Throughout the course of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, bassist and JOVM mainstay Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, and as you may recall Thundercat has developed a reputation as a highly-desired collaborator and a critically applauded solo artist; in fact, he has collaborated with Kendrick Lamar on Lamar’s Grammy Award-winning album, To Pimp A Butterfly and Brainfeeder Records labelmate, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, which he promptly followed up with one of my favorite releases of 2015, the mini-album The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. 2017’s Drunk, Bruner’s critically applauded third full-length album was written as an epic journey into the bizarre, hilarious and sometimes dark mind of the singer/songwriter and bassist, and it featured an All-Star list of collaborators including some of his go-to collaborators Kamasi Washington, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa and Pharrell Williams, along with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins.
Currently comprised of founding members Matthew Tavares (keys), Chester Hansen (bass), and Alexander Sowinski (drums) with newest member Leland Whitty (saxophone), the Toronto, Ontario, Canada instrumental act BADBADNOTGOOD derive their name from an abandoned comedy TV project that Tavares was working on before the band formed – and whether as trio or a quartet, the band has developed a reputation for a sound and compositional approach that draws from hip-hop, electronica, jazz, prog rock; but they’re perhaps best known for their jazz-based interpretation of hip-hop tracks, which have allowed them to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Denzel Curry, Danny Brown, Mick Jenkins, Ghostface Killah and others. Interestingly, the band can trace its origins to when the band’s founding trio bonding over a mutual love of hip-hop – in particular MF Doom and Odd Future.
As the story goes, the then-trio played a piece based on Odd Future’s music for a panel of their jazz performance instructors, who didn’t believe it had much musical value – but interestingly enough, after they released the track as “The Odd Future Sessions, Part 1,” the track caught the attention of Tyler The Creator, who helped the video go viral. The Canadian act followed that up with the 2011 release of their full-length debut BBNG, which featured interpretations of A Tribe Called Quest, Waka Flocka Flame and Odd Future. Building upon a growing profile, the members of BADBADNOTGOOD recorded a live jam session with Tyler The Creator in Sowinski’s basement, with videos from the session amassing more than a million views each.
2012’s sophomore effort BBNG2 was recorded over the course of a ten-hour studio session and featured Leland Whitty (saxophone) and Luan Phung (electric guitar) and featured their own original material, as well as renditions of songs by Kanye West, My Bloody Valentine, James Blake, Earl Sweatshirt and Feist. That year, the band was the official Coachella Festival house band, backing Frank Ocean and Odd Future over the course of its two weekends.
2013 saw the release of III, which featured “Hedron,” a track that was also featured on the compilation album Late Night Tales: Bonobo; “CS60” and “Can’t Leave the Night,” which was released with the B-side “Sustain,” and they were involved on the soundtrack for The Man with the Iron Fists, assisting with the production and composition.
2015’s fourth, full-length album Sour Soul, found them collaborating with Ghostface Killah – and interestingly, the album is more of a hip-hop album that nods at (and is largely influenced by) jazz. They ended the year with covers of a handful of holiday standards, including “Christmas Time Is Here” with Choir! Choir! Choir!
Leland Whitty joined the band as a full-time member in early 2016, and they followed that up with producing “Hoarse” off Earl Sweatshirt’s full-length debut Doris and “GUV’NOR,” a remix, which appeared on JJ DOOM’s Keys to the Kuffs (Butter Edition). By the middle of that year, BADBADNOTGOOD released their fifth full-length album IV, an album that featured guest spots from Future Islands’ Sam Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada,Mick Jenkins and Charlotte Day Wilson, and was named BBC Radio 6’s #1 album of the year.
Interestingly, Thundercat and BADBADNOTGOOD have collaborated on what may arguably be one of the most hotly-anticipated collaborations in recent memory, “King of the Hill,” a track that’s a seamless meshing of Bruner’s soulful and dreamy falsetto with his dexterous bass work, a swaggering, boom-bap like backbeat from BADBADNOTGOOD and an atmospheric and shimmering production from Flying Lotus — and as a result, the track manages to be a soulful yet psychedelic take on jazz fusion that’s retro-futuristic yet incredibly contemporary.
Look for the track to be featured on Brainfeeder Records’ forthcoming 36 track Brainfeeder X compilation, and the compilation which is is slated for a November 16, 2018 release will celebrate the label’s decade of releasing the work of fearless and uncompromisingly forward-looking artists that will be split into volumes — a retrospective of their critically applauded releases and the other featuring even more forward-thinking work and collaborations.