Everything about this album makes so much sense. It may not seem like it at first when you’re told it’s a college jazz trio backing rap royalty Ghostface Killah, but like the Theloniuos Monk sample on “Shame on a Nigga”, the proof is in the play button. El Michels Affair hinted at this idea a decade ago with “Enter the 37th Chamber”, but they fell short of realizing it’s full potential. These Canadian kids knock it out of the park.
These Canadian kids are BADBADNOTGOOD, and they really shine on this record, delivering in every department from the off-kilter, on time drums; to the meandering bass; to the deep space synths. They come through with organs, vibes, horns… You name it. I couldn’t find out who did the guitars, but those stand out as well, alternately popping like “The Chronic 2001”, and melting under lush reverb, tremolo and languid slides.
BADBADNOTGOOD have taken the music scene by storm and deservedly so. The most exciting part is that it’s hip-hop music that is backing them, people like Tyler and Ghostface. It makes so much sense for a jazz band to run with the hip-hop influence, and these guys are doing it right. It’s like they are closing the circle.
Meanwhile, we have Ghostface and friends in fine form as well. Many others would agree that at this point he feels like someone we’ve grown up with, like a rap uncle of sorts. And on Sour Soul we find our rap uncle mixing tales of hood-rat-shit past along with insights from a more experienced man (he is after all 45 years old now).
When it’s hood-rat-shit with his friend’s, it’s almost as good as it was the first time. One never would have thought when listening to him rap these types of stories in the 90’s that we would be hearing him rehash them 20 years later, still loving every second of it.
“Gunshowers” is the de-facto single of the album and features abstract rap bravado at it’s finest, with metaphors both clever and head scratching. If your lines are cocaine and your flow is bath salts, what does that mean? That shit’s dope, I guess (cue the clip of Will Ferrel from Blades of Glory saying ‘nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative!”). Instrumentally, the band kills it with a repetitive bass line and guitar riffs hitting you from every angle with muted arpeggios, tremolo, slides and bends all over the place.
“Six Degrees” weaves gangster tales with Dr. Dre style staccato guitars and a guest spot for Danny Brown’s nasal flow. Hoes, blow, Pablo and Cabo all make appearances here. Two decades deep and we’re nowhere near tired of hearing about this stuff when presented in this manner.
“Tone’s Rap” serves as a portrait of the aging gangsta. It’s very vivid, full of washed up 70’s-style pimp imagery, and perhaps a tinge autobiographical. In the end it’s not repentant, but probably a bit cautionary. The mellow instrumentals are commanded by a bumping bassline and they really drives the nostalgia home.
When it’s born again Ghostface we hear from the tone can get paternalistic, but in a good way. That may sound like a pot shot, but it’s also meant in a good way. Like your grandpa, Ghostface can drop wisdom that makes you tear up, while you’re chuckling at him at the same time. I guess sometimes we just have to laugh to not cry.
“Nuggets of Wisdom”, for example, is a moving ode to Islam, both preachy and right on point. Righteous, humble, and radiant are all words that grace its verses, as do the funky guitars and cool vibraphone tones of BADBADNOTGOOD.
“Food” plays with the food for thought metaphor as well as providing literal dietary and health advice. “Eat fish”, he says. “Yoga”. When he talks about “nuggets of wisdom” I’m guessing he means gold, not chicken.
I should note that I thought this record had a few excellent tracks when I was listening on my shitty ear-buds on the commute to and from work. Yet with a good pair of headphones, or a decent pair of speakers, the nuance and texture of this record really came to life. So definitely don’t judge this album if you’ve only taken it in through little ear-buds.
But even on the loud and crowded subway, Sour Soul still gave me that swelling feeling in my chest.
Written by Josep Ferrer
OurVinyl | Contributor