From the looks of them, you probably wouldn't peg the four dudes in Toronto-based BadBadNotGood as the group leading a new generation of jazz-drunk hip-hop. But since the band's inception, BBNG have received widespread acclaim for breathing new life into the jazz world—a description they don't totally agree with.
"I don't know now if we should be considered a jazz band," says bass player Chester Hansen says. "I don't know if we're dedicated enough to our instruments to consider ourselves a full-on jazz band."
Nevertheless, jazz has always been the lens through which BBNG sees music. They met in the jazz program at Humber College in 2010, bonding over a mutual obsession with hip-hop. They started covering rap songs together, imbuing them with frenetic, glitchy energy their administrators didn't understand. Others were more appreciative. Tyler, the Creator retweeted their interpretation of one of his songs, and the rest is history.
It's not surprising that hip-hop would react so warmly to BBNG. Lately, West Coast artists like Kendrick Lamar and Thundercat have been spearheading a renaissance of jazz-rap crossover. But what's different about BBNG's musical palette is that they are jazz-focused musicians influenced by hip-hop, not the other way around.
"I think jazz has been influenced [by hip-hop] for years and years," Hansen says, "but it's more prevalent than it's ever been, which is interesting. In general, the lines between genres are getting blurred more and more as we continue in the age of the internet."
Looking at their body of work, it becomes clear why BBNG doesn't pledge its allegiance to any specific genre. Sure, they did a whole collaborative album with Ghostface Killah, but they also flex their pop sensibilities on songs like "Time Moves Slowly," featuring Future Islands singer Sam Herring.
Now that everyone has access to so much different music, sounds are being fused together in newer and freer ways, and the potential influences for BBNG are vast. Hansen would have it no other way.
"Those of us learning an instrument now have the potential to be influenced by 10 things rather than in the past, where you'd only be exposed to the music around you or what you hear on the radio," he says. "It's really interesting to see."
SEE IT: Badbadnotgood plays Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St. #110, with 1939 Ensemble, on Friday, Dec. 15. 9 pm. Sold out. 21+.