Sour Soul, the new full-length collaboration between Ghostface Killah and BadBadNotGood, is an intriguing proposition on paper. Both parties have a history of pushing boundaries in their respective genres and seem as if they would complement each other nicely. Unfortunately, the best that can be said for the album they created together is that it is a competent, safe, and generally well-constructed addition to Ghostface’s catalog. Beyond that, Sour Soul is unmemorable—my belief is that the half-hour it takes to listen to it would be better spent taking in Ghost’s older material.
Ghostface’s legacy at this point is cemented—no list of the greatest emcees of all time is complete without him. Although some have cribbed elements of his style (read: Action Bronson), his sound as a whole is inimitable and innovative. He packs his verses with dense wordplay and riveting narratives, delivering them in a high-pitched, nasally bark that conveys a powerful urgency. BadBadNotGood is newer to the scene, but is similarly inventive—a jazz trio from Toronto that initially made their name covering Odd Future songs, they have since moved on to less conventional source material (My Bloody Valentine, for example), and written original compositions that stand up well next to their choices of standards.
Yet on Sour Soul there is a distinct lack of inventiveness, both from a musical and lyrical standpoint. BBNG contributes solid but uninspired RZA imitations—occasionally, they will throw in an interesting instrumental flourish (the vibes on “Street Knowledge” come to mind), but their tracks largely feel tentative, as if afraid to move too far away from the traditional Wu-Tang sound. Ghostface suffers from the same issue, although he is still sharp enough to put at least one interesting bar in each song he plays this project safe, refusing to deviate from his traditional subject matter or delivery at all. Coming from artists like these, who are usually more than willing to experiment, this album is upsettingly conservative.
Overall, Sour Soul is passable, a workmanlike LP that’s over before you know it. Fans of both BBNG and Ghostface will likely find something they enjoy, but there are opportunities here that are being missed.