I love jazz. The energy of the artists collaborating is mesmerizing. It’s arguably the most complex form of music, and surprisingly had the most of controversy when the music was still popular. Many big name musicians died at a young age (John Coltrane at 40, Eric Dolphy at 36, and Albert Ayler at 34), and drugs were passed around like no tomorrow. Everyone had cocaine, heroin, or anything to ease the pain of touring and missing payments. Jazz life seemed like a good life to an outsider, but the business was cutthroat and had no remorse. It’s an overlooked form of music today, and that’s partially because of it’s decline in the late 60′s, early 70′s, but the growing popularity of youth culture helped put a stake in the genre for good.
After the death of jazz, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where did it all go?”. It’s only logical to think that music doesn’t suddenly die for good. If there were huge groups of fans, they couldn’t all leave at the same time. My guess is that jazz helped progress the hip hop movement of the 80′s, which chronologically helped shape today’s popular music. I find it very interesting to see how a super complex form of popular music transform into the simplicity of today’s top hits. Oddly enough, jazz is making a slight comeback. That’s even saying a lot, but with the recent trend of vintage-everything on the rise, the genre has risen to the highest point since it’s decline in popularity.
The jazz hip-hop trio of BadBadNotGood are on the rise, and definitely do not fit in the category of “Underground”, but I had to bring them up. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, the group has had the likes of Tyler, The Creator reach out to them for a collaboration. Their jazz sound and hip-hop persona has become a trademark to their unique upbringing. The talented members of Chester, Matt, and Alex have created a cool atmosphere that can only be marked by their live performances. Luckily enough, I was able to see them perform on multiple occasions and it oddly reminds me of the DIY hardcore punk scenes of the 1980′s LA core. With this weird mixture of music and culture, how can anyone pass up on it. BBNG are a unique group.
Another reason why I bring them up is because they’re set to release the third album, titled BBNG3, which is a followup to their wonderful BBNG, and BBNG2. The albums have diverse covers of songs by musicians like Odd Future, Kanye West, Nas, and even James Blake. Others like to label them as “Instrumental Hip-Hop”, but I know they have a post-bob sound to them. Their playing style is aggressive, but also very credible. Their soloing style is crisp, and the members like to blend their solos into one another, creating a noise effect that has a punk style. Their appeal spreads from intense jazz snobs to street cred wannabees, but that’s what makes BadBadNotGood the band that stands out among many up and comers. Although still relatively small, I can’t help but see them as household names in a deadly business.
Tracks like, “Flashing Lights”, and “CMYK” prove to me why these guys are continuing to grow. The music is very creative and fresh even if it isn’t originals. The aspect of turnings these songs into jazz pieces is cringe worthy, but the personality behind the band makes it enjoyable and cool. The group itself has a fresh vibe that is unteachable. They’re a real savior to a genre that I would hate to see pass away. Jazz will always be on the back burner to mainstream and indie music today, but BadBadNotGood is turning jazz into an indie genre. They’re taking all the pretentiousness and arrogance out of the genre and making it interesting and cool to everyone. Gone is the hierarchy and conceitedness of the stereotype and in is the cool and fresh version. Thank goodness BadBadNotGood is leading the way of reinventing jazz. I wouldn’t want anyone else with this much responsibility.
A wicked video to give you an idea of their live performances:
BBNG x Tyler, The Creator
My favorite by the group:
Has the hyped dropped or is it higher than ever? Probably the most talked about album release since the surprise My Bloody Valentine album, mbv, Tyler, The Creator’s Wolf has finally arrived. At this point, the talks of selling out and dying out is at an all time high. Last time I checked, he was the top-selling artist on iTunes, but that doesn’t mean the quality is there. With Bastard back in 2009 and the surprise favourable reviews of the 2011 album, Goblin, the bar was set high for Tyler to make something of himself. His antics are what made a name for himself. From telling Tegan and Sara to “Hit me up if you want a hard dick”, to his prominent use of dark themes in his music, his image has become old fast. He’s needing a make over, and Wolf was his big “Fuck You” to the world.
From the get-go, the first lyric on this album is pretty straightforward. Tyler unleashes a blunt “Fuck” on the album-titled opener. I caught a glimpse of Tyler’s cleaner, stronger production from the second track, “Jamba”. It’s a general throwback to the debut Tyler album, Bastard. The cheesy synths smooth over the mediocre verse Tyler laid down, but the help from Hodgy Beats. Sadly, this theme seems to be a habit throughout the album. Tyler will lay down a 6/10 verse, and the feature artist will save the track. While some verses are stronger (“Bimmer”, “Domo 23″, “Rusty”), Tyler comes across as lazy on others (“Jamba”, “Cowboy”, “Awkward”).
Lyrcially, the album comes a lot of topics. The same themes from a few years ago, and Tyler still enjoys to rape woman on occasion it seems. Surprisingly, he’s matured into a rapper that covers more personal topics. One of the odd ball tracks, “Answer”, has this rock-ballad theme that opens with a verse about Tyler’s father leaving him. While he still throws around more slurs than a DMX album, I like what he does on this track. He really opens up and pushes himself to give the listener diversity. What I cannot get over is how many times Tyler tells off his fans. Although it’s his ‘Shtick’ to hate his fans, it’s becoming annoying and old. On the track “Colossus”, he tells a story about his image isn’t what he wants to be. It’s a general piss off to me, because he tries to pull the classic Eminem “Stan” idea, but comes across as an arrogant idiot.
Mini-rant aside, the production on this album is amazing. It’s the real winner here. The peak of performance comes from the triple-track, “PartyIsntOver/ Campfire/ Bimmer”. You get a mix of the Bastard lo-fi edge with an overall clean sound. The wonky synth chords collide perfectly with the snappy snare beat on the first part of the song. “Campfire” has this transition feel, but the addition of a guitar into the mix gives the album a new sound. When the final part, “Bimmer” hit, I realized the full potential of Tyler’s talent. His flow fits perfectly with the 8-bit keyboard clicks. Frank Ocean’s addition on backing vocals rounds out the track perfectly.
It took me awhile and a lot of listens to find out whether I enjoy this album or not. On my first listen, I was severely disappointed with it. I expected Tyler to be somebody who he isn’t. I hoped for this clean-cut, changed man, but that isn’t what Tyler is about. It isn’t what Odd Future is about. Tyler, The Creator is not for everyone, I understand that. He’s arrogant and childish, but that’s what makes Tyler stand out. He said what others didn’t, and I can see him becoming a leader in the future of hip-hop. Wolf will not be an album that defined his career critically, but it will be an album that is a turning point to the mainstream. There’s a handful of tracks that stand out, but as a whole, it’s a let down for me as I was hoping to see more diversity on the LP.
Check out the track, “Bimmer” here: