Singer/rapper Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge are NxWorries, and together they made one of the best albums of 2016, Yes Lawd! (available now on Apple Music, and out everywhere on Oct. 21). The duo first linked up in 2015, for "Suede," a crass, soulful ballad. Yes Lawd!, the album-length result of their collaboration, expands on that mood. It's like the journals of a tortured pimp, caught between loving the women in his life and running game on them—while trying to get his music career off the ground too.
Anderson is R&B's Jadakiss. He's got a raspy, spirited voice that skates effortlessly over Knxwledge's production, which cooks little-known funk and R&B samples into perfectly bite-size songs. The smoked-out production takes the listener on a ride in a candy-paint woodgrain Caddy through Los Angeles.
NxWorries hopped on the phone with Complex for a conversation that ranged from begging for a woman's love to the influence of Roc Marciano on Yes Lawd!
There’s an interesting story behind how you and Knxwledge linked up.
Knxwledge: Yeah, that’s a song from the album. [Laughs.] It's one of the singles, a little uptempo joint for all the ladies.
Anderson .Paak: Yeah, it’s a rare dance joint.
K: I saw this video of this dude playing a tambourine on a roof. Key words: hashtag tambourine on a roof. So I put drums to the words he was saying and sent them on Twitter or email, I don’t remember. He liked it so I sent him more beats and we’re here now.
“Suede” was one of the first songs you guys put out. Is that the song you’re referring to?
AP: That was one of the first tunes that I wrote and everything kinda popped off from there. I remember when we performed that shit live, and Stones Throw was like: Take that shit down [from YouTube].” I was begging Knxwledge to see if Stones wanted to do a full project.
What was it about Knxwledge’s sound that you were so obsessed with?
AP: The simplicity and the infectiousness. It's soulful. I didn’t realize until later that he was in the church and all the stuff he was pulling from. That makes sense now, but when I was first hearing it, I couldn’t stop listening to it and I loved that there was so much space to write to.
Knxwledge, what was it about Anderson that drew you to him?
K: Self-explanatory. Wouldn’t you? I know you make beats.
I don’t make beats [Laughs.]
K: [Laughs.] You know what I’m saying? If you saw this nigga singing and playing the tambourine on a roof you’d be like: “Yo, my man makes beats.” Nah, but it’s just I was in the choir at one point. I be singing just like everybody. It just happened, man. It’s church. Church, hashtag.
At what point did you decide this could be an album?
K: I just work a bunch, write a bunch of beats, and end up having a lot of shit. I don’t think we made it a point to make an album. We just made a bunch of songs and then made it into what it is.
This one’s for you, Anderson. You talk about the struggle between making time for the women in your life and making time for your music. Can you elaborate on that push and pull?
AP: Dealing with a 9-to-5, too. A lot of musicians go through this, where it’s like, “OK, am I good enough to do this as my living, or is it a hobby? Maybe I should get a more structured way to support myself financially.” That’s a raw decision people make. Some play this middle ground where they do both. Sometimes they’re nice at it but others that go off to change everything, they jump into one or the other 100 percent. There’s definitely that element in the songwriting.
There’s pain on this album but it’s also smooth, on some pimp shit. You’re like a tortured pimp.
AP: [Laughs.] That’s what I’m saying! It’s the blues, man. This is soul music, like what are you going to talk about? You’re always going to be up 100 percent of the time? You always got all the bitches? You always got all the money? You always the coolest nigga? That’s not always the case, so I’m just trying to give the full perspective on this. This is what I’m going through, this is what people are going through. I wanted the album to resonate.
When you were writing these lyrics, did you think of yourself as being in a sort of character? Because it really does have a different flavor than Malibu…
AP: When I was writing the only thing I was thinking of was coming up with a specific tone. The writing is no different than I would do on something like “Milk N’ Honey” or any other stuff that’s Anderson .Paak. It was designated towards a specific tone. But the stories are there and are always coming from experiences from all around me.
What do you two think R&B is missing in 2016? I feel like people don’t beg for women on tracks anymore like Luther and them used to do.
K: [Laughs.] I feel you, son.
AP: [Laughs.] That’s right. They do but in other ways.
K: I don’t know, man. Better beats, rap on loops. Just take the drums out or something. Switch it up because it sounds the same every time I hear it.
AP: It’s just soul and the blues. Gotta come from the heart.
Were there particular albums or movies you had in mind or were listening to while working on this project?
K: I listened to a lot of my old records, some gospel records, choirs, ‘90s gospel.
AP: Is it Shazamable? [Laughs.]
K: It’s not Shazamable. And if you do Shazam it, my name is going to pop up which is crazy. So respect to that. But it started off on some pimp shit. That wasn’t the motive but it kept going. I also listen to a lot of pimp as well, so that didn’t help.
AP: Yup, Roc.
K: Yup, Roc Marciano. He’s a very pimp individual.
You guys were listening to The Pimpire Strikes Back? Had Sonny Carson playing in the background?
K: Come on, bro. Stop playing! This is a great interview. Put Sonny Carson on right now, you know it’s on YouTube.
So how did you guys make the album? Nowadays people work off email—were you able to be in the studio together?
AP: Both. We did a lot of it over email. By the time “Suede” started poppin’ off that’s when decided to meet up.
Being relatively new artists in this digital age of music, would you rather work in person?
AP: I just like making music. I think, though, to speak on our situation, our best work was done when we were in your crib. That stuff is on another level to me. We didn’t wait, though, we kept going up until mastering whether we were able to meet up or email.
I’m not trying to get you to give us your samples or whatever.
K: No, no, no. I already know. Son, you’re from New Jersey, bro, come on. Secrets.
When I listen to your music I can just hear the soul pouring out of you like when I listen to Isaac Hayes. What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
AP: Isaac Hayes, Frankie Beverly, Stevie, Michael, Teddy. My mom likes those groups that have the nigga with the falsetto, the one dude that just screams, the dude that does both, and then the dude with the low voice. She loves those kind of groups. She loved the Dells and groups like that. I remember hearing stuff where the dude was begging and screaming and shit. And church shit, people yelling.
This one’s for you, Knxwledge. How do you keep old jazz and funk samples fresh and new?
K: You see, I know you made beats. [Laughs.] Everybody has their science. I just go out and try to find good records, to be honest with you.
You mention women making you grits a couple times on this album. How important it is to be fed by someone you’re in love with?
K: Damn, wow. Son, you went crazy with these questions.
AP: Dude, that’s ultra. Just be an upper echelon human by taking care of somebody. Because I can be selfish.
K: Listen, man, I don’t do all the little sayings. That’s the way to get a nigga to love you. That’s crazy because musicians are malnourished. Sometimes I go days without eating. That’s a wild gesture to go out of your way to cook for someone. You gotta actually like somebody.
AP: You gotta show love.
Knxwledge, are you and Earl Sweatshirt working on something bigger?
AP: Come on, talk about it.
K: Chill. We have a lot of joints we have to finish up. But that nigga been making wild beats, so he’s in that mode.
Final question: Is this a one-off project? Can we expect more music?
AP: What you think, Knxwledge? Enjoy this one and we wanna do shows in tropical places. We gotta do something in Jersey.
K: Be on the lookout always. Everything is happening. I wake up and never have space on my computer. That’s when people get music.
AP: When’s there’s no space, you shall receive.