10 of BADBADNOTGOOD’s best collaborations: MF DOOM, Ghostface Killah, Little Simz & more
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In 2010, well before the era of "viral jazz", Humber College classmates Alexander Sowinski (drums), Chester Hansen (bass), and Matthew Tavares (guitar/keys) formed BADBADNOTGOOD, a Torontonian jazz collective who have been proving the viral potential of the genre for over a decade. The burgeoning band were highly inspired by arty hip hop, particularly that of MF DOOM and Odd Future (they would later collaborate with DOOM and members of OF, most notably Tyler, The Creator). While their professors "didn’t find anything of musical value" in their fusion sound, per an interview for Now Toronto, they were celebrated on the internet, with their "Odd Future Sessions" going viral on Youtube and leading to a co-sign from Tyler and a session with the OF leader himself. That creative hip-hop influence filtered into their modern, psychedelic jazz sound as they released debut EP and albums BBNG and BBNGLIVE 1 in 2011 and BBNG2 and BBNGLIVE 2 in 2012.
Still local to Toronto, BADBADNOTGOOD linked up with Frank Dukes, Daniel Caesar, Charlotte Day Wilson, and more in the local scene as frequent collaborators. The trio continued to cover and reinterpret popular hip hop and R&B artists as their influence grew, releasing LP III in 2014 and teaming up with Ghostface Killah on Sour Soul in 2015. Around that time, saxophonist Leland Whitty joined BBNG's lineup officially, building out the band's sound from instrumentalist/production team to bona fide jazz quartet. IV came in 2016, to great acclaim, and collaborations with Kaytranada, Colin Stetson, Earl Sweatshirt, Kanye West, Floating Points, and more followed. Their most recent album, Talk Memory, came out in 2021, at the five-year anniversary of IV. Along the way, BBNG lent their production prowess to tons of artists, popular and avant-garde. In fact, collaborations have played a massive role in BADBADNOTGOOD's own discography, as they've invited vocalists and additional producers to join their atmosphere on a plenitude of tracks. Here are about 10 of our favorites, in no particular order. Plus, pick up III and IV on new exclusive vinyl in the BV shop.
”The Chocolate Conquistadors” with MF DOOM
BBNG teamed up with MF DOOM in late 2020 to contribute to the Grand Theft Auto Online expansion soundtrack, making a psych-funk, ’70s-inspired jazz cut. It’s much more acoustic and sprawling than a typical backing track for DOOM. In fact, with a seven-minute runtime, it’s more like a jam by BADBADNOTGOOD in which MF DOOM contributes some rock-solid verses. Opening like a sensual slow jam, it picks up with DOOM riffing in Spanglish before taking off on a lyrical tear over clubby synths. DOOM sets the tone with his finesse, carrying through the rest of the song. BBNG keep up, too: their sound is airtight, a masterclass in musicianship.
”Confessions Pt. II” & “Confessions Pt. III” with Colin Stetson
Canadian saxophonist Colin Stetson makes a compelling foil for BADBADNOTGOOD’s style, as they treat baritone sax as the backbone of “Confessions Pt. II” before layering higher tenor and alto sax solos atop the syncopated beat. It’s more jammy than the highly patterned “Confessions Pt. III,” which employs a slower build and mounts the kind of chaotic tension Colin does in his film scores. Both songs serve as a followup to “Confessions” from their debut studio album III in 2014. “Pt. II” appeared on 2016’s IV, and “Pt. III” came a year later as a standalone bonus track. The three iterations side by side feel like a saxophone showcase, proving the sheer versatility of the instrument—a fittingly intellectual statement by the band and Colin Stetson.
”In Your Eyes” with Charlotte Day Wilson
Fellow Canadian Charlotte Day Wilson contributes buttery vocals to penultimate IV track “In Your Eyes,” expanding BBNG’s instrumental prowess into an older soul/classic pop sound. “In Your Eyes” is touching in its simplicity, with a no-frills jazz-pop backing of drums by Alexander, bass by Chester, keys by Matthew, and strings by Leland. Leland contributes flute flourishes at the end, upping the ballad’s retro smoothness. This collaboration between BADBADNOTGOOD and Charlotte Day Willson is one of many, as they both belong to an informal collective of Torontonian artists along with Daniel Caesar, producer Frank Dukes, River Tiber, and Kaytranada.
”Lavender” and “Weight Off” with Kaytranada
In fact, Kaytranada and BADBADNOTGOOD traded collaborations for their respective 2016 albums, 99.9% the aforementioned IV. The results of their crossover are futuristic quasi-funk cut “Lavender” and jazzed-up “Weight Off,” both of which exhibit the value of sparse, intentional production. Both tracks are instrumental, and unique features in their respective albums. “Weight Off” seamlessly incorporates a jazz sensibility into Kaytranada’s easygoing R&B-infused EDM. (BBNG were also credited for songwriting on 99.9% track “Bullets" feat. Little Dragon.) “Lavender” is a darker-toned BBNG track, with a bold assist from Kaytra in the form of assertive electronics, including a sort of thumpy, yo-yoing synth that propels the song. The artists also released a “Nightfall Remix” as an instrumental and with a feature by Snoop Dogg in 2017.
Sour Soul with Ghostface Killah
In 2015, BBNG and Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah teamed up for an entire LP, Sour Soul, produced by Frank Dukes. Ghostface’s no-nonsense delivery adds grounding to BADBADNOTGOOD’s floaty, ’60s- and ’70s-inspired instrumentals, and BBNG give Ghostface’s music an unconventional, genre-evasive spin. Sour Soul includes features by Elzhi on “Gunshowers,” Tree on “Street Knowledge,” MF DOOM on aptly-titled “Ray Gun,” and Danny Brown on standout hard-hitter “Six Degrees.”
”Paradise” with Daniel Caesar and Sean Leon
Daniel Caesar and BADBADNOTGOOD go way back, as mentioned, from their early days in Toronto. They brought that connection to the masses with "Paradise" off Daniel’s 2015 LP Pilgrim’s Paradise. “Paradise” is fluttery and soaring, with dreamy guitar and synth and chuggy drums, plus a verse by fellow Torontonian Sean Leon. Daniel’s voice shines as always, a glossy tenor against BBNG’s busy bass lines and blissful production. Daniel Caesar and BADBADNOTGOOD have teamed up many times since, with BBNG producing Daniel’s 2016 tracks “Get You (feat. Kali Uchis)” and “Japanese Denim,” and featuring on 2022 single “Please Do Not Lean.”
”the ordinary is ordinary because it ordinarily repeats” with Jonah Yano
The newest release on this list, “the ordinary is ordinary because it ordinarily repeats” debuted in late January 2023 as the closer of singer-songwriter Jonah Yano’s sophomore album portrait of a dog, which BADBADNOTGOOD produced. What makes the song remarkable is the space BBNG occupy, delivering a straight-ahead jazz session complete with piano and tenor sax solos and cymbal-heavy drum bits. It’s a dramatic statement to end the album with a full-on instrumental—it’s a far departure from the chill indie-folk originals and Vashti Bunyan cover—but regardless, BBNG’s unique perspective and voice punctuate the album with a polished period.
”Our Conversations” with Little Simz
Ultra-cool British rapper Little Simz tapped BADBADNOTGOOD for a feature on her 2016 double LP Stillness In Wonderland. “Our Conversations” is ethereal and atmospheric in its use of flute and woodwind sounds, but Simz’s cutting verses bode comfortably with the understated bass underpinning the melody. The instrumental doesn’t have a massive rise and fall, functioning more like a stirring, occasionally-dissonant loop for Little Simz to play with.
"Time Moves Slow" with Samuel T. Herring
In 2014, BADBADNOTGOOD completely reimagined the instrumental of Future Islands hit “Seasons (Waiting On You),” flipping the song into a groovy, retro-nightclub croon. Singer Samuel T. Herring’s voice meshed so well with BBNG’s sultry bass and piano accents that in 2016, the group tapped him for IV track “Time Moves Slow.” Samuel’s raspy voice ups the profound longing on the slow jam, with earwormy opening line, “Running away is easy, it’s the leaving that’s hard.” Producer VANO 3000 helped the song go fully viral in 2021 with a remix he posted on Tiktok. The crossovers between Samuel and BADBADNOTGOOD are melodramatic and fun, keeping Future Islands’ spirit intact and injecting BBNG’s wordless cool.
Pick up exclusive vinyl variants of BBNG III and IV in the BV shop.