Album Review: Sour Soul by BADBADNOTGOOD (Republished from CanCulture – Aug. 5, 2015)

In an age where rap is nothing more than self-boasting and materialistic indulgence, and producers have simply stopped trying, BADBADNOTGOOD (or BBNG) brings hip-hop heads some unexpected flavour with their latest album Sour Soul.

The Toronto-based music trio, consisting of keyboardist Matthew Tavares, drummer Alexander Sowinski and bassist Chester Hansen, cannot be defined by a single genre; since their debut in 2010 they have collaborated with various artists to create their own interpretations of hip-hop music.

Released back in February, the album differed from the solely instrumental hip-hop and beat covers found in the band’s earlier releases. Sour Soul saw BADBADNOTGOOD teaming up with rap heavyweight Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan, and featuring a line-up of underground rap veterans.

On July 16, Sour Soul entered the shortlist of nominees for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize, which will take place in September.

Sour Soul doesn’t really have one consistent narrative or theme. Production-wise, BBNG is solid.

The album opens with “Mono,” a slow jam-style instrumental consisting of a simplistic drum beat and a repeating bass line with a waltz-like rhythm that switches to double-time. Right after the 58-second intro, we hear Ghostface come in, transitioning into the titular track “Sour Soul.” Starting his verse with “Yo, cleanse me, clean me of my sour soul, I’m vicious/My mind races from the satellite dishes,” Ghostface offers his grimy commentary on the state of the world to a 90’s East Coast hip-hop beat.

The first guest appearance comes in the next track and one of the album’s four singles, “Six Degrees,” featuring Danny Brown. Compared to the melancholic tone of the previous track, “Six Degrees” is aggressive. The ongoing instrumental riff has an Asiatic flavour, accompanied by the constant ringing of the vibraphone. Here, Ghostface reuses a verse from another song, “I Go Hard,” while Brown’s distinct voice and flow simply cannot be missed.

Perhaps the “it” track on Sour Soul is “Ray Gun,” featuring underground rap legend MF Doom. This collaboration between Ghostface and Doom, known as DOOMSTARKS (Tony Stark being one of Ghostface’s aliases), is a true delivery of battle-hardened lyricism. Both artists come with guns blazing, spitting lyrical fire and boasting about their comic alter-egos: “Wild car chases, don of all ages/I saved the world that’s f—king history pages.” All the while, BBNG provides a funky beat that will leave audiences bopping their heads to the flow.

The album ends with an instrumental coda, titled “Experience.” Pretty much to sum up the music experience of the listener, BBGN returns to the slow-jam of the opening track. The repetitive bass line is heard once again accompanied by the ringing of cymbals, before bursting into double-time riffs. Finally, a chorus of synthesizer and brass herald the finale of this musical experience that is Sour Soul.

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