The problem with being critically acclaimed is that the music buying public is skeptical. The more that the industry pushes the narrative of someone reclaiming the mantle of creativity, the more that narrative is rejected in favor of something that had no mainstream backing of any kind. From that perspective Anderson .Paak winning Grammy Awards for “Lockdown” and “Leave the Door Open” is just about the worst thing that could have happened to him. You can’t claim to be an outsider reinvigorating genres when you’d just been handed a trophy at the most corporate music industry centered celebration possible. Anybody who thought Anderson .Paak had been shoved down their throats for years had their suspicions confirmed under the brightest lights possible.

The funny thing is that .Paak could seemingly care less about those awards. As one half of the duo NxWorries with Knxwledge, Brandon Paak Anderson has embraced his inner crooner and let him out to offer stylishly seductive R&B. With their second album together “Why Lawd?” he takes this style even further, seemingly daring the hardrocks to complain that he had Snoop Dogg on “FromHere” to read spoken word poetry. I’m not kidding. You couldn’t call what Calvin Broadus does here “rapping” any more than you could call what NxWorries does on this track “rap music” — and it’s beautiful.

That’s not to say Anderson .Paak has forgotten what brought him to the dance. On “Battlefield” you can hear the rapper/singer dabbling in both, spitting his bars and then singing his own chorus. That’s the kind of switch hitting that makes .Paak an exceptional artist and also engenders resentment from his peers. As long as he’s making thoughtful music with a smooth backdrop and a good story that’s pleasant to the ear, he needs to make Nx Apxlxgies to me or anybody else.

“Daddy was a twin, whipped a Caddy and a Benz
Mama was a doctor, finished college in the pen
Death before dishonor we was told as little shrimp
And I was only six when I lost the innocence”

Knxwledge really knows how to bring the best out of Brandon. “HereIAm” swells with organs that make you feel like you’re at church for Sunday service. “WalkOnBy” with Earl Sweatshirt and Rae Khalil sees Earl pulling double duty as well, stepping behind the boards as a co-producer for some laid back rap with shades of Madlib’s influence all over it. Speaking of, “SheUsed” screams Oxnard to the degree I was sure Otis Jackson Jr. did it — but no. There just must be something in the air or water there.

Brandon’s friend Freddie Gibbs once opined “critically acclaimed/but that shit don’t mean a thang” and that’s exactly how the crooner and rapper rolls on “Why Lawd?” Even the length of his songs with Knxwledge seems purposefully designed to tell haters he’s not going to make things the way they want. “NVR.RMX” with Charlie Wilson is a joyful 78 seconds long. “DistantSpace” floats on cloud nine for 83 seconds before drifting away. “Distractions” is only 110. If these were bad jams you could make the argument that Knxw and .Paak lack focus, but the latter proves they both have exactly the right amount of time to say what they want before stepping off.

Terrible artists can be critically acclaimed and win Grammy Awards. Great ones can go their entire career being called “iconic” and a “cult favorite” without ever being nominated. Anderson .Paak holds the distinction of being on both ticks of the metronome, swinging from unknown to mainstream at his own tempo without letting it shift his artistic vision. That’s a rare feat. Success changes people and often not for the better but “Why Lawd?” proves it’s possible to remain true to your vision and bring the haters to you instead of the other way around.

NxWorries :: Why Lawd?
8.5Overall Score