Hiphop and brass band music have shared roots in the streets, so it’s not a surprise that Brooklynbased rapper Joey Bada$$ and The Soul Rebels have developed a successful collaboration. Almost since their outset, The Soul Rebels successfully incorporated hip-hop elements in their sound because it never sounded they were condescending.
Members have rapped with the band over the years, and the group’s “Power=Power” mixtape borrowed a hiphop convention and covered Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Jay Z among others in their own brass style.
At Voodoo Friday, Bada$$ and The Soul Rebels played together again, and as popular as The Soul Rebels are, the set drew the biggest crowd the Carnival Stage had seen all day, and it was clearly due to Bada$$. The Soul Rebels opened with four songs including their version of Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky”—a natural for them since West sampled the killer horn line in Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.”
When the rapper came out, the show became his. His songs determined the set list, and the band worked out arrangements to suit his songs. Frequently, that meant that everybody but drummers Derrick Moss and Lumar LeBlanc and sousaphone player Edward Lee. Lee got the most intense workout, mimicking slinky basslines while the rest of the group came in, often in swells, to color the sound.
Still, the presence of a live band as nimble as The Soul Rebels clearly worked for Bada$$, whose songs found room to breathe. He was comfortable riding the band’s groove and working the crowd in a way that he couldn’t if he were tied to tracks as rappers often are. He obviously enjoyed being live with a band that he could count on to build and maintain as they did for “Hardknock,” but they could also rock with him as they did on “Survival Tactics.”
Fortunately, the set wasn’t affected by sound bleed. During the preceding set, Gerald Way was so loud on the main stage that Detroit’s Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas were clearly affected. Electronic band Metric was less oppressive, and it helps that brass bands tend to be loud before they’re amplified. Still, it’s also hard to imagine that Bada$$ and The Soul Rebels were going to let anybody mess with their set Friday night.