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Paak devotes most of these 40 minutes to relating the ups and downs of intimacy. On the early-'70s throwback "Come Home," he drops to his knees with a sideways glance to humorously critique the condition of contemporary R&B ("No one even begs anymore!"), then gets Motown legend Smokey Robinson to assist on "Make It Better," another misty number with aching emotion. Paak uncannily matches up with a posthumous Nate Dogg vocal on "What Can We Do," but what truly elevates the album is its sequence of songs with Lalah Hathaway, Brandy, Jazmine Sullivan, and Sonyae Elise, collaborations laying out scenes of co-dependency and contentment with a dangerous dalliance somewhere between. The women's presence as singers and co-writers also helps balance out some of Paak's candidly disparaging and lecherous behavior. Side two does feature consecutive tracks that aren't libidinal, yet the emotions are as mixed. "Yada Yada" catches Paak at boiling point, boastful about his come-up and the benefits of stardom but acidic toward the industry while regretting time away from his son. A righteous anger bubbles under the surface of "King James," an all-for-one motivational jam that acknowledges the activism of namesake LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick.
From the lithe and rich basslines to sweetened strings -- among the many elements courtesy of Paak's Free Nationals live band and other long-term associates -- the album is a treat to the ears. It's unmistakably in the tradition of soul and funk older than the artist himself, but could not have been made any earlier than the late 2010s.
|2||Make It Better||3:39|
|3||Reachin’ 2 Much||5:55|
|11||What Can We Do?||2:56|
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