Back in the day, when Toronto’s Jazzy-Hip-Hoppin’ Golden Boys BADBADNOTGOOD were still the pig mask-wearing, Odd Future-covering bad boys of the Humber College jazz program, one thing was absolutely clear that continues to be true today: they prefer to live in the song rather than out in front of it.
If you have ever seen the band live, you aware of the swagger and the joy they bring to performing. That said, they never let ego or any one personality outshine the music they play. They have a deep respect for groove, flow, and melody and they use their abilities to prop up and breathe life into a piece of music rather than choke it off and bend it to their will. This love for the song is especially evident in their growing catalogue of impressive collaborations. In their recent work with other artists, BBNG displays a willingness to reign it in and serve the song by steadying it from the background, rather than thrusting their chops into the foreground.
Their latest collaboration sees the boys join forces with Swedish electro-pop outfit Little Dragon on a wonderful song called “Tried”. On paper, Little Dragon’s more-polished pop sensibilities may clash with BBNG’s choppy, jazzy trip-hop, but the results are tasteful and incredibly effective. Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano turns in a soulful, wildly refined vocal performance that takes centre stage over BBNG’s hazy, Portishead-esque groove. If you need any further proof as to what the band’s approach is for their collaborations, it’s all there in the mix: Nagano’s vocal is placed far out in front where it belongs, whereas the band is mixed down quieter, content to play second fiddle, guiding the song where it wants to go.
“Tried” is a testament to BADBADNOTGOOD’s skillful, egalitarian, puritan approach to collaboration. They are consistently proving their worth as musicians’ musicians: a group who fills the void, guiding and helping those they collaborate with forge new territory while also nurturing their own desire to create. Like the best producers, they have a sound — an identifiable trait or aesthetic that can be worked into so many wonderful contexts.
Here’s hoping that BBNG continue to collaborate. It’s comforting to know that musicians can achieve new heights of artistry by working in tandem with others, instead of always having to go it alone.