Toronto-based jazz and hip-hop trio BADBADNOTGOOD have come together with one of Wu-Tang Clan’s most valuable and consistent emcees, Ghostface Killah, to produce Sour Soul. I wasn’t really familiar with BADBADNOTGOOD up until a month ago when I peeped some of their releases. They specialize in modern jazzy improvisation, but got a lot of love for the hip hop shit, and have applied their sound to their own interpretations of rap instrumentals, which have caught the attention of a lot of hip hop heads lately. On the other hand, Pretty Toney has spent the last few years putting out concept solo albums, sharpening his storytelling skills and putting out some dope projects which include Twelve Reasons To Die and 36 Seasons.
Sour Soul isn’t a conceptual album like Big Ghost’s last two projects, there’s no narrative, no story line, it’s just Ghost spitting rhymes over music produced entirely by BADBADNOTGOOD.
Ghost is a perfect fit for BBNG’s jazzy and moody production, which makes sense since he always sounds dope on grimy ass, blood splattering, funky, murky, gritty, 70’s inspired noir shit. Now I’m adding random words in this.
Aight, aight, hold it down, let’s get on with the review. Canada Vs. Shaolin, I hope it’s better than the last time that shit happened (Looking at Drake’s bitch ass).
1. Mono: Some jazzy shit, sets the tone. Starky Love is nowhere to be found though.
2. Sour Soul: BADBADNOTGOOD keep it moving with the dope, jazzy production. Ghost’s two verses are a bit weak though. The second verse is all conspiracy theories and shit, but it was aight. The first half of the collaboration manages to provide an amazing, gritty backing instrumental which fits Ghost perfectly. Unfortunately, Tony doesn’t take advantage. A pretty good start despite Ghost’s poor performance.
3. Six Degrees: The production here is really Wu-tang-ish, sounds like something RZA would make before he started to fall off a bit. Ghost delivers a pretty good verse but sounds uninterested, kind of sounds like he spit some unused couplets last minute. Danny Brown comes along to spit some shit right after Deini, and yo, I’m a be honest, I hate this motherfucker, he annoys the shit outta me, he sounds less annoying than usual on this, so I’ll give him a pass. Chef would of definitely elevated this track if he was on it (no Wu members other than Ghost on this project, sadly). Still a pretty good track overall, again BBNG kill it with the production.
4. Gunshowers: Aight! The Wallabee Champ seems to give more of a shit about this track than the last two. Still isn’t peak Starks but pretty dope. It works nah mean? Elzhi outshines Ghost easily, punch lining all over BBNG’s instrumental. Gunshowers is the first track on this bitch that works, on all levels. Above a straightforward guitar loop, Ghost and Elzhi both deliver some ill bars. The Simplicity and Spaghetti Western aesthetic of the production, resembles a prime RZA produced Wu track or Quentin Tarantino score. All in all, dope.
5. Starks Reality: An excellent instrumental interlude by BBNG. Nice. That’s all I got.
6. Tone’s Rap: “Ayo, bitch, what the fuck? I got lint on my robes / I can’t pimp in these clothes” Tone opens up the track with some pimp shit, his one-verse contribution to the track isn’t real impressive, but it reminded me of a younger “Ironman” Ghost, which is cool. The production saves the track from mediocre status, BBNG laces Ghost with a real delicate jazzy instrumental, on some smooth backstreet mobster shit. Not bad.
“It’s clear that his two last projects and his contributions to his group effort, The Wu-Tang Clan’s A better Tomorrow, have taken a toll on the rap veteran”
7. Mind Playing Tricks: BBNG’s musical backing pumps much more energy into the proceedings than before, and at least Ghost comes across as aware that the tempo has changed, but “Mind Playing Tricks” isn’t anything special. Not bad, but not good either. Nice change of pace though.
8. Street Knowledge: Chicago rapper Tree’s slow flow opens “Street Knowledge”, mirroring the intensity of BBNG’s backing instrumental. While he doesn’t spit anything overly sensational or deep, he still sounds pretty good on the smooth instrumental. Ghost follows up with a pretty good verse, but his voice lacks conviction. Makes you feel like Ghost didn’t really want to be there. Not a bad track though (saved by the production again).
9. Ray Gun: Nice! Ray Gun gives listeners a preview of the Ghost/MF DOOM collaboration DOOMSTARKS (that will probably never fucking see the light of day). If the tracks on DOOMSTARKS bang like this one, I’ll be a happy motherfucker. Ghostface and DOOM lyrically square off as rival superheroes, as BBNG deliver a loungey seventies groove, complete with organ-sounding keys and clean, vintage guitars. Easily the highlight of the album. An instrumental album better come out.
10. Nuggets of Wisdom: Sun God get’s on some positive shit. Dropping nuggets of wisdom on y’all. This was the weakest backing instrumental on the album so far, but still wasn’t all bad. Ghost delivers a nice verse and let’s BBNG do their thing near the end of the track.
11. Food: BBNG’s jazzy instrumental keeps a low profile, only jumping into frame after Pretty Toney half-assedly spits his bars, which, still, are some of his best work on the entire album. On this track, Ghostface extols the benefits of eating fish, rather than selling fish scale, of yoga and deep meditation. “Protect ya neck,” he advises, recalling an old Wu track. The music is soothing as shit. Another album highlight.
12. Experience: Sour Soul caps off the evening with a final instrumental break that will leave listeners diving into BBNG’s previous work (You better check them shits out). “Experience” is the end credit theme music for a movie that needed a more engaged lead actor. A really good movie, though.
This is going to hurt my fellow Wu-Stans, so fuck it, Ghostface Killah sounds lazy and uninspired on a great majority of Sour Soul. It’s clear that his two last projects and his contributions to his group effort, The Wu-Tang Clan’s A better Tomorrow, have taken a toll on the rap veteran. His bars on here are on the same level as a no-name mixtape rapper trying to make a name for himself. Aight, it’s not that bad, but still, a lot of his bars are mediocre and his flow is inconsistent throughout the album. Musically, Sour Soul is incredible though, BBNG have only gotten better with time, honing their jazzy interpretation of hip hop. BBNG managed to secure a good line-up of features, but even some of the lesser-known names trump Tony Starks at every turn, and they don’t even have to try all that hard. Well, everyone with the exception of Danny Brown, who sounds like an annoying, hipster version of ODB. If your a Ghostface fan or a BBNG fan, you’ve probably already checked this shit out. For all the newcomers, don’t go into this album expecting great lyricism from Ghost Deini, cause you’ll probably walk away disappointed. This is definitely worth a listen though, the album contains a few gems and Ghost actually delivers some real dope bars on some of the tracks. Peep it yo.