KNXWLEDGE 1988 gets 8/10


Stones Throw


Knxwledge is a hip hop cult hero, a prolific producer who, on top of endless mixtapes, boasts collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Anderson.Paak on his resume. His bread and butter is off-kilter yet smooth instrumental productions, and latest effort 1988 is as strong and tight a set of tracks as we’d expect from this modern maestro.

With 22 tracks and only three exceeding two minutes, this album feels like a peep into Knxwledge’s brain. Thankfully it’s one bursting with ideas that have all been committed to tape, and few of them are throwaways. This is a mix of 70s soul and 80s and 90s R’n’B, often revelling in sounds that needlessly fell out of fashion. This is particularly true for the two (longest) tracks that end the album, which feel like intentionally skeletal versions of beloved 90s R’n’B classics that you can’t quite put your finger on. amansloveislife_keepon is a sexy wah-wah driven groove that holds your attention through little more than its rhythm and its chopped-up vocal refrain. minding_my_business is a great slinking R’n’B jam that hopefully gets released as a single, with a great vocal and popping basslines all over the place.

The rest of the album is similarly solid, treading on soul, gospel, funk and hip hop. Highlights include c, a horn-driven slice of funk city noir paired against a pitch-tweaked voice that one suspects is Anderson.Paak. He returns on the soulful horn-driven ballad itcanbe[sonice], which is stronger than a lot of his solo material. The same pitch-shifting is used to great effect on sterling opener dont be afraid. theykome&go is a spooky slice of reggae rap against chopped up piano chords. do you runs off a warbling piano and synth riff for its entirety yet never gets old, while don_tgottable swaps keys for snatches of acoustic guitar and breathy soul vocals, again touching on the 90s R’n’B aesthetic. The only sore point with the album are the interludes, an inexplicable hip hop mainstay that is intended to set the mood but ends up wasting time instead.

This is a great album and recommended listening for these low key nights we’re all spending at home in current circumstances. It’s as if Knxwledge composed the world’s greatest R’n’B album, then deconstructed, fiddled and rearranged it into a beguiling sonic treat.



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