“Sour Soul” in case you’ve been sleeping under a rock is the collaborative LP between Toronto-based jazz/hip-hop band BadBadNotGood and Wu-Tang veteran emcee Ghostface Killah. Now before we jump into all of this allow me to provide some background. First we have Ghostface Killah who over the last couple years has really put his foot on the gas pedal starting in 2012 with the Wu-Block album, the year after Ghost dropped the critically acclaimed “12 Reasons To Die” with Adrian Younge and 2014 we got “36 Seasons”. While this is all happening 3 dudes from Toronto are just beginning their venture into being seen by the public eye. With 3 LPs, 2 live albums and credits spanning artists like Odd Future, Wu-Tang Clan, Talib Kweli, Black Milk and more the trio inches closer to world domination. Around June of 2014 we were blessed with a single by Ghostface Killah called “Six Degrees” which featured Danny Brown and was produced by BadBadNotGood. The song was brilliant and everyone came correct, shortly after another BadBadNotGhost (my homey came up with that) dropped another single called “Gunshowers” featuring Elzhi. With this drop came the announcement that the emcee and band would come together to release the album I’m about to review.
BadBadNotGood spoon feeds you from the jump on how this album is going to sound with the intro instrumental track “Mono”. Summoning the sounds from the 60’s and 70’s BadBadNotGood gives Ghostface Killah a beautiful soundscape for the master storyteller to amaze the listener with his energetic wordplay and ability to paint vivid pictures. When the title joint comes in, Ghostface demands the mic immediately and seems to understand the weight that this project will hold for the listener coming off his last TWO releases. Fans of the Wu-Tang member will love hearing Ghostface’s cutthroat braggadocio over the retro sounds that the band has put together here.
You can hear the homage to Wu all over this release from reference from Ghost to some of the production BBNG provides. On “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” BBNG comes through with what sounds just like some old school production that RZA came up with back in the 36 Chambers days. Ghostface comes with fire as soon as the joint starts claiming he “gave Kruger his clothes” and that he “set Ichabod Crane on his horse ride”. “Six Degrees” one of the first joints that dropped and it’s a perfect example of Ghost playing the role of storyteller. He brings Danny Brown on the track to do the same and the two trade street stories to perfection. The guitar twang from BBNG and the haunting change in the beat keeps the listener on their toes.
Speaking of guests, Ghost and BBNG keep the number of guests light BUT they bring some heavyweights along for the party. We’ve spoke on Danny Brown, but Elzhi comes through with an aggressive yet clever verse in the middle of “Gunshowers”. DOOM brings his usual mysterious rhymes on the Leland Witty (frequent collaborator of BBNG) assisted “Ray Gun” and MC Tree shows up on “Street Knowledge” for a verse that isn’t bad but his voice seemed to melt into the production making his verse a bit hard to comprehend.
The album rounds out with “Food” where Ghost strays from his usual street stories and braggadocio and trades it in for bars to get the kiddies to think. “Money is the root to all evil, that cash rule; Will have you out there looking like a damn fool” says the Wu native. BadBadNotGood creates my favorite instrumental on this joint which takes more of a chill jazz approach that builds up as it goes in classic BBNG fashion. You can just hear the undying passion in Ghostface’s voice with lines like “Super stars, our ego is so top billin’ it;Follow me son and I’ll show you how I’m killin’ it”.
“Sour Soul” is a great record where to superpowers in their respective genres came together to create more than just a couple cool joints for us to vibe to. BBNG does what they always do and that’s create instrumentals with improvisation mixed and rooted in jazz and hip-hop. Ghostface doesn’t do what he did on the last two records conceptually but that doesn’t take away at all from the raw lyricism that got Ghost to where he is now. My only real gripe is that it’s pretty short at just over 30mins but this time is not wasted at all. I pray to everything that this isn’t the last collaborative project we hear from these two. Now excuse me I actually have to go and listen to this record for what is now going to be the 14th time. Go cop it and if you aren’t hip to BadBadNotGood go back and listen to their stuff because they’re geniuses.