An album with a consistent mood can spawn a legion of imitators, all eager to replicate the aural nectar the originator has managed to bottle. We saw it with Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and the xx’s debut. And BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah’s Sour Soul could well be next, because the alchemy at work here is mesmerising.
Smudged sunsets, malt whiskey, unsolved murder cases, motels, dank back-alleys and seedy red-light-district streets. These are just some of images that come to mind when you hear the fermented jazz of Toronto jazz trio, BadBadNotGood – the sultry, whining guitars, the lethargic basslines, the relaxed percussion. The result is a gloriously filmic collection of scene-setters that feels like it could soundtrack some unreleased blaxploitation flick – think Super Fly (1972), The Mack (1973) or even Black Dynamite.
Of course, if it were a blaxploitation film, lead actor, Ghostface (aka Dennis Coles), demonstrates that it subverts the genre even as it embraces some of its staples. He takes to the mic with furious aplomb, hollering whole stories or glimpses of stories. Ghostface yet again demonstrates his profound versatility, as he shifts between spitting with whip-crack speed on ‘Gunshowers’ (“Imma activist, socialist, deadly-ass poetrist”) and others, to the slower, woozy ‘Tone’s Rap’, where he embodies a sluggish-sounding pimp, screaming at his hookers to “get my mink”. A sleazy scene like the latter fits comfortably amid the mood of Sour Soul. With that in mind, what’s even more gratifying is hearing more contemplative songs, such as ‘Street Knowledge’ and the motivational, ‘Food’ (“Eat fish, that brain food will get you smart”), and feeling that this is all part of the same whole.
Sour Soul will keep you hooked for many reasons: from its sharp lyricism, to its arresting live instrumentation, to its novelty in the face of electronically-produced, drum-and-bass rap music. But most of all, you’ll want to come back for the vivid, brilliantly filmic atmosphere that BadBadNotGood have captured, and Ghostface (along with guest rappers, Danny Brown, Doom and newcomer, Tree) adds to. Credit to producer Frank Dukes for doing such a fine job of making the jazz trio and rapper gel together as if they were made for one another. A faux 70s tour of the pulp variety this may be, but you’re unlikely to find a more delightful or stylish one to lose yourself in.
Sour Soul is out now on Lex Records.
Have you listened to this album? If so, what did you think of it? Tweet me @dk33per.
Image: Lex Records