Sour Soul has dropped!
This is not a drill. The much-anticipated album, a collaboration between Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD should be unlike anything either of them have really done before, but hopefully in a mad dope way (confirmed.) Read on for my Sour Soul Review.
Sour Soul is an excellent collab between a rap legend and a young production trio that has some hip hop cred themselves. It’s a jazzy, chill, but short (just over a half hour) album which emphasizes the beat as much as the rap, but never quite takes it to the next level. The music never falters though, and neither does Ghostface, and it’s a very consistent album which does some clever things between BADBADNOTGOOD’s production and Ghostface Killah’s flow.
For being a strong, confident, jazzy album I give Sour Soul a:
Slow (but dope) start
The album starts with Mono, which clocks in at just under a minute. It sets the tone with some slow percussion before getting a nice little groove in there then fading out to some dialogue before the first track with Ghostface on it, also the titular track, Sour Soul. From the beginning it’s obvious this is Ghostface, both from the voice and the bravado. BADBADNOTGOOD provides some dope backing for a rapper like Ghostface, who is such a commanding presence that he doesn’t need much more than some boom-bap. But BADBADNOTGOOD can still bring it, dropping in some dope strings before the second track’s even out.
Danny Brown elevates expectations
The next track, Six Degrees, has the album’s first feature, Danny Brown. It starts out with a choppy, vaguely-RZA sounding minimalist beat while Ghostface spits some shit about the old days. Danny Brown comes in with an even choppier beat, and really the switch-up makes you excited for the rest of the album because BADBADNOTGOOD clearly knows how to match a rapper’s flow, and you gotta love it when the beat follows the rapper rather than the other way around. When Ghostface comes back in, it’s a different beat again before dropping back into a more familiar one. Six Degrees is a fire track, including the 50-second long instrumental showcase at the end.
Gunshowers comes in at track 4 with some sad-sounding guitar and all of a sudden you can’t tell what’s blues, what’s jazz and what’s hip hop. Ghostface rides it perfectly, too, which either speaks to his flow ability or BADBADNOTGOOD’s ability to match him. Either way, it works. Elzhi jumps on this one too, bringing the energy down for a creepier, moe atmospheric vibe. It sounds very much like a Wu-Tang album at this point, and that’s even before they started trading lines.
Real or imagined?
Then we got another short track, Stark’s Reality, which ironically sounds like a dream sequence. It’s an instrumental track, but to say it doesn’t have Ghostface would be wrong because it’s clearly referring to him, Tony Starks. It’s a dope little trick they pulled, because you can almost hear Ghostface rapping even while you’re waiting for hm to come in (he never does.) This is my favorite instrumental track on a hip hop album since Supervillain Theme off Madvillainy. It makes a little more sense too when you consider it comes right before Tone’s Rap.
Tone’s Rap has a beat that sounds like it’s recorded from a record player that’s played Stark’s Reality a million times and is just melting down but still going. Ghostface ends up rapping a very unglamorous verse over a very unglamorous beat, and the jazziness of it all would make Tyler, the Creator proud. Ghostface Killah knows how to spit that dark shit, even when he’s joking around (“pimpin’ ain’t easy but it sure is fun.”) The production on this track is unlike anything I’ve ever heard on a rap album, but it still somehow sounds like hip hop. If for no other reason than to check out BADBADNOTGOOD’s version of hip hop, you should scope this album.
A confident, Wu-like sound
Mind Playing Tricks brings it back to Ghostface’s strong suit, which is a RZA-type beat that’s a little more consistent but still sounds a bit back alley and a bit luxurious at the same time. This is the most ’90s verse of the album, even though it’s got Ghostface rapping about his strength and his success, including Supreme Clientele. It’s just got that edge and he sounds like he’s ready to go to war. Then the album slips back into a sleepier, jazzier sound that still sounds ominous but overall chill for Street Knowledge. The 3rd feature of the album comes in the form of Tree, who’s got a real low, raspy voice that makes the beat sound a little less like a videogame. Ghostface spits a little harder, but they got these like bells backing his words, so it all balances out, and even when Ghostface is talking about crack and bling, it still feels like a mattress commercial, and puts a smile on your face.
Then the melody gets a little deeper, a little lower, and a little meaner. It flows into Ray Gun, which is a brighter beat that’s more fun with more going on, but it’s still got a street edge. Ghostface comes in with a very MF DOOM-like flow, and that makes sense because the 4th feature of the album, DOOM, comes in right after him. Overall, it sounds like an MF DOOM track, from the almost cartoonish beat to the low gangsta flows of Ghostface and DOOM. The middle of the song has a transition that sounds like it just dropped into the sewer, and shit’s sounding dark. Thanks to the transition, Ray Gun is one of the dopest tracks on the album.
BADBADNOTGOOD turns up the pressure
The 10th track is Nuggets of Wisdom, which starts with a more traditional beat before just become a little jazzy melody, then all of a sudden Ghostface jumps on it. It’s a sentimental track with a nicer but no-less real Ghostface backed by a claustrophobic beat that drops when he stops rapping. This is illustrative of the whole album, as BADBADNOTGOOD plays around with their backings to Ghostface, sometimes matching him, sometimes doing the exact opposite to get a dope flow, and it’s just real clever overall. More albums need to be collaborations between a producer and a rapper rather than multiple producers for different tracks and a rapper. I think we’re luckily starting to see that, from Ghostface’s own 12 Reasons to Die with Adrian Younge, and Freddie Gibbs’s Piñata with Madlib.
The second-to-last track is Food (another reference to DOOM?), which has a beat that feels like it’s in some bouncing clouds or something. Ghostface spits some truth about money and the devil, and then the beat gets more orchestral and starts sounding more like the Wu again. This track reminds me a bit of Killah Priest’s B.I.B.L.E. at the end of Liquid Swords. It almost sounds like a funeral eulogy, but Ghostface is talking about how Wu has still persisted all these years, so really it’s a celebration of life.
The album wraps up with Experience, yet another short track, starting with some deep bass and cymbals this time that somehow build up into a real dynamic beat that makes you wish Ghostface would jump on it. Instead, it’s a mad funky and theatrical instrumental that sounds like the end score of an intense play. It’s a great beat by itself, and I get why they finished with an instrumental. It also underlines that this album is at least as much about the production as it is the rap, if not more.
Buy a copy and let me know what you think!
I still can’t decide whether I like the beats or the rap more, but I think BADBADNOTGOOD ultimately ends up ruling this album. Ghostface kills it too, but the production defines the sound here. DOOM and Danny Brown headline the dope but short list of features that keep this album chill but varied. The only recent hip hop albums that sound like this shit are Madvillainy and Piñata, and we can thank Madlib for both of those. In Sour Soul, BADBADNOTGOOD kind of takes the torch from Madlib for jazzy hip hop production. Buy this album, and support dope hip hop.