Fans of the propulsive percussion and soulfully soaring musical tone that ace producer Knxwledge gifted to would-be megastar Anderson .Paak on their 2016 collaborative album, Yes Lawd!, will also thoroughly enjoy 1988.
The Los Angeles producer’s new, mostly instrumental LP starts with the one-two punch of “Don’t Be Afraid” and “Do You,” both of which boast galvanising tones (due to the percussion and horns on the former, and the piano on the latter) that all but summon you to the dance floor.
More memorable still, however, is curveball track “Listen.” It features a quick sample of a pastor’s bold promise to take listeners to church, before a congregation’s worth of soulful female backup singers bust out heavenly high “doo doo doo’s.” The yin to that song’s yang is “Howtokope,” which overflows with rich male baritones that sound like musical prayers.
After that, however, comes the profanity-laced “With[reality],” which features a vocal sample of a rapper making aggressive threats in the background as an odd, otherworldly warbling analogue synth riff gives the proceedings a dreamlike quality. On “Solivelife,” meanwhile, a vocal sample cranked to a pitch worthy of Alvin and the Chipmunks isn’t comedic, but instead rendered all the more sinister than the aforementioned gangsta, thanks to the track’s tight, burly horn samples.
These are but a few of the offbeat, deeply soulful zigs and zags that 1988 takes across its 22 tracks (most of which clock in at less than two minutes). The album finds Knxwledge stretching in unpredictable new directions, while also maintaining the soulful throwback sound that garnered him so many fans in the first place. Speaking of past triumphs: listeners will delight most of all in Anderson .Paak’s appearance on “Itkanbe[sonice],” which amounts to sweet R&B icing on this already tempting treat of an LP. (Stones Throw)