Investigative Journalism: BadBadNotGood

BadBadNotGoodThis past weekend we watched Whiplash and yes, it was as good as everyone said it was…if not better. I loved it. It had me all fired up afterward and the last five minutes of the movie alone are worth the price of admission. To be perfectly honest, I feel like it should have gotten more love as a Best Picture contender and to be even more perfectly honest, was J.K. Simmons really a supporting actor in that movie? He kind of felt like the co-lead.

The next day, while still thinking about Whiplash, I couldn’t help but think about what the future might have in store for Andrew, the movie’s lead character. Without spoiling anything, you leave the movie pretty much convinced dude has a bright future ahead. He’s a beast on drums and incredibly talented. So where does he go from here?

I’ll tell you where he goes- he goes to hip hop.

Hip hop?

Yes.

Not jazz?

No, not jazz.

Why hip hop?

Because these new jazz kids love hip hop, especially live instrument backed hip hop. They see that the ingredients they’re using to cook up jazz in music school are the same ones a band like the Roots started out with- keys, upright bass and a drum kit. Of course some rising jazz heads stay the course, but the rest? The rest flock to hip hop and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if that’s where Andrew ended up- linking up with some other like-minded individuals and one or two emcees to do the spittin’.

This is relevant to now because for the past week or so, listed among the new releases on Spotify, I kept noticing this one particular album cover. It was black and white and had someone who looked like Ghostface Killah on it. But it didn’t say it was by Ghostface. It didn’t even say it was by Wu Tang or any other known Ghostface associate. No, it said it was something called Sour Soul by someone called BadBadNotGood. Didn’t make any sense to me. I ignored it.

That is until yesterday when I no longer ignored it and decided to check it out.

It turns out BadBadNotGood are three young bucks from Toronto, Ontario. And it turns out that the gentlemen on the cover of the album is in fact Ghostface Killah. And the reason Mr. Killah is on the cover is because the album, Sour Soul, is a collaboration between Ghostface and these three dudes from Toronto. It all makes sense now. Well, to an extent. The burning question is how the hell did Ghostface end up doing an album with three white Canadians, none of whom look older that 21 years old? It seemed that some research needed to be done.

Oh and Sour Soul is a dope album. Check it out.

Back to BadBadNotGood.

They are in fact three young gentlemen from Toronto and are jazz heads, having met while studying the dark arts of jazz at Humber College in Toronto. Humber College, a polytechnic school, known to those who aren’t familiar with it as Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. Advanced learning. As opposed to other colleges and universities that simply offer “learning.” Man, ease up there Humber.

So that is where BadBadNotGood formed, consisting of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass (both electric and upright,) and Alexander Sowinski on drums, samples and the occasional pig mask. The pig mask thing cannot be properly explained based on Giddy Up America’s only mildly extensive research. It can only be confirmed that Sowinski dons said mask on occasion. It does get cold up in Canada and that is the only explanation I can come up with for why he wears it. But regardless, the three met, jammed and bonded over a love of hip hop. Their inclusion of choice hip hop tracks did not go over well with their jazz instructors, yet a YouTube video of them playing Odd Future songs, The Odd Future Sessions Part One, released in April of 2011 did get the attention of Odd Future ringmaster Tyler the Creator, who became a fan and subsequently instrumental in helping the video go viral. The Odd Future Sessions Part Two was released two months later. A few months after that, Tyler the Creator was in Sowinski’s basement recording tracks with the band that resulted in even more popular YouTube videos like this one and this one and this one…

Get a guy like Tyler the Creator in your corner and you won’t be chilling up in Canada for very long. Instead you’ll be the band in residence at Coachella in 2012, backing up Tyler and his dude Frank Ocean while you’re in town, touring the globe, assisting RZA on the Man With the Iron Fists soundtrack and eventually recording an album with Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul, which was released at the end of February and is highlighted by “Ray Gun,” where Ghostface is joined on vocals by DOOM.


As previously stated, Sour Soul is a dope album- a perfect intersection of jazz and live hip hop. The great fear when jazz invades hip hop is that the jazz heads will get too busy with things and forget that the key to good live hip hop is simplicity. This isn’t a problem for BadBadNotGood, who approach each song with equal parts reverence, ingenuity and style. It seems on point to have Ghostface involved because a lot of the music has hints of Wu Tang- perfectly atmospheric with a vintage twinge. I especially dig the pig mask-wearing fellas drums, but singling out just one member of the trio isn’t fair. They all do their part, sharing the heavy lifting. They compliment one another and play off each other like seasoned vets.

It’ll definitely be interesting to see where BadBadNotGood go from here. I imagine that there will be no shortage of emcee’s looking to employ their services, whether it’s on record or on stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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