Wu-Tang Clan’s most active member, Ghostface Killah has been living up to his name in the past few months. In December he put out a record with The Clan themselves and also dropped another solo album entitled ’36 Chambers’. His solo album followed suit of his previous album before that, ‘Twelve Reasons To Die’ in that it had a very specific narrative following a revenge story. ’36 Chambers’ unfortunately felt a bit stale for Ghostface as it didn’t quite have the viscera of his previous release. It almost made many fans pose the question as to whether the veteran still has it or not.
On this new album, ‘Sour Soul’ Ghostface is back to just giving us straight up bars. There’s no complicated story, specific narrative to follow or graphic novels to read on here; Ghostface is back to that classic Wu-Tang style of rapping. ‘Sour Soul’ isn’t technically just his album though; in the billing he comes second fiddle to the Jazz fusion/Hip-Hop band BADBADNOTGOOD, who have already dropped three fantastic records. It’s important to bear this in mind when listening to ‘Sour Soul’ as at times it feels like the rapping is just another instrument to occasionally add to the songs. BBNG have a whole lot more presence on this album than Ghostface.
BBNG bring instrumentals to the table very reminiscent of 60s and 70s soul, funk and rock music taking influence from movie soundtracks much like the instrumentation that was found on Ghostface’s last two albums. The difference with ‘Sour Soul’ is that there’s a lot more emphasis on it and it’s done in a much more dark and twisted way. A lot of these instrumentals do genuinely speak for themselves like on the track ‘Six Degrees’ which has this fantastic groove on it that’s enhanced when Detroit MC Danny Brown comes cruising in with his trademark wild flow. Some of the better moments on here are some of the instrumentals and the outros like on the track ‘Ray Gun’ which has this daunting horn section that could have been taken straight from a 70s action film. The instrumental track ‘Stark’s Reality’ is also another highlight with it being very floaty with instrumental passages that sound like they could have been improvised.
To hear Ghostface rapping in a way where he’s going for the braggadocio is so refreshing to hear. On paper it certainly sounds like he’s taking a step back after going for very ambitious ideas on his previous projects, but in reality it shows that the man still knows how to put together some fiery verses. Ghostface deals with topics that are well-worn yet shows that he’s still got that infinite pot of ideas like on the track with MF DOOM ‘Ray Gun’ which will have every fan who’s anticipating their collaborative album ‘DOOMSTARKS’ freaking out as DOOM plays the villain and Ghostface takes on his the role of Ironman once again and they have a brilliant battle of words. The track ‘Food’ has a funny moment where he’s talking about how there so many more benefits from eating fish rather than selling fishcale. Some of the topics that have been done to death feel fresh on here too like the track, ‘Street Knowledge’ where Ghostface talks about the dos and don’ts when living in the streets.
Alas, due to the fact that this is predominately a BBNG project and when Ghostface comes on he’s so exhilarating, it does make some of the songs feel a bit half-finished. Ghostface normally only comes on for one verse and then hides away for the instrumental to take the role for the rest of the song. It makes for a very confused listen as the chemistry is so brilliant between the two artists that when it’s just one of them playing it feels like a glass half empty. Some of the best moments on this album are because all of the guest verses on here are fantastic and it gives the audience that little bit more material to deal with.
Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD are surely a match made in heaven, the problem is there’s not enough here for us to absorb. Coming in at only just over half an hour this album could have been so much more. As it stands it’s a classy, funny and clever album that tends to lean more towards Jazz music in every way rather than being a Hip-Hop album.
Best Tracks: Ray Gun (Feat MF DOOM), Sour Soul, Six Degrees (Feat Danny Brown), Gunshowers (Feat. Elzhi)