2015 is shaping up the be the year of the collaboration. From the likes of Kanye and Paul McCartney (and Rihanna) to Ta-Ku and Jaden Smith, everyone who’s anyone seems to be teaming up to work together. One of the most exciting of these is Wu-Tang Clan veteran Ghostface Killah and Canadian jazz wizards BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG). The product is a full length album by the name of Sour Soul, and it has certainly got people talking!
Both acts released albums last year to critical acclaim (the latter releasing their first all original release), and are both incredibly respected and valued in their own right – obviously. Last year also saw Wu-Tang Clan reform to deliver A Better Tomorrow, so it’s safe to say Ghostface’s cup of creativity doth overfloweth at the moment. As for BBNG, they made a name for themselves collaborating with Odd Future members Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt and have a very clear, defined relationship and love of hip hop, so the pairing makes sense.
Of course, no hip hop album would be complete without guest features, not matter how jazz it is. Danny Brown, DOOM and Elzhi (member of Slum Village) also appear on Sour Soul, adding extra fire to an already incredibly hot record. The juxtaposition of Ghostface’s gritty rap e.g. “Ima murder you son,” with the refined and elegant arrangements of BBNG make for a seriously enjoyable and accomplished album. From the angry grooves of Mind Playing Tricks, to Tone’s Rap where Ghostface talks about being a pimp (Fly nigga Cognac sipper/ Keep a blade at the tip of my cane for snakes that slither/ Cry me a river, bitch/ Just want my cut of the money), it’s really interesting and refreshing to hear just how much BBNG’s presence changes the mood of the song, and somehow lifts up Ghostface’s realness to a whole new place. Standout track Street Knowledge would make
yung young Wu-Tang proud, with spitfire lyrics delivered from both Ghostface and Tree, over an almost impossible chilled composition from the Canadians.
Although this is a really great record, I have but one critique – this is definitely the Ghostface show, and definitely a hip hop album. Although BBNG’s presence is noted, I feel they aren’t really showing their full potential here, and have instead taken a step back. I wish they had some how worked in some showcasing of just how talented BBNG are, as this will have opened a lot of people’s ears to them for the first time. They could have done something seriously impressive here and used this opportunity to continue bringing jazz to the masses, instead of letting Ghostface take centre stage. Not that he doesn’t deserve centre stage, but it would have been much better had they been equally as highlighted. Don’t get me wrong, Sour Soul is great, and has been my life’s soundtrack since it was put up for streaming, but I just feel like there could have been more BBNG. Was this deliberate? I’m not sure. It would no doubt be pretty intimidating for three Canadian jazz musicians to be making music with a hip hop legend. Perhaps it was them being polite? Whatever it was, it’s just unfortunate they aren’t showing off what they can really do. Anyone that has seen them live can attest to this!