Why so glum, Andy? You’re at a 7!
Will Rivitz: I’m a little biased on this one, since I’ve listened to “Glowed Up” approximately fifty times since it came out in April, but this is pretty much everything I want out of a hip-hop record in 2016. Kaytranada’s one of the most exciting new-ish producers out there, and Anderson .Paak is one of the most exciting new-ish rappers out there, and a dream team of a collaboration like this was never not going to work. I dig .Paak’s off-beat flow, I dig that warped bassline, I dig those deep house chords in the chorus. I kind of wish the production took a few more risks – given the excellent rest of 99.9%, Kay’s clearly able to make weirder shit – but I’m confident we’ll see that kind of thing when the new NxWorries record hits shelves.
Ryo Miyauchi: A hook with such promise, Anderson .Paak’s “I’m glowed up” lands rather modestly and less vocal than I had hoped. I get Kaytranada’s 99.9% isn’t about ego, and .Paak is no exception to the rule, but “Glowed Up” may have been an instance where the producer actually could’ve rolled up his sleeves to flex. His joyous boom bap instead flattens where it could’ve used some puffing up.
Alfred Soto: This Canadian producer’s clean, sparse production — a two-note synth line, hip-hop break, snaps — at first sounds no match for Paak’s overacting. Then a rhythm change forces Paak to accompany the melody. The result is a chill out track with sinew.
Taylor Alatorre: Since mid-2015, Anderson .Paak has been blessed with the ability to turn every one of his guest appearances into required listens. Part of it has to do with that unmistakable vocal style, but this would be a mere curiosity without his talent for stringing together sinuous, head-spinning lyrical turns. Not sure what’s up with his chowder obsession, but I do know that Daddy Warbucks doesn’t get evoked enough as a wealth signifier. Well-aware of his guest’s versatility, Kaytranada builds him an elaborate sonic playground to muck around in. The beat switch establishes this as a tale of two headspaces: one drunken and defiant, the other wide-eyed and vulnerable. I prefer the latter for its warm tones and skittering drumbeats, though both are essential in allowing .Paak to document the conflicting emotions that come with ascendant fame.
Tim de Reuse: A tentative, scratchy, lazy rap delivered twenty yards behind a beat that’s so compressed it’s fighting with itself. The high twinkly synths feel are tickling the roof of my mouth in a way I can’t totally get behind, but hey, at least it commits whole-heartedly to being off-kilter instead of briefly invoking FlyLo and breaking for lunch. It pulls together in the last section, when all the song’s elements actually get a chance to interact with one another, but before that it’s not much more than pretty.
Claire Biddles: The obvious comparison is Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar’s “Never Catch Me” because of the indefinable, almost supernatural connection between its two halves, and the relationship between rapper and producer. Kaytranada and Anderson .Paak seem to have a subconscious understanding of how to complement and make each other stranger.
Jonathan Bogart: Hazy, self-absorbed jubilation where the rhythms slip ever so slightly out of sync; as a fan of professionalism given an amateurish sheen, I couldn’t not rejoice in this.
Thomas Inskeep: Anderson .Paak reads to me as nearly equal parts Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean, but may be a little more interesting than both. You can hear the joy in his musical adventurism, and he’s so nimble, singing and rapping and flitting around from one style to the next. Kaytranada, meanwhile, sounds to my ears like one of the most purely exciting producers/record makers in the game right now, balancing R&B and electronic sounds and blending them in ways that sound new. His work has the electricity of early UK garage but is entirely its own thing. (Check out “At All,” which is even better than “Glowed Up,” if you need some convincing.)