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Knxwledge's '1988' - Album Review

Though the LA-based producer Knxwledge has released some 43 projects since his 2015 ‘Hud Dreems’, his new studio release, ‘1988’, is only the second endeavour he has pushed through Stones Throw Records. It goes without saying, then, that Knxwledge is one of the most prolific neo-soul artists out there at the moment, but he is also one of the most reliable.

Knxwledge – born Glen Earl Boothe – has, by now, an unbeatable track record and seemingly endless discography. He is the man behind the track ‘Momma’ from Kendrick’s 2015 Grammy-winning album, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, as well as half of the music duo NxWorries, alongside Anderson .Paak, who distributed their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Yes Lawd!’ back in 2016. This list of achievements and credits could go on indefinitely – but it’s probably time to get to the music.

‘1988’ is more than a series of 22 looped beats, spanning across a 37-minute album. As the title suggests through its reference to Knxwledge’s birth year, the album is about music’s relationship with the abstraction of time. ‘1988’ is the built upon and shaped by all Knxwledge’s previous work – and he wants you to know this. The tracks are shaped around recurring drum beats and serene piano chords, featuring a smattering of sampled sounds and lyrical interludes from Durand Bernarr, among others.

The opening track, ‘dont be afraid’, invites you into the safe space of reflection Knxwledge creates with this release. An underlying drum beat – mixed with an unimposing synth – draws your attention to the acute falsetto chorus, which encourages you to lose yourself in the well-constructed hip hop tracks. Similarly, the final track ‘minding_my business’ focuses on individual experience in a hip hop track that could be straight from a 90s-soul group. It’s built around a blissful piano melody, as Bernarr sings against all that which causes you stress in the world.

Other highlights include the return of the NxWorries pair for the track ‘itkanbe[sonice]’. Though incredibly concise, you cannot help but nod along – or tap along – to the beat which builds effortlessly with .Paak’s infamously raspy voice. ‘makeitliveforever’ provides a welcome respite with a slowed sound, more commonly found in the work of psychedelic funk groups. It’s a comfortable mix of lo-fi and hi-fi production that ends with an unaccompanied dialogue between two lovers.

The tracks on ‘1988’ slide with ease into one another: you can barely notice when one ends and another begins. Knxwledge has carefully labelled each track to form a string of sentences when all put together. Its message is simple but especially important: this is an album that wants its listeners to make the most of their time, right here, right now.

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