Collaborations among artists can result in new iterations that expand the scope of their music. They can also be a desperate grab for artists who are running out of steam. A few days ago, I was lucky enough to receive a sneak preview of the new collaboration between Toronto jazz/hip-hop trio BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah, of Wu-Tang Clan fame. Without a doubt, this alliance was meant to be. When Sour Soul drops on February 24, you do not want to miss it.
BADBADNOTGOOD has been rising to prominence lately, melding hip-hop and instrumental jazz with excellence. Their albums hold up perfectly with only piano, bass, and drums, but their steady hip-hop beats seem perfect for the addition of a quality emcee. On Sour Soul, their responsibility was to provide a backdrop for Ghostface Killah, and no one will question that they stepped up to the challenge and delivered. Doing away with the usual solos that they use to give their tracks a melodic focus, they have provided a steady yet mobile stage on which Ghostface can really shine. Their beats are dark and sneaky, subtle and impactful. Their music builds and moulds itself to the lyrics in a way that sampling and looping simply cannot replicate. There is an intimacy, a sense of emotion, which is communicated through true instrumentals and makes Sour Soul stand out from an average hip-hop album.
For every gorgeous moment in the background, Ghostface Killah procides an equally excellent line. Matching the dark smoothness of the instrumentals, his rap continually evolves. Ghostface is sharp and poignant, with an attack that pushes the listener, and forces him to pay attention. His lyrics feel like a series of snapshots. He presents us with vivid images that serve to situate the audience in his world. He shows his struggle through the weariness of a track like “Tone’s Rap”, and reveals the perspective and lessons of that world in “Nuggets of Wisdom”. It isn’t only Ghostface Killah who brings lyrics to life on Sour Soul. He is complemented by the guest appearances of acclaimed artists such as MF Doom, Danny Brown, Elzhi, and Tree. Each one of these features brings diversity to the album, and each is a fitting addition to the record.
There is no doubt I will be keeping this album on steady listening rotation until I have fully appreciated it. Sour Soul has so much nuance that it cannot be fully understood in a mere handful of playthroughs. On February 24, make sure Sour Soul is in your stereo, you won’t be disappointed.