More times than not, when artists from different backgrounds collaborate, the result comes across as forced. If not forced, it’s emphatically trite in its attempt to be game changing. Well, Sour Soul by BadBadNotGood featuring Ghostface Killah shows no signs of the aforementioned. BBNG and Ghost collaborate to showcase his already established street savvy rhymes backed by their live, jazz infused, Hip Hop instrumentation. The result is a twelve song gem that is sonically refreshing and necessary, considering the climate of Hip Hop right now.
I won’t go as far as saying that the variation in musical backdrop has encouraged a new flow for the Shaolin native, but hearing him over BBNG’s interpretations gives you a feeling that Ghost is ready to showcase a more mature side. I’m sure that it is more evident during live performances of Sour Soul, but listening to the project in its entirety gives you the visual of an intimate setting with nothing but the band, Starks rocking one of his signature robes, a vintage microphone, and a stool.
The show is set off by a BBNG instrumental titled Mono. (Matthew) Tavares, (Chester) Hansen, and (Alexander) Sowinski combine to present a solid intro; quite fitting for the evening as Starks enters the room flanked by two beautiful escorts of the pecan persuasion, carefully handling his fly gold eagle. As they don him with his custom garb, he positions himself to amaze his crowd. I actually wished that Ghost would’ve spoken on this track, but hey, those with a vivid enough imagination can tell where this album is going based on the mood of this track.
Picture Ghost giving the drummer a subtle nod before a short snare intro, then boom Sour Soul begins. The show starts with the line “Yo cleanse me, clean me of my sour soul I’m vicious” ringing out from the speakers. The bass and drums ride comfortably beneath his words. The second movement of the song incorporates strings that make you forget that this is the same man who created some of the hardest records Hip Hop has heard in it’s over thirty year existence.
Special guests Danny Brown and Elzhi sit in with the band for the next two numbers. On Six Degrees, Brown assists the robed one in a gem filled barrage of Wu-like flame throwing. It’s as if the band decided that this would be their ode to the Killer Bees, because this track is definitely RZA-like in its dark rhythmic quirkiness. Detroit native Elzhi makes his presence known on Gunshowers. With no hook, this record conveys as if both MCs were at opposite ends of the stage going back and forth giving the crowd a lesson in raw lyricism.
Above the stage entrance, on each side, huge signs are flashing, “INTERMISSION…INTERMISSION” signaling the crowd that it’s time to re-up on all drinks, smokes, or whatever your pleasure may be for the evening. The band smoothly transitions into Stark’s Reality, a smooth bass, vibraphone, maracas, and string melody, fit for milling about the lounge while you wait for the next act to begin. It’s once again time for Pretty Tony to take you along on his journey.
Tone’s Rap peers into Starks’ struggles with the likes of “lent on his robe” and “bitches acting funny”. The 70’s Blaxploitation vibe of the track, complete with bending organ chords and slow percussion, is pleasingly cinematic. It’s visual in its authenticity wherein, if you closed your eyes, you’d see Ghost’s huge hand gestures mirroring his words as he leans in on his verse with laid back aggression. I guess juggling pimpin’ and MC’n can be a trying. He flies swiftly into the next song with vigor. Mind’s Playing Tricks is a driving, semi-up tempo pace changer that plays like a mental cleansing agent for the God.
He clearly lets his inner demons run free with the pen on this one. Venturing back into reality, you can picture Ghost yelling, “Y’all feelin’ good? What’s Up!”, right before he brings it back home with Street Knowledge featuring Chi-Town MC Tree. The two give you a step by step audio pamphlet of how to navigate through these Staten Island and Windy City streets. Joining in for another tempo leap is the rap villain himself, MF Doom on Ray Gun. This is definitely one of the more sought after collabs that true Hip Hop fans have been waiting to see. It’s the first we’ve heard from the pair since they teamed up for Victory Laps. Nuggets of Wisdom reminds me of an interlude from Ghost’s 1996 debut Ironman sans The Chef. Peep how the bass player took a moment to catch some limelight of his own at end if this one.
BBNG and Ghost decided to save the meatiest, most substance heavy track, Food, for the latter part of the show. I refuse to play spoiler, in hopes that you check the song out for yourselves, but I will say that this bass heavy composition is the best song on the album to me.
To put a ribbon on the evening, BBNG provides a little travelling music for their final track titled Experience. Although it’s an instrumental, the words seem to create themselves. We replay the night in our heads as we exit the venue and just as he emerged, Ghost exits in the same fashion; flanked by those same two tasty treats that ushered him in thinking, “Damn this was a great night! “
Head on over to iTunes and pick up this gem if you haven’t already and for more from the soulful trio check out their personal website.