Hip hop veteran Dennis Cole, better known by his rather more rap-suitable stage name, Ghostface Killah, has collaborated with hip-hop enthusiasts BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) to release Sour Soul. The perfectly titled album sees the Canadian trio’s psychedelic jazz as the real instrumental underscore to Ghostface’s narrative rapping and off-beat lyrics.
BBNG, however, are far from just background noise; the slick and thoughtful production of their live performance places them at the centre of our awareness, and creates a contrast which perhaps counter-intuitively, draws the whole album together.
Finding their fame after completing a jazz programme at college in Toronto, with a little help from Tyler, The Creator, BBNG have released three albums. Mixtures of covers and original material, their mostly self-released projects have been extremely well received.
The album’s first 58 seconds, “Mono”, captures BBNG’s elegant use of instruments and rhythm, providing them with a fitting introduction. Instruments effortlessly build layer upon layer to create a sense of urgency, which bursts into the title track and sets a precedent for the rest of the album.
The 70s inspired methods of recording and production are most apparent on “Ray Gun”. The playful organ melody and the ominous brass works well with the frantic drums and rolling lyrics, which still manage to be remarkably well controlled. “Gunshowers” with guest rapper Elzhi, uses a straightforward guitar loop which evokes a kind of Wild West showdown, which is both comical and effective, whether intentional or not.
“Stark’s Reality”, the two minutes of instrumental reprise in the middle of the album uses strings and percussion in a way familiar to BBNG’s solo releases. Throughout, the trio prove themselves to be versatile and original in their complimentary accompaniment to one of hip hop’s icons.
This collaboration has continued in the wake of Ghostface Killah and BBNG’s respective solo successes and it shows. Ghostface’s recent 36 Seasons provoked particular enthusiasm as it succeeded above and beyond the latest material from the Wu-Tang Clan, who are perhaps now considered past their best.
No doubt about it, Sour Soul is one of the most interesting collaborations you will hear this year.