If each year were delegated a musical zodiac sign, there is no question: this would be the year of the .Paak. He doesn't need a Top 10 on the Billboard to cement his status as an industry essential. Catapulted to the forefront as part of the obligatory slew of newcomers given their shot last year on Dr. Dre's masterful Compton, and he was certainly the most exciting voice present – and the one to make the most of it. In the year following, he's released an acclaimed and exciting album Malibu, and become a “duh” level hook provider when an artist really needs to bring the fun, gracing records like ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face, to Snakehips' club vibes, to bolstering Mac Miller's monotone delivery into pop bliss. What's more, he's remained a critical darling, fan favorite, and overall an exciting, uncompromised new voice.

It's no wonder, as the young man is blessed with the rarest of voices: wholey new and unique in the present musical landscape, while simultaneously feeling out of time. .Paak's joyful delivery wouldn't have felt out of place in the years of Curtis, even Otis. Amidst the scene of the past several decades, it sounds both deeply nostalgic and entirely new, classic in sound, and all the more present for it: while many singers post-Ty $ try to sing with the mindset of a rapper, none boast and rhyme as effectively as Anderson .Paak. This ability makes his pairing with Knxwledge as NxWorries about as natural as they come. Building hype since the release of ‘Suede’ last year, which some incorrectly assumed would remain a one-off miniature offering, Yes Lawd! arrives blessed by a healthy amount of anticipation, and it doesn't disappoint.

Much has been made of the throwback feeling of the release, but the truth is no producer has better suited .Paak's swagger than Knxwledge. The songs tend to stay below the 3-minute mark, allowing a constant flow of boasts, hopes, and good vibes. A moment is never allowed to grow stale, many ending before they've even started to settle. They seem to want the leave the listener always wanting more, no mean feat considering the album's plentiful tracklist, and even as ‘Fkku’, the nineteenth and closing track rolls around, it seems to halt, unfinished. The message is clear: they know they could have stayed longer, but it's time for us to go. All parties must end, after all.

The one regrettable dampener on the good vibes, ‘H.A.N.’, must be addressed. A standard “fuck the little guy” trope, already so over-saturated in the rap world, its sins are twofold. For one, these songs have long needed to die: in a musical world that so respects the hustle, and full of artists glad to admit they spent years handing out their music from their trunks, pressing demos or freestyles on any “name” artist they managed to meet, they'd no doubt have jumped at the sort of opportunities .Paak so readily mocks here. Secondly, as an artist so newly minted into success from the struggle himself, it's particularly disappointing from .Paak; what's more, it simply doesn't suit him. He has grown so omnipresent from his innate likable energy, feeling like the kind of young boss who can roll into any situation comfortably. Thankfully, he spends most of the album in this much more agreeable zone, and the LP greatly benefits from it.

It’s .Paak’s banner year, and its capper, Yes Lawd!, seems to further indicate that he has quite the future ahead of him. What remains to come is his decisive statement. While it's endlessly enjoyable throughout, what we have here feels like a placeholder, a victory lap. Nonetheless, in a year full of R&B records bearing so much weight, it can feel a bit light in intent. There's few albums in his lane this year that can beat it for sheer vibes, and .Paak is clearly taking delight in his newfound audience – for whom this album surely also feels like a thank you note – but one can't help but look forward to the man at the helm deciding just what he wants to say to them next.