By Jack M. Angelo, Senior Video Director
Upon first hearing the band name BadBadNotGood, it almost sounds fake. Who in their right mind would call themselves that? Apparently, a handful of white kids from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Drummer Alexander Sowinski, bass guitarist Chester Hansen, touring keyboardist James Hill, and recent addition multi-instrumentalist Leland Whitty make up the four piece hip-hop jazz instrumental band.
The group found success in the early part of the decade with their instrumental interpretations of various hip hop songs, including “The World Is Yours/Brooklyn Zoo,” which combined classic songs by Nas and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and “Lemonade” by Gucci Mane. The band’s 2011 video “Odd Future Sessions Part 1,” garnered the attention of Odd Future leader Tyler the Creator, who helped bring the band greater recognition. Since then, the band has been busy producing their own music, as well as tracks for the likes of Earl Sweatshirt (“Hoarse”), Danny Brown (“Float On ft. Charli XCX”), and Kendrick Lamar (“LUST.”)
On Sunday September 17, 2017, BadBadNotGood came to the 9:30 Club, in Washington, D.C., to perform their hip-hop jazz instrumentals for an eager crowd. First to the stage however was Maryland-based rapper Ace Cosgrove. The young, mop-headed emcee flowed over hard beats infused with intricate Jazz sampling. At a few points during the set, Ace came into the crowd to start and participate in a mosh pit. With the crowd fully pumped, Ace left the stage, promising the headliner soon.
As the name of the venue might imply, the main act of the night took the stage at 9:30 p.m. It began with Whitty playing the saxophone lick from “Tequila Song,” by The Champs, from the balcony above the stage. This turned a into a full rendition of the song featuring all four members; a skillful move on the band’s part, as there is not a person on the planet who can resist shouting “¡Tequila!” when prompted by the song’s famous riff.
Over the next hour or so, the band delighted the crowd with complicated jazz rhythms and hip-hop grooves. Each intricate instrumental passage’s finish was met with applause from the audience, made up of mostly young people. The band’s appeal to youth is widespread, as the racially diverse audience ate up every song the band played. One song was played in a tight 5/4 groove, masterfully executed by the four musicians, each 26 or younger. The band burned several sticks of incense throughout the show, creating a very smoky and mellow stage. During one of the slower songs of the evening, Sowinski prompted the audience to put up their hands and move back and forth.
“We’re gonna float, we’re gonna sway,” he said.
Each member displayed his many talents over the course of the set. Keyboardist James Hill alternated between two keyboards, switching sounds throughout the night to bang out dissonant jazz cords. Beyond just drumming odd jazz rhythms, Alex Sowinski used a microphone to speak to the crowd throughout the show. Bassist Chester Hanson also played a drum pad with various 808s and other samples for certain songs. The instrumental repertoire of the newest addition to the band, Leland Whitty, is arguably the most impressive, alternating between a saxophone, flute, clarinet, and a tambourine/cymbal/cowbell combination throughout the night.
Seeing BadBadNotGood live makes it abundantly clear why this band is quickly becoming a household name in hip-hop production. The group brims with energy and talent, while their audience is young, multicultural, and intellectual. There is no reason to doubt that the band is on track to become one of the most recognized in the Hip-Hop genre.
These great photos from the BBNG show were taken by StayUp.News senior video director and photographer Jack M. Angelo:
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