Staff Picks - BadBadNotGood IV

IV shows BADBADNOTGOOD might be the most versatile band in music today

The first album where the Toronto quartet collaborates with a handful of vocalists, IV is a huge leap forward.

- Jul 11, 2016
Staff Picks is an exploration of the albums the Chart Attack office can't stop streaming. This time, BADBADNOTGOOD's IV matches them with a handful of collaborators with mindblowing results.

Jazz and hip-hop are intersecting and overlapping like no time since the era of A Tribe Called Quest. As far-out artists like Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Kamasi Washington inch both genres towards each other, a band of young Humber music dropouts who got their start with viral jazz covers of Odd Future no longer seem like such a strange concept. The times have caught up to BADBADNOTGOOD, but the Toronto band aren't pandering. Instead they've put out a new album that can barely be categorized as either jazz or hip-hop.

It's hard to say what you would categorize IV as, but that's because BBNG might just be the most versatile band in music. They're the Wrecking Crew dream team that every rapper calls when they need a live band (Earl Sweatshirt, Yasiin Bey and Ghostface can attest), and they're the secret sauce on some of the best new rap and pop records. Just ask Rihanna or Drake.

On their own albums until now they've shown what they can do on their own, riding a groove and trading solos until you're convinced they're the best drummer, bassist and piano player to ever play Gucci ManeIV is the first time they collaborate with many other artists on one of their own albums, and the results are necessarily more compositional. They're also mindblowing.

The IV collabs are like a magic key, unlocking new sounds we've never heard from either side. It's remarkable, and remarkably free of ego.

Samuel T. Herring, removed from the Future Islands late night dance move spectacular, puts his soulful gruffness in a new context — it's like an old dusty record you happened upon and then cherished forever. Colin Stetson's deep sax gets a counterpoint from resident hornblower Leland Whitty, and it just emphasizes his freak of nature prowess. Kaytranada pushes them both into a whole new place, even further than their prior collaborations — funky, psychedelic, and endearingly weird. Torontonian (and former schoolmate) Charlotte Day Wilson's smooth vocals are like the "and introducing..." credit every young actor dreams of.

It's somewhat telling that the weakest team-up is with Chicago MC Mick Jenkins — not because "Hyssop of Love"' is bad, but just because we've heard this mode from BADBADNOTGOOD before. Otherwise, the IV collabs are like a magic key, unlocking new sounds we've never heard from either side, without losing the identity of either artist. It's remarkable, and remarkably free of ego. It's the kind of chameleonic versatility you almost never see any more, especially when every artist needs to scream their identity to elevate them above all the digital noise. Even hip-hop producers have ID tags.

The collaborations are so good you almost wish the whole album was a collaboration record, but in a way it kind of is. IV is the first album where longtime fifth Beatle Leland Whitty becomes an official member, and he adds much more than just sax. There's many new shades to their former jazz trio palette, from textural guitars to spacey synths. They're never able to quite rise to the same heights without their guests, but you can tell they're unafraid to go wherever the music takes them, no matter which festivals it gets them invited to.

It's not perfect, but BBNG are still young and IV suggests they could follow any number of paths forward. It makes it hard to wait for V, VIXXII, and everything in between. I want to hear them all.

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