Friday, 6 March 2015

Album Review:BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul


BADBADNOTGOOD were at risk of becoming an academic minded jazz group, forming at the Humber College jazz program in Toronto. It's Hip Hop's gain that the three piece's jazzy covers of hip hop, electronica and video game soundtracks that they posted to Bandcamp got them the attention of the likes of Tyler, The Creator and led them to working with Earl Sweatshirt and Danny Brown.

Having already worked with Wu-Tang member RZA on the soundtrack to Man With The Iron Fists, the group have now collaborated on a full length album Sour Soul with Ghostface Killah, a rapper who has held the reputation of one of the best storytellers in Hip-Hop, earned during his time as a member of the newly regrouped Wu-Tang Clan and over a number of acclaimed solo albums like Fishscale and Supreme Clientele.

After a short musical introduction Mono sets the soulful tone for the rest of the album, Sour Soul really begins with it's title track as Ghostface wastes no time dropping lines that would sound rushed in other rappers hands, but here feels natural. Lines like “No technology, this world's corrupt
/They can't feed me food for thought, I won't budge
” drop as an aggressive statement of intent.

Tones Rap is the most obvious example of Ghostface's storytelling style, revelling in performing as a larger than life, amoral pimp, full of complaints and problems but still unable to turn away from his criminal life, ending with the admission “Pimping ain't easy but it sure is fun”. The album is boosting by a varied selection of guests. Previous BADBADNOTGOOD collaborator Danny Brown shows up on Six Degrees on characteristically manic form whilst the down-tempo feel of Street Knowledge is assisted by the gruff but mellow Tree

An obvious comparison would be The Roots but the most obvious touchstones seem to be Bringing in string arrangements that add real warmth to the exploitation movie-era soul, it wouldn't be a stretch of imagination to hear Curtis Mayfield singing over some of these tracks especially when BADBADNOTGOOD get a real chance in the spotlight like on the instrumental Starks' Reality or the lush album closer Experience.

Ray Gun features cult hip-hop figure DOOM and lets us see what the long gestating collaboration between him and Ghostface might just sound like. In fact, the track covers Brazilian musician Caetano Vaeloso's Alfomega, a track that was meant to be used originally on a track with DOOM on Ghostface's album Fishscale but the sample wasn't cleared. The bouncy and quick tempo beat feels more in line with early upbeat music of De La Soul before it ends in a big moment of jazz-laden film score bombast.

It's a compelling collaboration, the flexibility of a live group over samples allows the music more room to build and support the narratives as they unravel or smoothly transition into musical interludes. Ghostface may not be on top of his game here but he definitely has his moments and it could be easy to see BADBADNOTGOOD becoming a mainstay of Hip-Hop album credits in the near future, at least for rappers that are willing to looks outside the current electronic trends for inspiration. BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah have both found something good on Sour Soul, so here's hoping it's not a one-off.

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