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Let’s set the scene. It’s a few years ago and three white Canadian jazz musicians Matthew Tavares, Alexander Sowinski, and Chester Hansen who made up the group BadBadNotGood were introduced to Frank Dukes. For those that don’t know Dukes, perhaps you should review the liner notes of some best-produced hip-hop records of the past 5 years. Anyway, the guys met Dukes following their first show. Dukes, after doing some other sessions together, asked the trio to come to New York to work on some instrumentals. During this time, Ghostface Killah, who needs no introduction, was working on various projects, including some Wu-Tang Clan releases as well as some solo releases. Always the busy guy, Dukes got Ghost and BBNG to work on some collaborations and since BBNG had already created some hip hop instrumentals it made sense to move forward with a track. What came of this session was the first single “Six Degrees.” Dukes was the catalyst for a full-length record Sour Soul.
"Sour Soul", the full-length collaboration from BBNG and Ghost commences like something out a noir film score. Consisting of a rolling bass and moody keyboard work, the track sets the mood for what the listener will hear instrumentally for the rest of the record. As the Hansen hits those bass lines, we roll into the title track where Ghost comes out of the gate spitting mind-wrecking rhymes that are rhythmic and on point. Similarly, “Six Degrees” starts with a pointed pluck of the strings that walk up and down the track. Combined with some rhythmic drum hits, the time signatures create a complexity and intricate layering effect. What is surprising is the inclusion of Danny Brown. It’s like the instrumental was written with him in mind. His flow has always been strange in a good way and the instrumental fits like a glove when paired with Tone’s verses. Following the weirdness of “Six Degrees” we’re met with a laid back instrumental in the track of “Gunshowers.” Think a hard day in Vegas after a long night of partying. This track is like being lost in the desert with no water for days. Ghost spits hot magma on both verses but what ties the track together is the feature from Elzhi who’s flow raps into Ghost’s second verse flawlessly.
“Tone’s Rap” was already introduced to those following the collaboration initially as it was the B-side to the “Six Degrees” 10” release. It is another laid back, classic tune that stood alone initially, but now that I’ve heard it with Ghost’s words it’s difficult to forget them when going back to listen to the original instrumental. That said, “Mind Playing Tricks” is the exact opposite. In fact, it would be nice to hear the song without Ghost’s words, as it is reminiscent of the most recent Budos Band release. This is not the say that Ghost doesn’t absolutely murder this track, but it would be cool to hear it without his words. Following that, we’re back in relaxation mode with “Street Knowledge” that features the first track on the record that isn’t led by Ghost. Instead we’re met with real MC Tree from Chicago. This guy has a gnarled voice that twists your ear in a way that is polar opposite to Ghost. This pairing works and it would be cool to hear a full collabo album between the two. This seems to be a trend on the record too. As we flow into “Ray Gun” which features MF Doom in a sci-fi fantasy track. Doom handles the collaboration just like you think he would, holding down his verse and spitting rhymes like the pro he is.
As the final three tracks approached I found myself not wanting the record to end. Fortunately, after the previous nine came hard with Ghost’s killer rhymes, we’re given a look behind the curtain. “Nuggets of Wisdom” is exactly that – words to chew on from Ghost. Instrumentally there is sparseness to the track that works and slides directly into the next track “Food” which is a continuation of Ghost imparting wisdom before closing out the record with an instrumental called “Experience.” It, paired with the previous two round out a trilogy of tracks that give you knowledge and wisdom before allowing you the time to ruminate on what you’ve just heard. That said, what is interesting about this record as a whole is that it is more than Ghostface Killah spitting rhymes over songs made by live musicians. Instead, what we get is a true collaboration where BBNG and Ghost are working together to create a mood imparted by all parts of each track. What we end up with is a record that is destined to be an instant classic.