When the classically-trained Rap: Is Count Bass D the Earl Manigault of hip hop?

Count Bass D, who’s that? Yeah, that’s what you’re probably wondering. I know I was, until I listened to his new album Dwight Spitz and started talking to people other than myself. The Count’s latest LP (his third)- emerging from the green mist of High Times’ newly sprouted record label – is exactly what Count Bass D professes; a mastery of the MPC (the Akai drum machine/sampler), a device that has basically spawned every beat you’ve nodded your head to in the ’90s, think Premier).

Based on the sound of the album and Count’s casual affiliations with MF DOOM, J Rawls and Madlib (among others), he appeared to be a beat head from day one. After checking his website (yes, please give me a wedgie and hang me up on the edge of a locker; for I am a nerd) and discovering that he’d done collaborations ranging from Vitamin C (what?) to Victor Wooten (who?), I wasn’t sure what the hell to think.

So, I gave the man a phone call at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. Trust me, asking for someone by the name of “CountBassD” is far more awkward than you can imagine; it’s like calling up a “Sesame Street” puppeteer’s house and asking for Snufalufagus. Over the tele, the Count recounted, OK never mind, here you go:

Q: My friend told me your earlier work was more gospel, Biblical even? What’s that about?
CBS: Nah, your friend’s just wrong. I’ve done two guest appearances with some guys who are pretty big in the gospel music scene. It seems like anybody that does anything on anybody’s album they automatically wanna claim that as one of their own. I’m far from anything like that, even though I do believe in Jesus Christ and my father’s a minister and…

Q: You switched styles from your first album, right?
CBS: The guy whose equipment we were using had some personal problems at the time, and I didn’t know how to program as far as samples were concerned, so I had to do what I knew, which was play an instrument. I never planned to make a “live” instrument album, until my third or fourth one; it just so happened that it was in my cards to do it as my first record. I’ve kind of been doing it backwards.


CBS: Honest to God, you know? Trust be told, I really feel like I’m better than everybody.

Q: Alright? (It’s kind of hard to come up with something to say after hearing that, you know?)
CBS: The same way the Oakland Raiders felt like they were better than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

(Note to reader: at this point I really had no idea what was going on, as far as I could remember the Raider’s lost the Super Bowl, but anyway…)

CBS: I personally believe Mike Tyson’s the best heavyweight out there, but he’s having a hard time proving that, you see what I’m saying?

Q: Um, not being put in the most favorable situations?
CBS: Just like basketball, I’m sure there’s a basketball player doing 25-to-life that would give Michael Jordan a run for his money as the greatest basketball player of all time.

(Another note: Possibly. I’ve seen Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault. Exchanging change on the top of a backboard, c’mon.)
Short of Teddy Riley (he produced “No Diggity” for Blackstreet, woo hoo, gotta bag it up!), maybe, I don’t believe that there’s anybody who has the type of skills that I have. Only because I have more training than anybody who I’ve ever even heard of.

Q: What kind of “training” are we talking about here?
CBS: I sung classically in Hungary, you know in tenth grade? I toured Austria, you know, even before I was graduated high school.

Q: Uh huh?
CBS: I went to boarding school just on a music scholarship, so as far as me doing rap, a lot of my teachers are disappointed…it’s just, for me, rap is second nature to me, you know, this is not difficult.

Q: So is the next step complete mastery and domination of hip-hop?
CBS: Honestly I’m just livin’ my life man, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove.

CBS: I think that’s the problem. If I had a drive to really get out there and “rah rah rah sis boom bah, look what I can do,” I would fare better than a lot of these other cats. I have a wife, I’ve got three children; I’m just really try to become a better husband and father to them. I’m just gonna express myself and just hope there are enough people out there who enjoy it.

Un huh.
CBS: You hear these football players all the time, ” If I’m playing my best game, I feel like no one can touch me,” I feel that same way. I don’t care what beat maker it is out there and we start talking about you know (forgive the spelling here) Mixalidied Modes and Dorian Scales…

CBS: They gonna get squashed. But personally, you know, I can’t shoot a gun well, I can’t drive cars real fast, I’ve never had rims on my car, I’ve never owned a pair of Timberland boots and I don’t really know how to walk around like I’m a b-boy, I’m just a musician.

Q: Are you considering taking some classes to work your b-boy stance?
CBS: Nope.

Q: As far as being on High Times Records and having a song called “Say No To Drugs”?
CBS: I’m talking about say no to sugar, say no to caffeine, say no to meat, that’s the biggest dope out there, say no to cigarettes. There’s a whole bunch of other things out there, you know, High Times and things like that, whatever people plan to do with marijuana, and all this other type of thing, that’s their personal business. I personally have two jobs right now and have random drug tests and I don’t participate in that.

Q: What, two jobs?
CBS: I work at FedEx and an insurance company…I’m trying to get an IRA eventually.

So there you have it, more or less. Count Bass D has more projects in the works (excluding selling policies and delivering packages) than you can shake a stick of Nag Champa at: including, well just check www.countbassd.com, it’s thorough.
For more info visit www.hightimes.com.

Sven Barth can be reached at big_sven@hotmail.com.