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Review written by Brad W. (@Brad_C_Williams).

When Toronto jazz trio BadBadNotGood first announced they would be collaborating with Ghostface Killah for a full-length album, I was ecstatic. I’ve enjoyed watching this young group evolve from its first work in 2010 covering Odd Future motifs to its most recent release, III. Also, how many jazz fusion groups break onto today’s music scene, let alone ones that also appeal to a young audience?

It only makes sense that an artist like Ghostface Killah would want to work with BBNG. The same individual who shapes epic street lord stories on numerous solo albums (Fishscale, 12 Reasons to Die, and Ironman to name a few) would conceivably compliment a band with a sound like the hidden gems in your parents’ dusty vinyl collection.

However, collaborations of such magnitude are not totally uncommon. Two of my favorite projects from 2014 include Run the Jewels II from Killer Mike & El-P and PRhyme from DJ Premier & Royce Da 5’9”. They also dropped within four months of Sour Soul. I hoped that this would be the first acclaimed collaborative album of 2015.

And, in some ways, Sour Soul is exactly that. I believe the successful moments on the album are primarily a result of BadBadNotGood’s production. I nostalgically return to the scratchy yet robust soundscape of albums recorded and pressed in the 1960s and 1970s as I move between tracks. From the sensual yet careful mixing of the guitar, bass and high-hat on “Six Degrees,” to the piercing synth organ and horns on “Mind Playing Tricks,” these instruments sound like they were transported directly from spy movies such as Goldfinger or mobster classics like The Godfather. As the album progresses, I found myself immersed in the environment BadBadNotGood creates, enhancing Ghostface Killah’s smooth yet intimidating delivery.

Outside of BadBadNotGood’s contribution, I particularly enjoyed the guest features on songs like “Six Degrees” featuring Danny Brown, “Gunshowers” featuring Elzhi, and “Ray Gun” featuring MF Doom. Each of these individuals contribute exciting (and at times hilarious) verses, in particular Danny Brown (I’m still laughing at “Knock a ring on a ni**a like somebody hit Sonic”).

However, Ghostface Killah seems unenthused throughout, delivering predictably gangster lines with minimal creativity. On tracks where he works with other lyricists, Ghostface reappears with vivaciously killer verses. When he takes on a song solo dolo, Killah does not have the same presence. This back-and-forth between the motivated Fishscale of old and the lackadaisical current-day Ghostface is admittedly disappointing.

Production-wise, Sour Soul flourishes; BBNG has now demonstrated it can adapt, create, and compliment in all three settings and maintain its unique personality. Lyrically, the most memorable moments were not from the lead lyricist on the album. Ghostface Killah supersedes some of his peers, but I cannot escape feeling he underachieved.

Overall, I enjoyed Sour Soul, and look forward to BadBadNotGood’s next album. I hope Ghostface Killah can find it in him to return to the brilliance that was 12 Reasons to Die.

Notable Tracks: “Six Degrees” ft. Danny Brown, “Gunshowers” ft. Ezhi, “Mind Playing Tricks”

Purchase BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah’s Sour Soul and let us know what you think by dropping a comment!