Why Lawd?

“86Sentra” starts the project off on a high note despite its laid-back atmosphere. It’s also something of a statement on .Paak’s varied strengths; though he lays down some compelling melodies in the margins of it, he’s rapping, in spectacular fashion at that. There’s not much in way of a hook, and over woozy, soulful production that’ll prove to be this project’s center, he spins bars like “And we can go toe to toe, anyone you know / Young or old’ll get drove in the hearses / I just did the Super Bowl halftime show with the GOATs, why the f*** would I wanna do a Versus?”

“MoveOn” and “KeepHer,” the latter with Thundercat, tap into formulas that’ll register well with fans of “Malibu” and other .Paak solos. The first is a typical “where I started/where I am now” while the second majors in a lover-scorned sort of narrative. Both, however, chart the old school R&B lane the California native continues to excel in.

Perhaps the greatest strength on Why Lawd? is the cohesive NxWorries sound that Knxwledge maintains. Loop heavy and chock full of samples, the grainy, old-school atmosphere he establishes is metronome-like, not skipping a beat once as Anderson .Paak gets free rein to dabble in retro sounds far and wide over top.

Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge as NxWorries, in the leadup for ‘Why Lawd?’ Taken from @andersonpaak on Instagram.

Changes In The NxWorries Formula Bear Fruit In A Major Way

For this writer’s money, “Daydreaming” is the best execution of this. It’s notable for its stark left turn in genre, venturing towards an ’80s power ballad with heavy electric guitars and a knocking drum line. Don’t mistake it though, it’s not experimental just for the sake of it—the sticky chorus, tender verses and instrumentation combine for a true standout. 

It’s also worth noting the sense of humor on display here. In the near decade-long span between projects, .Paak suffered a semi-public split with his long-term partner. Our objective in this format isn’t to power rank how celebrities have handled such situations, but hypothetically, the California multi-hyphenate is near the top of the list. Rushed deliveries of half-truths and platitudes mark his verses on “HereIAm,” culminating in a skit argument with a friend who doesn’t have to do much to push Anderson to a breaking point.

The Cast Of Guest Characters Add Flavor & Flair

As for the guest appearances here, most go over without a hitch. Snoop Dogg’s spoken word section on “FromHere” is stellar, eschewing his hall of fame rap bonafides for some “elder statesman” storytelling. Rae Khalil, a relative newcomer, answers the call to be .Paak’s dance partner on a perfect note, excelling as the lone contemporary R&B feature on the project.

Earl Sweatshirt makes a surprise cameo towards the end of the project and turns in a characteristically dense and riveting performance once you wade through the absurdity of an Earl/.Paak collab. If nothing else, it speaks to the versatility of Knxwledge’s sound, able to craft such sturdy shared discographies with two artists seemingly diametrically opposed to one another. Jumping back to the start of the record, the aforementioned Thundercat feature is a pretty typical day at the office for him (that is to say, pretty good). However, while his mastery of the bass and falsetto vocals never takes anything off the table, it’s fair to leave the song wanting for more interplay between the two singers. 

In sum, what Anderson .Paak and Knxledge accomplish as NxWorries—and on Why Lawd?—is a breath of fresh air in the current scene, able to commit totally to a sound in such compelling fashion without stopping for a single trendy track along the way. 

You can find Why Lawd and all previous NxWorries output on streaming platforms everywhere.

Elsewhere in our coverage, Col3trane pushes the boundaries of contemporary R&B.

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