The name might be silly, and the performance kind of is as well: BadBadNotGood married virtuosity with levity and humor on Sunday night at the 9:30 Club.
The Canadian quartet first came to prominence in 2011 after uploading a cover of Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade” to YouTube – a hypnotic, groovy rendition that gave the original track an even more sinister groove and caught the attention of Tyler, The Creator, an early champion of the band. And it makes sense that they would appeal to the former leader of rap collective Odd Future – his slightly off-kilter perspective aligns nicely with that of BBNG’s; both share impressive technical abilities, a wide range of musical influences, and a refusal to take their own work too seriously. BadBadNotGood have come into their own over the last few years producing jazzy, post-bop tracks for a wide variety of artists including Ghostface Killah and Danny Brown, Samuel Herring (Future Islands), and Charlotte Day Wilson. Needless to say, they have become the go-to group for rappers to collaborate with, and Sunday’s show presented plenty of evidence why.
They set the tone for the show by opening with groovy rendition of “Tequila” and even when they veered heavily into space-jazz territory, drummer (and de-facto MC) Alexander Sowinski made sure things remained grounded and fun, with running commentary reminiscent of a high school dance DJ. It was both awkward and incredibly endearing. At one point, Sowinski beckoned the crowd to crouch down, a la “Shout” at a wedding and hold that position quietly for about thirty seconds – an eternity in a room of about 800 people, who until quite recently had been dancing to the beat. When release finally came with an emphatic “D.C. – jump!” the room exploded into euphoric flailing and body slamming; sights perhaps common to punk shows, but not for a jazz quartet.
These guys are beyond just technically proficient – their level of skill and trust in each other serves as a platform for free-form exploration of tone, modality, and tempo within each live performance. This is a great moment for fans of jazz and hip hop, with stalwarts like Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, and Shabazz Palaces leading the way and blurring genre lines. When it comes to having the funk, four kids from Humber College in Toronto aren’t too far behind.