Count Bass D: No Kidding Around

Above The Law once rapped about a “Black Superman,” and with all due respect to Hip-Hop’s favorite nine-man super-group from Staten Island, no MC seems to fit the profile better than Nashville’s Count Bass D. The average rapper would have you believe they really are living in the lap of luxury; in reality their powers are sapped when the rented jewelry is given back and the million dollar whips are returned to the Dupont Registry. Count Bass D, on the other hand, is quite content to drop eccentric sixteens over his own critically acclaimed beats by night while still holding down a real life nine-to-five day job. In addition to housing exclusive tracks and an exhaustive discography, his website is home to his blog where he openly admits to pawning his equipment, being two months late with rent, and wearing his work uniform on an album cover.

With these facts in mind it would be relatively easy to slap a “conscious” or “backpacker” label on Count Bass D and place him right next to the broke “real heads” from the ‘90’s who were forced to go the independent route. Then you remember he’s a self-proclaimed addict of the drive in fast food chain Sonic, and lists G-Unit capo 50 Cent among his Hip-Hop heroes. What gives? After a concert in Athens, Georgia—with his whole family in tow—Count broke down the dichotomy of pulling double duty as a husband and father of five and a Hip-Hop hustler.

AllHipHop.com: Dwight Spitz had a concept behind it as far as it being your first foray into using beat machines. When you started playing around on the MPC, did you see any similarities between finding out new tricks and the improvisational techniques you use with a live instrument?

Count Bass D: Yes indeed. That’s exactly the spirit that I took to the beat machine. I believe that the reason why is because I’ve got respect for the beat machine just like Bill Evans has for his Steinway or Wynton Marsalis has respect for a Bach Stradivarious. The beat machine is our instrument for this Hip-Hop thing. It’s evolved from when “Rapper’s Delight” was completely live, but once ’87 hit and that SP 1200 and the MPC 60 hit, that was the beginning of a new era. You had the combination of those beat machines and the Ultimate Breakbeats series. Once those two things combined you started getting stuff like [Rob Base & DJ EZ-Rock’s] “It Takes Two,” the whole [Eric B & Rakim] Paid In Full album, and Slick Rick’s album [The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.]

I took that spirit of musicianship that I learned and tried to learn about the breaks and the beat machines. When I was ready to hop on the machine, Dwight Spitz was there. A lot of people were like, “It’s cool, we feel he’s talented, but until he proves that he can play inside these changes then we can’t ride with him.” It’s kind of like Archie Shepp and the Free Jazz guys. It’s fine that you can have a good time and s**t, but can you sit down and just play me a ballad though? I felt like it was the same with me.

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned one of the “golden eras,” from the mid-to-late 80’s and you also made your mark during the early 90’s. Do you have a memory that stands out?

Count Bass D: One of my biggest Hip-Hop memories that I think a lot of people don’t really talk about the importance of is Yo! MTV Raps. That showed us a visual. I saw Phase ‘N’ Rhythm’s “Swollen Pockets,” Hans Soul “Imagination,” and Divine Styler all on Yo! MTV Raps. That’s not something you can get anywhere today. Not only that, they were bringing it into the boarding school where I was. Me not being close to any metropolitan city, this is like ’87 to ’91, so I had no contact with the streets to get access to anything. Yo! MTV Raps was my lifeline and they were feeding me real good. Look at the last show and look what those dudes did. A lot of people don’t really talk about that, but MTV had a lot to do with all these dudes in the middle regions who have an affinity for Hip-Hop. I think the Internet and especially sites like AllHipHop.com are what’s handling that right now. That’s a beautiful thing, because MTV moved on to different things as rap became pop. But, at that time, they really represented it right where it was. You saw [Apache’s] “Gangsta B**ch,” Nikki D, everything was on there.

AllHipHop.com: Yours and M.F. Doom’s careers have taken similar paths as far as reinventing yourselves to a new audience. I don’t want to make it sound like his recent success is accidental …

Count Bass D: Nah, that’s completely calculated. The Honorable M.F. Doom, and that’s the only way I can refer to him, because, first of all, Doom doesn’t contact me unless he has a job for me. I might talk to Doom, like twice or maybe three times a year tops. It’s not a situation where he and I are going back and forth all of the time. It’s a need to know basis type of thing. If I don’t need to know then he doesn’t involve me in it. He’s my hero, because we’re similar. 50 Cent is my hero the same way. We’re the dudes that the major labels came through and grabbed, s**tted on and left for dead. Somehow n****s are able to come back and do it again because the label wasn’t making us, it was just in us. Look at 50 Cent, n***as left him for dead and he came back and did it. Now he’s got everybody completely rolling with him. That’s the reason why dudes like that are my heroes; that’s why Doom is my hero. Same thing with Count Bass—I came through with Pre-Life Crisis and n****s didn’t know what was gonna happen with me. You know what? That was 1995, and a lot of dudes that started with me are not here talking with you right now.

AllHipHop.com: Did you come in the game with that mentality, or was it a matter of not wanting to deal with the machine anymore after your experience with Pre-Life Crisis?

Count Bass D: I was in Paris, France when I got the vibe that I wasn’t going to be contacted back by my record label. At that point I made a decision that as soon as I got home I was going to get a job at a dry cleaners. I had enough money from equipment that I had bought already. I said, “I’m just going to use the equipment that I’ve got, make music for myself and archive it. I’m just gonna’ get me a job because I’m always gonna’ make the music, but I’m not trying to go through the music business.” Then what happened was I thought I could continue to start to raise a family. One child turned into two, three children. It was just like the dope life. I had to go back to the music business because that’s the only way I could make ten, 20 G’s in one shot. That’s the only reason I’m doing this right now. The music is the music. As far as the music business, I’m only in the music business for the money. I’m not in the music business for no fame or anything like that. I’m perfectly fine making my music at home if I have enough dough to feed my family.

If I had my way, I’d just be making music for myself at home. I don’t believe my music is for everybody anyway. But, when you make music like that, you can’t have that attitude in the music business. They’re trying to force music on people who really don’t want to hear it, and my music is an acquired taste. If I look at you and I can tell your vibe just by looking at certain records in your collection, man, I’m not even trying to let you know I even make music. I’m not one of those dudes trying to pass out flyers to everybody. If I don’t feel you’ll be able to understand my background and love music—man, I am not the artist for you. Don’t buy s**t of mine; don’t even look past my section. Go to Counting Crows and then jump pass Count Bass D and go straight to the next artist.

AllHipHop.com: It might not be for everyone, but you’ve got an interesting list of collaborations to say the least—everyone from The Beastie Boys to Me Phi Me and Vitamin C. What’s that process like, do you build with the other person first?

Count Bass D: That’s what I’m saying Omar, musicianship. I speak the language of musicianship. If you’re a real musician I’ll be able to work with you. You can see from my discography that that’s the truth. If you’re coming to me for a club joint, can’t f**k with you. If you need a joint for the ladies, can’t f**k with you. If coming to Count Bass for that new, hot joint—f**k that, I can’t f**k with you. I speak the language of musicianship. If you do too then we can always speak and collaborate on something that I feel that the people who came before us in the art world wouldn’t necessarily frown on. That’s the only attitude I have with musicians. I believe the people who see that in me want to work with me and ride with me that way. The bulls**t cuts itself out; I don’t even get those calls. Those people already know to stay away from Count Bass D. It’s a beautiful thing because I don’t have to sit here and lie to people and say, “Ahh, I’m not really feeling your rhymes.” My vibe is out there and they already know.

AllHipHop.com: That mentality shines through on Act Your Waist Size too. You refer to yourself as “the Hip-Hop Sam Cooke.” He was one of the first people to own his publishing and start a label too, so I imagine you try to pattern yourself after him in terms of that and the artistry too.

Count Bass D: Exactly. Those guys paved the way, because that’s how you’re supposed to do it. I understand that dudes fall on hard times and you may have to sign a record deal here and there, but Sam Cooke and those guys were like a civil rights movement. You talk about publishing and stuff like that, back then you could almost get killed for it. A lot of people believe that’s the reason he’s not here. My family is the size that it is, so I run my business the way it is right now, but best believe I still got the Sam Cooke mentality—do for self. I’ve got adopted children out there. Act Your Waist Size is adopted, Pre-Life Crisis is adopted, but my other albums are mine just like my [physical] children right here. I love my adopted children, and I’m the birth mother, but hopefully their adoptive homes will take care of them and raise them right. I don’t have any control of that now. I’ve just gotta’ let that go and let it ride. As far as the rest of my catalogue, that’s me and that’s what we handle out here. That’s what feeds my children and puts money in my pocket, not the game and bulls**t Soundscan numbers.

AllHipHop.com: Speaking of children, you and your wife are both musicians. Do you worry about any of your children wanting to be musicians as they get older?

Count Bass D: What I just need to do is watch them, because I’m showing them the game right now. They’re going to be able to know the in’s and the out’s of this. I’m not showing them being on TV and being on stage. I’m showing them what it’s like to load your own s**t, break down your own equipment and check into your hotel. I show them all these bulls**t royalty statements that you never see when people owe you 30 grand and want to act like they haven’t sold any of your records. If it’s in them and they still have to do it, then they will do it. I just want to make sure that they know exactly what’s going on with it. Don’t just think it’s all roses and people coming up saying, “I like your music.” I’m showing them all sides of the game. Personally, I don’t think my children will want to do this because they’re seeing all aspects of it. I don’t think they would want to put their families through what I’m putting our family through. At the same time they’re appreciative that they’ve got daddy most of the time and I’m able to be there and give them instruction and whatnot.

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