It started with a class project. Three hip-hop-loving kids studying jazz at Toronto's Humber College in 2010, sick of being asked to perform uninspired interpretations of Nat King Cole. Finding each other at the school had been easy enough--just look for the Nikes in a sea of jazz-approved boat shoes. Working up the nerve to swap the standards for a performance of underground sensation Odd Future? That might've been harder. The response from their professor? "I didn't find anything of musical value in this performance."
Luckily, the trio also uploaded the session to YouTube. The response to that? Dropped jaws, thousands of views, and at a career that, to date, has spawned four increasingly ambitious albums, two Polaris Prize nominations and a full-length collaboration with the Wu Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah. It isn’t traditional jazz—mosh pits don’t break out at traditional jazz shows—but maybe there was value after all.
Seven years in and now a quartet, you still get the feeling that BADBADNOTGOOD are fighting back against uninspired music every time they play. Their foundation is still in the propulsive rhythms and moody chords of jazz, even as they’ve expanded their musical vocabulary to crib from krautrock, soul, and beyond. But their attitude remains pure hip-hop—never complacent, always searching for that fresher sound, that deeper groove.