BY MATTHEW HENGEVELD Count Bass D has been dope since 1995, and in the interim has only become more experimental and more intensely dedicated to his work. Perhaps that’s because his initial “hunger” never subsided— he isn’t ashamed to admit that he hasn’t made much money from his music, or that he’s forced to make music “every weekend” because he has to hold a job on the weekdays. The veteran Tennessee-based producer-rapper has been working alongside ATL-based producer-rapper DJ Pocket for years, but only released his first full-length collaboration with him last December, In The Loop. DJ Pocket brings a signature raw and synth-heavy production style to Count Bass D’s heavy bass and 90s soul samples. The follow-up to In The Loop, Hartsfield JAXson, features a song, “Count’s Diatribe 2,” where Count Bass D promises that 2010 is going to be a year of “activity” for him. But now it’s nine months later… and so far we’ve heard nothing. But Count Bass D and DJ Pocket are top-notch professionals. In other words: I’m prepared for this new shit to change my mother fucking life.
Activity features a slew of rappers from DJ Pocket’s “Serious Knock” imprint and production credits go mostly to DJ Pocket, with Count Bass D credited as the co-producer. Most beats contain Pocket’s signature P-Funk inspired synth work, mixed with Count Bass D’s use of oddball soul samples from the 90s. The album reminds me of the glitz and booming gangster-isms of the late 90s— think Capone n Noreaga— but never so over-the-top as to become annoying. Both producers use an experimental sampling technique: it’s like DJ Premier’s scratching— without scratching— and more cohesion. The duo finds acapella tracks, chopping them up and stitching them back together to create a semi-coherent hook. “Gift With The Grind,” slices up DOOM’s vocals from “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Meat Grinder” from the Madvillainy album. They use the technique again on “Set It Off” and “Y’all Seem To Think (That This is Some Kind of Joke)” with Ghostface Killah and Count Bass D vocals, respectively. Though it’s not a groundbreaking sampling technique… it is innovation— rare these days. Count Bass D always wants to do something experimental with his albums. They shoulda called him Thelonius Funk.
I was taken back by the emceeing on Activity. The whole album is tinged with the type of braggadocio you’d see in a Meth and Redman album. Count’s vocals sound like a mix between GZA and Del The Funky Homosapien — using wordplay while remaining firm and matter-of-factly. “Y’all Seem To Think (That This is Some Kind of Joke)” is Count’s victory lap. He contemplates the fact that he’s the only original rapper left in a league of sell-outs. It’s cliché, but it works. DJ Pocket raps slowly with a gruff voice that sounds strangely akin to Dr. Dre’s. In fact, tracks like “It Ain’t Never Enough” sound more like Dr. Dre than Dr. Dre sounds like Dr. Dre (See Under Pressure ft. Jay-Z… Blech). Count and Pocket trade verses with rapper H2O on “…Guess This” — I was most impressed by H2O’s unique southern drawl and ability to not overshadow the beat. We all know that hip-hop fans love collaborations: Black Star, Nas & Marley, Jaylib, Madvillain, posthumous mash-up tracks of Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur… It’s not often that these collaborations result in innovation or even a half-decent album. Count Bass D and DJ Pocket have a different outlook— hip-hop is not a game. Count Bass D takes his trade seriously.