BEWARE, THE COUNT IS HERE
Spittin’ with Mr. Dwight Spitz Himself: COUNT BASS D
By Tyler Malone
The great jazz artist Count Basie once said of his early years, “I decided that I would be one of the biggest new names; and I actually had some little fancy business cards printed up to announce it: ‘Count Basie. Beware, the Count is Here.’”
Like his namesake Count Basie, hiphop artist Count Bass D isn’t exactly short on bravado. “I intended to be the first and only of my kind,” he said to me at one point during our conversation. And he later claimed: “There still isn’t an individual that has done what I have done in this culture that I am aware of.” This may sound a bit too pompous for those who have never heard of Count Bass D or are unfamiliar with his work, but let me assure you: just like Basie, Bass D is as good, if not better, than he thinks he is.
Over a decade ago, in 2002, he released a seminal hiphop album (Dwight Spitz) that too many people slept on. This summer he released a deluxe edition of that album, reminding the old fans of his genius and converting some new ones to his special brand of hiphop. He’s been making new music as well, and his songs then and now sound like nothing you’ve heard…unless you’ve heard Count Bass D. He’s a true original, and he’s not going anywhere. Beware, the Count is Here.
Tyler Malone: How did you come up with the name Count Bass D?
Count Bass D: I came up with the name Count Bass D in 1989 or 1990. My mother asked me what I wanted to do with music after high school. I started talking off the top of my head, explaining that I wanted my traditional musical background to be embraced and respected in hiphop like it hadn’t been before by other musicians in other genres of music. I went on to say that I wanted to be a hiphop band leader but actually play in the band sort of like Count Basie but more like Count Bass D. My first name is Dwight and I was learning to play the double bass and electric guitar at the time. After I spoke the words “Count Bass D” it seemed as if a bell went off right after I said it. The phrase “That’s It!” jumped into my mind too. There were Kings and Sirs in rap, but no Counts and I intended to be the first and only of my kind. I’ve learned since that I signed my first record deal one month after The Roots in 1993. I am often compared to others who have incorporated traditional music into their hiphop bag, however, “Count Bass D” is an individual, not a group. There still isn’t an individual that has done what I have done in this culture that I am aware of, and I only missed the first two weeks of hiphop.
TM: Did you have any monikers before you settled on that one?
CBD: E-Z-D is what I said from time to time in my first rhymes, but I mostly avoided saying a name because I didn’t have one that I felt represented what I intended to add to hiphop culture.
TM: Back in the day, I had a small music review website with a buddy of mine. We were both absolutely crazy about your 2002 album Dwight Spitz. Still to this day, I think it holds up. What are your thoughts on the album a decade later?
CBD: A decade later, it’s great to be still contributing to the art form with all the changes the music industry has gone through. Making what many consider a classic album is not common and I’m grateful for that honor.
TM: Thinking back on that album, what was the impetus for going in that new direction musically (which was markedly different from the sound of your debut album)?
CBD: At the time I made Dwight Spitz, I was very frustrated. I felt the hiphop community did not understand how dedicated I was to the culture. My first two projects Pre-Life Crisis and Art For Sale were projects that seemed out of sequential order with a typical hiphop discography. My mission with Dwight Spitz was to prove I could make an original ‘straight ahead’ hiphop record.
TM: What does MF Doom mean to you and how crucial was he to your blossoming as a music artist and finding that Count Bass D sound?
CBD: Working with MF DOOM rebuilt my foundation as an artist. My standard of what was legitimate and presentable as art was more confident and sincere as a result of being embraced by him personally and artistically. Witnessing his artistic process challenged me to self-educate myself with passion, in order to have new ideas to incorporate in my own work.
TM: How did the tenth anniversary deluxe edition of Dwight Spitz come about?
CBD: The name “Count Bass D” rings a lot of bells for the current generation of hiphop listeners, but many are not old enough to know about Dwight Spitz first hand. It was time to introduce them to the album that people usually find after they hear my production and verses on “Potholderz” on MM FOOD. For those who were into my work a decade ago, I included many of the tracks from the only 12-inch single released for Dwight Spitz that most missed.
TM: I love the track “Sorrow” from the album of the same name that you released earlier this year. Take me through the process of building a track like that. How does it come to you?
CBD: Thank you. Most of the instrumentals I create are built first from an emotion that I am feeling based on current events and stimuli in my personal life. Most of the music that I listen to is potential source material. Once I hear something that sums up a specific emotion that I am feeling, the beat makes itself from there. I only push the buttons.
TM: As far as hiphop these days, I hear some good stuff out there, but in my opinion most of the good stuff is drowned out by a lot of the boring crap all over radio. You’ve claimed to have some elitist tastes in the past. I wonder what your thoughts are on hiphop in the current moment?
CBD: Personally I like a lot of “boring crap all over radio” as you call it. My “elitist tastes” have faded and I have grown in my ability to meet music and the people who make it, right where they are. Hiphop is a completely different conversation. The majority of rap music I’ve heard recently doesn’t have much connection to hiphop culture on a mainstream OR grassroots level. Hiphop music or “That Ol’ Real Shit,” as I call it, is similar to delta blues. There are only a few individuals left who can accurately achieve that sound AND are willing to do so without compromise.
TM: Sure, but I think of the sample in “Real Music vs. BULL$#!+”: “Real music’s gonna last. All that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow.” Do you agree with that statement?
CBD: A decade after its original release, Dwight Spitz (Deluxe Edition) was released again and that same sample was used by one of the most popular names in rap music the following month. I assume it was coincidence, but it feels like proof to me.
TM: What artists are you currently listening to the most?
CBD: I mainly listen to potential source material, but Ohbliv has received the most recreational spins since 2012. Dam-Funk’s “I Don’t Want To Be A Star” 12-inch and DJ Harrison’s work blows me away. Rocko spits that “ism” that I need to be reminded of. Future and DJ Drama’s F.B.G. The Movie is my favorite modern mixtape since 50 Cent changed the definition of a mixtape. Also, keep your eye open for ForteBowie.
TM: You’re stranded on a desert island and can only have five records with you, which ones do you take?
CBD: Today it would be five copies of Bill Evans’ New Conversations.
TM: What’s next for you?
CBD: I plan to put one foot in front of the other and live my life as clean and positively as my self-discipline will allow.
Count Bass D is a rapper, musician, and hiphop artist. A deluxe tenth-anniversary edition of his 2002 seminal hiphop album Dwight Spitz was released earlier this year.
Written by Tyler Malone
Photography Courtesy of Count Bass D
Design by Marie Havens
Count Bass D, 2013, Photography Courtesy of Count Bass D