If the name BADBADNOTGOOD rings a bell, you may remember the crossover album they did with Ghostface Killah. The current lineup for this Canadian instrumental trio is Chester Hansen, Alexander Sowinski, and Leland Whitty. Shortly before word of Daniel Dumile’s passing broke in December 2020, BBNG collaborated with DOOM for a track called “The Chocolate Conquistadors,” teasing the possibility of another dope collaboration album. Sadly since his essence left the physical for the spiritual I doubt that project will ever be completed.
That hasn’t slowed BBNG down though. In between musical experiments and motion picture soundtracks, they had time to lay down a new album of their own titled “Talk Memory.” At first I was hesitant as to what to say about it. It’s not a beat tape, nor “instrumentals” in the rap music sense. The closest comparison I can draw to any genre on songs like “Unfolding (Momentum 73)” is free form jazz — very mellow, very relaxing jazz. You might sit in a cafe on Bourbon Street just whiling the day away, sipping drinks and listening to BBNG play, forgetting all your troubles and cares. It’s not head nodding music, it’s soul bopping music.
Even a slightly harder track like “Love Proceeding” is only mildly more aggressive thanks to crisp percussion and a BPM that will almost get your heart racing. No, let’s be honest, it won’t. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing, despite what the band’s name would imply. In fact the song title sums up the mood here quite well — it’s love, proceeding. It’s a love for horns, a love for percussion, a love for keys and melodies, and it’s all proceeding at its own laconic place. This is music that sounds more improvised than orchestrated, and it’s going to get to the love when it gosh darn well feels like it. Even saying “when it damn well feels like it” sounds too strong for these laid back hep cats.
I realize ponderous jazz is an instant turn off for some folks. In the contemporary musical landscape of the 2020’s, music has become very fast and very disposable. Sub two minute songs are the norm, and the patience required for a track like “Talk Meaning” that’s three times that long may not exist. There are none of the cliches of present day rap, but to be fair there are none of the cliches of golden era or old school rap either.
Other than their past associations with rappers, I can’t call “Talk Memory” from BADBADNOTGOOD “rap” in any way shape or form. I like it though. Maybe it was all those years of DJ Premier sampling from the jazz greats, or all those “Jazzmatazz” albums from the late Keith Elam working with them, but somewhere along the line I developed an appreciation for this vibe. BBNG have been doing this since 2010 and over a decade+ they’ve gotten really good at what they do. Maybe when you’re burned out from AutoTune music, New York hard rocks, Cali swag and Texas trill, a little BBNG fits the bill. It’s like a cool glass of lemonade, which was a popular drink, and still is.