INTERVIEW: Count Bass D

Count Bass D Interview (by A to the L)

Count Bass D

Heads who have been around me for longer than 5 minutes will know that for A to the L the earth has always revolved around Lord Finesse, and the second albums of Public Enemy and Jodeci. That was it! There was no room for anyone else. Until the day a certain Dwight Farrell decided to drop “Dwight Spitz” – that record instantly had the man better known to the public as Count Bass D nudging his way onto my earth-revolving list, and I began repping his shit hard (no homo). With the official release of “BegBorrowSteel”, I finally had a chance to link up with the Count via a crackly transatlantic phone line for a 10-minute interview slot that ran for well over an hour. Lu et vers l’intérieur sommaire.

Judging from how you’ve been talking about it on your site, it sounds like “BegBorrowSteel” is the project you’ve been most happy about so far? Why is that?

Count: Yeah… I think its been the most honest expression… I was in control of the most aspects of it… when you look at it, its the one that’s mostly ME… and since “Pre-Life Crisis” you haven’t seen an album that’s been so much me, you know? This time, when you compare it to “Pre-Life” – somebody else recorded that for me, whereas I was able to record this one myself and also be able to do all the rhymes and all the production and all the content… I can’t think of something else that I DIDN’T do besides the artwork. So, I’m real happy about the way it turned out because its just me! I can listen to the record over and over and I have no problems with it you know?

Its kinda short compared to past stuff… any reason for the brevity?

Count: Well its a project you know, and I think its priced appropriately. You know people are timing this shit and clocking it in at about 30 minutes, but… its less dough! So I look at it like you’re getting a glorified double 12 inch you know… its really just like a single… its really a commuters’ record! Like if you live in the suburbs and drive like 20 or 30 minutes into the urban sprawl to go to work, you’ll find that “BegBorrowSteel” really accompanies that ride real well. That’s kinda why I still listen to it so much, its THAT type of record. In fact its like more of a ‘piece’… a piece of music. That’s the best way to break it down – its a composition… a symphony of sorts.

What’s your own personal take on how people will receive this… I think personally from the first couple of listens, its a little darker and less accessible than “Dwight Spitz”, but at the same time it sounds on some joints like you’re having so much fun just messing around in the studio trying things to see if they come off…

Count: Well for me… “BegBorrowSteel” is just a different type of record. There was Count Bass D before “Dwight Spitz” and there’s Count Bass D after “Dwight Spitz”… but “Dwight Spitz” is just “Dwight Spitz” – one record at one point in time. Things might sound kinda similar, as far as using heavy samples here and there, but you’ll never get another “Dwight Spitz” out of me, just like you’ll never get another “Art For Sale” or “Pre-Life Crisis” out of me. Each record is just one in its own. Even the “Some Music” series… that’s just me being able to kinda package up everything instead of just having a whole bunch of aliases or something… you just get the whole mixed bag direct from me.

Going back to your site and how you relate with the public on it. Its rare to see an artist in any genre of music interact with their fans on the level that you do, with the daily updates on your kids, your day job, your beer bargain finds etc – its refreshingly down to earth. How do you think that helps or maybe hinders you with people who are trying to check you out?

Count: Damn… I don’t know! I really don’t know! That’s not really my whole purpose for doing this… I don’t have a choice in how people accept or don’t accept it, you know? I’m just doing what I’m doing cos I gotta do it man! I’m running scared… this isn’t your average emcee on the corner… this is a 31 year old male with a wife and four children and he’s there… been there since the beginning! I’m 11 years deep in a relationship… I’ve only owned one small gold chain in my life… so… I’m a different type of guy, and I’m a different artist – period.

You know rappers are people who get pigeonholed into one thing, and I guess rock artists and indie people do too… everybody has to kinda put things into a box… and if you look at my career its hard to do that with me. I started on a major label, then went to an indie rock label, then started doing the indie rap distribution with people like Landspeed, and then after that I started into more indie and rap distribution for “Dwight Spitz” and now… I’m just being CountBassD.com and while I’m still dealing with this distributor and that distributor, I’m not signed to anybody’s label… I’m not signed to andybody’s business – I’m my own guy. I’m a maverick! Thats it! I don’t have to think about anything because the only thing that I’m concerned with is making just enough to get my family by, and do enough to support us. I’m not really trying to take over the world – I’m just trying to do what I do. However much I get is one thing, but its very easy to make an adequate living in this business (depending on your definitition of adequate), but I’m not trying to blow up and be big about it like that…

Do you think your location kinda holds you back a little? Of course Young Buck has given Nashville a little push, but if you think of Tennessee as a whole (in relation to Hiphop), its the crunk / southern music that really grabs what little press there is to go around…

Count: Well for me its just a place to live, you know? They live here, I live here, and I love the stuff that those guys make and I think its dope that we’re all here together co-existing. As far as stereotyping this area as having just one certain sound, maybe you’re right – maybe that IS how they see here. But then if you think of LA, before Del came out everyone thought LA made one certain type of music! So things are always happening to change people’s outlooks. But for me… really its just a place to live. There’s only so many places on this earth that you can live and me – I’m self contained – I can be in a place where there’s no rappers or I can be in a place where there’s a whole lot of rappers, but my music is still gonna sound the same regardless – that Dwight sound! And that’s pretty much all I can do… I don’t even have the ability to do what everybody else is doing because I can barely do what I do!

You recently mentioned on your site that you have a pretty small section of music that you listen to regularly, and that its hard for new stuff to get into your rotation. If that’s the case how come you’re coming with so many different looks not just on “BegBorrowSteel”, but on past albums as well? How are you unearthing samples and flipping things certain ways, when you seem almost as if you’re sectioning yourself off from shit that might give you new ideas?

Count: Maybe so… I mean, when I’m listening to music and I have a choice… like if I’m gonna go upstairs and turn the stereo on, then there’s only a few things I’m gonna grab – and I’ll bludgeon those joints to death! After that, I’ll move on to something else… I’ve been like that all my life. Stuff will pass me, and I’ll hear a lot of things but when I sit down and listen – I mean REALLY listen and study – its a small circle of joints in my rotation. People will say “Oh I’m listening to this and this and this and that” – no you’re HEARING it… you ain’t LISTENING to it! You can’t tell me when the bridge is coming in, and where the B-section is coming in, or the tension that’s building at the end of a verse… none of that. That’s real song-writing shit, and at that point that’s when I say I’m really listening to something. I hear a lot of things all day long… everybody does… but as far as what I’m listening to and have listened to, its a very small amount of records. Like last year in 2004, there’s probably only 10 rap records I REALLY listened to – and definitely the all-time favorite of those was ‘Second Childhood’ by Nas. That, to me, is a masterpiece… in my opinion better than anything on “Illmatic” you know? That shit is absolutely bananas – that’s my opinion… I dont’ expect anyone to agree with me, and I ain’t gonna argue with anyone about it… but I think ‘Second Childhood’ is his best work – that shit is fucking brilliant. Those lyrics are out of control – especially with me being 31 years old and seeing other guys in that situation and whatnot… damn, you can hear my jaw shaking right now while you’re talking to me about it! I’ve seen a lotta guys in a real bind like that, and that song is just something else to describe that so well. ‘Curls’ by Madvillain, that’s another hot record… records like that, to me, are records that are worthy of being listened to at all times – like I can’t stop listening to them enough. Take 6’s first album is another example of that, and there’s a bunch of other records that I could name… and those are the records that I like to have around me sometimes when I’m making my compositions. A lot of times I don’t really talk about the stuff I listen to, because I CAN’T really talk about the stuff that I listen to!

I feel like a graf artist man… that’s basically all I am as far as an artist in music is concerned. I’m trying to be Seen… I’m trying to be Cap… I’m trying to be Dondi and them… like the legends of graf had to get up on trains, we gotta get up on other peoples’ work and samples and shit, you know? The whole aesthetic of being a graf artist and being an artist – it all works for me, and I think that as long as I keep that focus, I’ll still be able to make music that I like… and that’s true to myself.

I’m sure you’re aware of the level of underground interest Doom has gathered in the last couple of years… do you sometimes feel a little bit envious of that? Or do you even want that kind of attention at this stage?

Count: Nah nah nah! No way! Anytime I talk to Doom – he’s talking to me about what a headache it is! He’s telling me “Man, the shit is alright… the shit is cool… but its hectic!” He’s teaching me that everything is proportional – like your rent might be 2000 a month now and you’re blowing up superlarge… and then you put a couple of zeroes behind it. Instead of buying a ten dollar shirt, you buying a hundred dollar shirt… at the same time though its all the same money when you do the math. Thats the only thing that changes with the whole thing – the money. If you’re a real artist and you really like doing it, that stuff doesn’t really have anything to do with your agenda… but eventually you start to realise that if you DON’T get into some kind of business with it, then you won’t be able to eat. That’s why people say that all true artists have to go through some sort of a poor period or a struggling period while they’re trying to find themselves… but that’s just until they find some way to use what they’re gonna do anyway – that music and art that they’d be making anyway – they find a way to use that to eat and live. Sometimes of course you’ll hit some bumps in the road while you’re trying to learn how do that, and sometimes hopefully you’ll hit the jackpot and one of your compositions pays off.

But seriously, I’m having a ball just doing what I’m doing. Them guys are looking at me sometimes and telling me “Hey man, I wish I had your life… being able to be at home with my kids and my family.” And I’m telling them “Hey I wish I was out there with you guys sometimes – I see you in them pictures and shows!” But at the same time, we know that the life is the same – the art is what’s most important… the trappings are nice, but ultimately not important. You could be staying in a Vegas penthouse feeling depressed cos the last beat you made wasn’t all that great!

I’ve had times where I’ve been behind on my rent twice. Two months behind, and I remember when I made ‘Blues For Percy Carey’ I felt like was unstoppable! I felt like my landlord couldn’t tell me anything! Like “Who cares? I don’t care about anything – I can fly right out this fucking window if I wanted to!” The record was done and everything was so intense at that time. My man Pocket came up and… I didn’t even have a drum machine when I made “Dwight Spitz” you know what I mean? I made that shit offa borrowing niggas’ drum machines!

You borrowed the drum machines?

Count: I borrowed the drum machines! Doom let me borrow his drum machine – he shipped it to me Airborne Express to make “Dwight Spitz”. I borrowed DJ Pocket’s drum machine and this other dude Qura who used to pay keyboards for me on “Pre-Life Crisis” – the people I thanked on the record – those are the people whose drum machines that I was using… part of it was made on Jeff’s MPC2000 and part was made on Qura’s MPC2000 XL.

So that’s how it was. I wasn’t sitting here thinking “Well let me craft this”… there was no big plan! I was doing a show in Virginia, and I was judging a rap contest that Edan was in. He spit like 2 lines and cursed and they disqualified him. That’s bullshit! He murdered everybody in this fucking contest and because he drops a curse you take him out? That’s why I don’t like this stupid freestyle battle shit… that’s why I don’t like this judge shit. I had never heard of him, but he came up to me afterwards, and gave me one of his singles and was asking me if he could kick something for me. And I’m telling him, “Man you’re fucking hot, you’re crazier than everybody out here. I’m working on a record right now with no distribution, no label, no nothing – but if you wanna get on it…” you know? So I floated him a beat and he kicked his shit on it. And that’s how “Dwight Spitz” came together – I wasn’t sitting down thinking about how much it would cost to get this person and that person and shit…

That’s not how I work, and I think that’s what makes me have this ‘grassroots’… or backpacker… or whatever type of bullshit tag you wanna put on it – I don’t give a fuck! I don’t care about any of that – I don’t care about NOTHING! Only thing I care about is the 6 people who got my last name in here, and taking care of them… and the people that’s cool to me – I treat them just like they’re my family.

There’s a couple of other rappers I know who remain relatively unknown in their homes while blowing up Japan… why is Japan so down for the unknown / less well-promoted?

Count: I’ma tell you what, man – I been thinking about this for a while. I think that by and large, people in Japan know how to handle marketing. They can be marketed to in a hardcore way… when I was there, I felt like I was being marketed to very very hard, but I felt like I was given so many choices. I could do anything I wanted to even though there was so many options being thrown at me – I didn’t feel like I was being forced to buy things. Now I don’t know so much about Europe, cos I haven’t been there since the nineties… but here in the US, every product carries an underlying theme that ain’t healthy. Every product is all about “if you don’t do this, then your families gonna be hurt, or you’re gonna be wack, or you’re ain’t gonna be shit – you GOT to buy THIS record, or you gotta buy THESE jeans, or listen to THIS style of music.” Its cut throat! I don’t understand! And as a result people are being conditioned to respond with “Well, then I guess that’s what I gotta do – I gotta go buy these 200 dollar shoes!”

I mean, don’t get me wrong – I like wearing the ‘uniform’… the tims and the t-shirts. I just bought my first pair of Timberlands last year because I like to see what it feels like… I like to blend in – its fun to blend it so easily. I can walk anywhere and people are like “Damn, he’s so fucking normal! He’s just like everybody else!”

But by the same token, the police look at me, and I’m wearing the uniform, and they can’t understand that I can put a sentence together or what I do for a living, so I have to be careful.

Just staying on that Japan thing for a second… there’s a gang of Count shit that seems to be exclusive to Japan…

Count: Well for me, I work on things as supply and demand. When it comes to business, I’m not gonna put my ego in it. I’m gonna do things just the way they’re supposed to be – and by that I mean that if only people in Japan want to come out and purchase my music then that’s where I’m gonna send the records. Why would I send them here just to try to forcefeed people? I mean – its not the PEOPLE – the people do want my records here… but its the different people you gotta go through to GET it to the people – those are the ones causing the problems. Its kinda hard in that regard. The people who get it to the people of Japan – they wanna hear my records and that’s why I keep giving it to them. The ‘gatekeepers’ love my records in Japan, whereas the gatekeepers here aren’t sure about my art.

And meanwhile us poor people outside Japan gotta keep getting raped on Ebay to get our hands on your product!

Count: Well my opinion – what I say… I tell people all the time – if you gotta download it, then go ahead and download it! Whatever you gotta do to get it! Cos I know if I wasn’t me, and I was looking for my music and I couldn’t find it in the stores, I’d be downloading that shit harder than a motherfucker! I would. I would. I know I would! I’ma be downloading that shit hard. And I be telling motherfuckers the same thing over and over – if you want my shit and you can’t find it, and its not in your stores, then those motherfuckers don’t wanna make no money! I BEEN paid! I licensed the record out for them to catch wreck and make money off my shit! I still own my masters, so if they don’t wanna go out here and make this money, then that’s up to them, because the people who really genuinely like my shit – they honestly do attempt to go to the store and buy my records. And there’s a LOT of those people! And of course there’s a lot of people, who wanna download my shit and who wouldn’t ever buy my record anyway, and those people I ain’t concerned about, because even if my record was in every store they won’t buy it, but if its free they’ll take it!

When it comes to downloading shit, its like saying this… if I go to the grocery store and sat all the items outside, then obviously motherfuckers are gonna come outside and get em. But at the same time, if the items stay inside, then there are people who will come in and still buy the groceries. Some of those people who would take the free shit outside, aren’t gonna come in and buy those groceries, and you have to stop thinking about those people, because they’re never gonna spend money on your shit! I’m counting bread, not heads! I’m not concerned with those people, I’m just concerned with how much money I’m making to help feed my family! I tell my distributor, I tell the labels that sub-license my shit, I tell the promoters, I tell everybody – when you fucking with Count Bass, its up to YOU to go out there and make your paper! My website gets over 1000 hits each day, unique people… when I put shit up for download I get bandwidth problems… so I know that people want my shit! So if I give you this record, then you gotta go and put the record in the store and make your money. Put it in the store so people can go get it! Then people ain’t coming at me like “Yo Count, I really wanna buy your shit but I can’t find it in any stores.” Cos I’m gonna tell them to go speak to the label, cos I’ve been paid! I’ve given them the charge to go put it in stores! I can’t do consignments with 100,000 stores around the world – I got other people doing that stuff for me, and sometimes they don’t wanna make as much money as they should be getting!

That’s real shit though. I’m not like these other rappers who sit up here and tell you “I got this coming out next month, and its gonna be hot”… that’s not how I talk… that’s not I do this shit. I’m real. So is my music. This is all I got! Life is hard, and I don’t have no time to be running round trying to be this and trying to be that – I’m trying to survive – period! I’m a basic motherfucker, and this is all I got!

A question from a few other people when I told them I was speaking to you today… why are your songs so goddamn short? They’re saying they’re just getting into a beat, and it ends almost as soon as it begun…

Count: Thats funny. I was thinking about that last night… and I think that what’s happened is this – when I started making music on instruments first, it took a long time to sit down and get an idea, and get a full melody or a chord, and really make a whole song in structure. So you might be writing a song for a month – it might take a long time to write a standard song. So when it came to me sitting down and using samplers and stuff, I was just moving so fast, that it got to the point where… you know, making beats with samples is so linear – there’s only so much you can embellish besides muting things and modulation and that stuff… and sometimes if you try to overdo it with the samples it gets corny. People will say you’re trying to sound electronic, and I start to feel like I’m trying to do somebody else’s thing, you know. I like good old-fashioned boom-bap with the kick/snare/hi-hat and that’s the stuff I always listened to. I feel like Mekhi Phifer or one of these guys – I was a musician who loved rap, whereas he was an actor who loved rap. Everything about him is Hiphop even though what he does is completely outside that, even though I know he can get busy – his job is outside that. And I felt the same way, because I was making music in tuxedos and everything, and I finally said “Fuck it – I’ll do the shit I grew up with.”

So as far as the songs, I’m like fuck that! Any mixtape I hear, they don’t play three minutes of the song, because obviously the mixtapes are set up to get a lot of shit in! The DJ is telling you, “I got so many records and so many ideas – I’ma try to squeeze them all onto this tape”… so he only plays a little bit of this one, and a little bit of that one. And its the same with my music – I got a lot of beats and I want you to hear a lot of them, and I don’t want you hearing the same shit repeated for three minutes stretched out. The beat is the beat and when its done – its done! Let me give you some new flavor! If you really wanna keep hearing it – but doubles and backspin it!

My boy was saying, “Ask Count how his Attention Deficit Syndrome is – that must be the reason why the man’s beats are all 30 second long things”…

Count: Yeah I swear I have that, I tell my wife all time! And if I have it, then Doom has it, and if he has it then Madlib has it. Attention Deficit Disorder, that’s it! I guess I have to make my intros a little more dramatic to get him into it a little earlier, and do it like a film, as opposed to a commercial… my shit is like a trailer gone bad – that’s what my music come off like, I guess! And then sometimes when I do shows, people will be wondering why, when I do songs off “Dwight Spitz” I don’t rock over the instrumentals. There ARE no instrumentals – I accidently erased my whole machine, and that whole album is gone… there IS no master! I do have a couple of the original discs, but I have to go straight into the MP’s… and I’d have to go borrow another MPC2000! And even for “BegBorrowSteel” – I borrowed drum machines for that too. I never owned one of those – I just got a manual and read through it a little bit and got started, trying things and discovering new shit. The only reason you wanna read the manual properly is after you THINK you know the machine inside and out – after you think you’ve completely mastered the machine – THAT’S when I go back and read the manual.

I use the MPC60 – the one with the gray pad on the front – not the ’62. Real beatmakers out there roll with me and learn about y’all drum machines! I use the SPC1200 – not the 12 with the floppy disc – the blue one, if you’re being specific. So when I stepped into the arena of making beats I wanted to make beats like the music I loved when I was a freshman in high school in ’87 or ’88. I know what the fuck I’m talking about, and I know what I’m doing. Some of these other cats were just BORN around that time… and that’s not a problem, cos they came up in the era of “LabCabinCalifornia” or “Fantastic Vol 2”, and these are monumental records that they got their game from, and that’s a beautiful thing. But they came up under the guidance of these records, and I came up through “Criminal Minded” and “Long Live The Kane”, and that type of thing was something else for me. Now people are hearing the musical background that I achieved and the roots of rap that I listened to.

After I got a record deal, it was almost like I was a rookie joining the NBA. When I signed with Sony it kinda spoiled it for me… it kinds ruins it for you. Imagine how Lebron James felt when he joined the NBA, and met Michael Jordan… I bet he feels funny wearing number 23. “No wonder people are comparing me to Michael Jordan – cos I took his number! But when I first took it, I was just a kid. Now I’ve grown up and Michael Jordan is my competition – we have our clothing lines and shoes going against each other.” You know, its a real different pedestal that you’re placed on, and even though you don’t necessarily wanna be there…

I mean sometimes I wanna go to the club and geek out like everybody else, and I DO do that from time to time – but there’s only a few artists that that really happens with me now. Its hard for me to just enjoy shit, cos I got all this stupid shit floating around in my mind – I already know what’s going on backstage, and I know about the guarantees… but at the same time I’m just a regular guy and I work a regular job. So I don’t feel different just because of the fact that I make music for a living. And shit kinda sucks sometimes – cos it kinda ruins the fun…

Ok work with me here… I sign you to a big ass deal with A to the L records, and chain you to the boards until you get the album done. And the whole thing is being done by you on your own – except for ONE track. And for that one track I give you the choice between two producers to work with on this one song. So you can have Pete Rock or the RZA. Who do you pick?

Count: Pete Rock or RZA? And me? (*sounding like ‘this motherfucker’s question is retarded, how the hell he ever gonna get me and them in a studio?’*) I would pick whichever one of em is available! Straight up! I know both of em are busy men, and I know that the budget would be crazy… but I know that it would be something great… but those guys make big money. So it would be like, whichever of those cats would wanna work with me, and felt that they could bring something to the table.. whoever was available… you can definitely flip a coin on that one.

So you got the producers set. And you’re gonna emcee on the beat. But I’m giving you one more emcee who is gonna work with you, but is only gonna do the hook. And your two choices are – Greg Nice or Biz Markie.

Count: Greg or Biz… probably… right now… (*loooooooong pause*)… probably Greg Nice. The reason why I say that is – I’ve met Greg Nice maybe twice, and I’ve met Biz too… and right now, Biz Mark, how he is right now, is so focused. He got his stuff together right now with the TV and the movies. I think Greg Nice is probably more in the same position where I’m in right now, as far as grinding hard and really trying to get that respect in order to keep doing this, and niggas just refuse to acknowledge. I think a lot of niggas like my shit, they like Greg Nice’s shit too… but people don’t give him much props – when they talk about who’s the best this or the best that, Greg Nice name ain’t never coming up! So I definitely think I’ll take Greg Nice for this.

OK… so you sitting around the desk with Greg Nice, or either Pete Rock or RZA, and I’m only tossing you one drum loop to base the track around. So you can either have ‘Impeach The President’ or ‘Funky Drummer’…

Count: Oh it would definitely be ‘Impeach The President’ cos I just used ‘Funky Drummer’ about 2 weeks ago! So it would definitely be ‘Impeach’. Cos you know, the Honorable Pete Rock teaches us that you must flip something familiar that everyone already knows in a brand new way, in order to earn your stripes as a producer. That’s my belief, and I learned that from Pete Rock and his work – he can take something that you know you heard, and that everybody has in their fucking crate, that’s sitting there staring you in the fucking mouth, and pick it up and show you “THIS is what we do with this shit.” You know what? When I listen to Pete Rock’s music, I imagine him with his middle finger up the whole time he’s making it, and I feel the same way. Just the whole message to all beatmakers, all producers, all emcees – “Yo – you CANNOT get with this… I don’t care about any shit y’all coming with!” And I love that about Pete Rock’s music. I love his music. And I keep telling motherfuckers, there’s gonna be a music textbook coming out in the future, and they would be remiss if they didn’t include a chapter on Pete Rock, because there’s so many diferent things that he brought to the game that cats are all doing now – and they don’t even know that they doing that shit without even knowing that they got it from him. Pete Rock is like… the fucking Grand Wizard Theodore of beatmaking… when he did it, yeah Marley was doing shit, but when Pete flipped that shit with that 950 and the whole harmony in that shit… man…

Count Pic 2

That’s my whole era, man. These are the guys who I look at like the Minguses and the Art Blakeys of right now – and nobody’s gonna really understand what these guys brought to the table until way down the line. I mean, people look at these Jazz musicians and they respect them because they wore suits. But at the time, back in the 40’s and the 50’s, they didn’t get the respect they get now man! They weren’t playing at the Kennedy center, or meeting presidents and all that! A couple of people were – but the real shit was going on in the clubs and the real fucked up spots. And that’s how this whole Hiphop shit is now man. If somebody tries to tell you the whole marriage between Jazz and Hiphop isn’t true, then tell em to come talk to me about it because I’ve PLAYED both. And you can’t talk to any Jazz musician who’s gotten the same recognition that I’ve gotten in Hiphop that they get in Jazz. Its a situation that they can’t speak on. But I can. I’ve worked with Doom and I’ve worked with Branford Marsalis. I’ve done shows with him – years ago… but that should just show you how much iller I am now. I worked with Victor Wooten just a couple of months ago… and I work with his brother all the time – thats Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. So for somebody to question my musicianship is preposterous. And somebody questioning my ability to make Hiphop is also equally preposterous. I don’t know of any other artist you can really say that with. I believe I am the fence, as a single individual. I mean, there’s a lot of groups out there that bridge the gap, but I believe I am the fence, because I am just a single individual.

So the record is now out. Why do people need to cop it?

Count: Well… if I said something interesting enough for them to feel like they should hear it, then that’s cool. But if not – I’m still gonna be here! You’re not gonna get an opportunity NOT to hear from me – at some point you WILL have to fuck with some of this pimpin’! That’s what Hiphop is all about! People use to knock Kanye West about him being arrogant or whatever – THAT’S Hiphop! Just because he was breaking down doors, all those people didn’t know what the fucking shit is about, you know? Its ABOUT talking shit! Its ABOUT saying that you’re the best! I hate the fact that he feels like he has to go back on that shit now. Maybe because his clothes is clean, and its so fresh and so expensive, maybe he feels like he has to clean it up or whatever, to reach that level that he’s trying to reach. But all I’m saying is “Hey man – you just fine in my book! You can act however you want to!” And I’m gonna talk the SAME shit! That’s the reason why we write rhymes like that – everybody that talks that shit in their rhymes – you gotta BELIEVE that shit man! I mean if you ain’t believing your own words then how is anyone else gonna believe you? Don’t just say that shit cos its clever… and that’s what I don’t like about freestyle battles, cos you’re just standing there saying a bunch of ‘ya moms’ jokes, but you don’t know that guy! He’s just the guy who flipped the coin to get on the stage with you, and you’re just saying some smart shit to get a rise out of the audience. Its not a real battle going on! There’s no real conflict! I don’t believe in that 3 rounds and no-disqualification shit… I don’t get into that. I just make some music, and thats it… and that’s what “BegBorrowSteel” – and if you’re a fan of that, then cool. And if you ain’t, and my chain ain’t big enough for you, that’s still cool. Its all gravy.

And so the interview was meant to end there… except I kept the tape rolling as we chatted about a few other bits and pieces including my own little immigration problem (which I really need to shoot a movie about some day or some shit)… but I won’t bore y’all with the details. But as we spoke about that very issue, and how it affected the lives of myself and those around me, the Count continued…

Count: This is what I’m saying. That shit that’s happening to you – THAT’S the real shit! Now if you were making your own beats or rhymes, or ran your own production company that releases your music, then your music is gonna come from a different place based on that shit thats going on in your life. And that’s ME! I tell people, that when they’re trying to look at my music, to imagine themselves in my shoes… imagine themselves as a self-contained artist. Just put yourselves in my shoes – it ain’t a big stretch – its not far. All you gotta do is really take a look at yourself, cos we ain’t that different! Except that I’m up in everybody’s hard drive – that’s what I was saying on the board today! I’m not really on motherfuckers’ turntables and cd players especially – I’m all over their hard drives! And if I have a dollar for everyone of them shits…

You’d be ballin’ hard!

Count: Damn right! I’d have me a motherfucking platinum record maybe! But I’m just saying… everybody has their own set of problems that come from their own position in life. Would I wanna be 50 Cent? Well on one hand the money would be nice, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t wanna have my family in bulletproof cars all the time, and I wouldn’t wanna have all the attention that goes with that. Yeah he’s the man of the hour and making the hot music and everything, but that shit comes at a big cost – the grass ain’t always greener. I wouldn’t want gunshots ringing out around me all the time – I just would not want that. And now its seems, that the bigger you get as a rapper, the more dangerous it gets.

So to be honest, there’s no fucking way I wanna be a big rapper. In fact, change my answer to that earlier question about Doom – I DON’T WANNA BE BIG FOR SHIT! My daughter asked me am I gonna get killed because I’m a rapper… come on man? She’s 7 years old! Fuck that shit – let these other motherfuckers lie to you! She knows everything! I let her watch the Stones Throw DVD and she loves all of that. My kids know everything about dad and everything he’s doing… and they know about everyone else that I’m around. They know about Mister Doom – they refer to him as Mister Doom when they’re around him… they play with his children. My kids are a part of my life, a part of my music, and a part of my world. So why would I wanna get big and jeopardize that? For what? So I could be all on TV all day? Fuck that shit, man. The more shit you get and the bigger you get, the harder these niggas wanna kill you, man! I mean people be running around saying two of the greatest rappers of all time are Biggie and 2pac, and both them niggas is dead! So why the fuck would I wanna be the biggest rapper for? I’m not even trying to do any of that shit – I’m just concerned about the paper!

I got my eye on the money, and I don’t give a fuck about any of that other shit – however I gotta get it. I don’t care about fame as a musician really. If the money comes through music, then cool, but I gotta feed my family. And the only reason I’m concerned with the money is cos I live in the United states Of America where money is EVERYTHING, and if you don’t have money you don’t have ANYTHING! If anybody is trying to tell you different, then they’re probably trying to get some of your paper, you know what I’m saying!

If you live in this country, the only thing you need to worship is money, and you’ll be just fine. Cos everything is set up around money! My mailman comes to my mailbox every day – why? Money. My lights are on right now – why? Money. I’m not hungry right now – why? Money. Domino said ‘Money Is Everything’… and Domino had that 12 inch ‘Getto Jam’ that everyone was on, but I liked that other album cut. Matter of fact, its a bunch of weird shit that niggas think I’d never like… I come across shit I just kinda like. Its almost like how people come up on Count Bass D shit – and that’s why there’s so many closet fans… they try to do Atmosphere like that too. I was kicking it with Slug last week and he’s cool as fuck! A lot of these rappers and these people in the business, I judge em as people as opposed to the music they make… and a lot of people who type on message boards don’t have that perspective. That’s why there’s only so many arguments or conversations that I can involved with because it would take me having to break down too much background shit, you know? And its frustrating not just to be able to jump on a messageboard and have a nice conversation with somebody about an artist, or say something about anything, because the comments I make are going all over the world, and its not “people are saying” its “Count Bass D is saying”…

…from there we reminisce about the ‘good old days’…

Count: Hiphop is so old now that there’s really really different generations, and some of these guys are now true grandfathers now! I mean, you look at someone like Corey Gunz and I’m thinking “Yo, a few minutes ago I was just listening to his father!” That shit trips me out. Hiphop is like the fountain of youth. At my job, man… I work a real blue collar job, and when people find out who I am, they come up to me and be cursing around me, and then they find out how old I am and that I got kids and shit… they wanna be calling me Mister and shit! And I’m trying to tell them, “Yo man, chill out with that shit – I’m only 31 years old, and you wasn’t talking that respectful shit a minute ago when you thought I was 19 years old!”

That’s what I’m trying to tell people. You’re getting old right in front of your face, and you don’t realise how time is moving. Corey Gunz and Peter Gunz is the first PURE rapper-breeds-rapper thing I can think of…

And its crazy cos it ain’t even like 10 years ago that they were doing that ‘Deja Vu’ joint…

Count: Yeah (laughing)… and that record was HUGE! And this is not like on some old kiddie shit either – the dude is 17! This ain’t some Lil Romeo shit! The dude is all over the magazines and the tapes and cds, and he’s a big dude! I think its fucking great! My children are home-schooled, and they learn about Hiphop and I buy them the same StreetBeat tapes that I used to listen to… they know about Ramalzee and the real shit… I’m starting them at that age where I found Hiphop.

Its bugged out! We all getting old, man! And I’m reminded of that every day cos I got 4 children, and they won’t let me forget it! I’m starting to say things like “10 years ago…” I’m saying that shit all the time. I remember posting on some message board, and somebody asked me about that T-Boz shit, and asked me if the shit was really true. I’m telling him that the shit went down exactly how it says in the song, and then I realise that this shit happened 13 years ago! That shit is crazy! And people are still asking me about it… matter of fact this is like the only interview where someone hasn’t asked me about it…

Well I figured that question has already been well covered by everyone else and I ain’t trying to bore you with old questions…

Count: It doesn’t bother me. I’m one with my music at this point. That would be just like asking me about my arm or my leg. I feel like its just so much a part of me that anything you ask me about any incident is just like asking me about why my middle finger is broke at the top! Its the same thing – my middle finger is fucked up just like parts of “Pre-Life Crisis” are fucked up, you know? But I was 19 or 20 years old – I’m 31 now! So much has happened and I’m made so much different shit since then. When I made “Dwight Spitz” I was on welfare… so much crazy shit going on while I was making that. Shit is fucking nuts, man.

That’s just how it is though. I just hope that when you write this, that you allow a lot of people to see the real shit… A lot of people look up to what you say on Altrap, and a lot of people respect your opinion on what you say, and I see that. I been posting on rmhh for like 10 years, and been going to alt.rap – I been the nigga on the newsgroup – search my shit… I go back to “Pre-Life Crisis” on there! And so I just hope that you’ve gotten an opportunity to let these people see what type of person I really am… cos not everybody’s gonna be able to have this conversation with me on the phone.

Well that’s the beauty of this site. I don’t get no money from this shit, so I can print as much or as little as I want about anything – I don’t have labels to keep happy, I don’t have a word limit for my articles. I please myself, and fuck everyone else…

I feel you, because I feel exactly the same. I’m basically a non-profit organisation. Whatever money I got coming in is barely breaking anything even. Every piece of money I get from the label is going right back out the door… covering the cost for pressing and shit. Its gone to the point where I’m just selling finished goods to the distributors… just pressing shit myself and shipping it to the distributors. I’m not dealing in royalty checks, or somebody owning my publishing. I’m not dealing with record contracts and x number of albums or worrying about paying for this or that guest spot. My whole approach to music is completely different.

I’m the Sam Cooke of this shit! He’s the first dude to start really doing his publishing like that. I’m the Ray Charles when he told the motherfuckers, “I wanna own my masters.” Doom taught me how to do this shit like this, and now I’m starting to take it to a different level. I don’t have the pressures that he has. I don’t have to make a choice between somebody offering me x amount of dollars or me putting it out myself. He has to make that choice… he can do the same thing I’m doing… but he chooses to do this way because them checks is nice, man!

Doom is an inspiration to me, just like 50 Cent is an inspiration to me. I come from a major label background. You let these other motherfuckers lie to you and talk about how many demos and how long they been in the game and shit, meanwhile check my motherfucking shit and check out my history as far as being in stores. I’ve been having shit in stores since 1995. Worldwide. International Magnum P.I. since 1995! There’s a lot of rappers that started with me in 1994, and I remember seeing these niggas at the How Can I Be Down conventions and shit, and looking at me and saying “Yo that’s that motherfucker who did ‘Looking At The Front Door’ in front of Large Professor.” That’s me. I’ve survived.

And what I’m saying by that is, if these guys at the major label think they can shit on you and just blow you away, and that’s gonna be your career over, then think again. Doom didn’t have to go out like that… 50 didn’t have to do that… and I don’t have to do that. And so, here I am in the same magazines as everybody else and I don’t even have a record contract – I’m signed to myself! That’s why those guys are inspirations to me, man. I hope Chip-Fu, wherever he’s been at and whatever he’s been doing –

I know you just didn’t bring up Chip-Fu! Where the fuck did that come from?

Count: Man, Chip-Fu is bananas! He’s crazy! And for him to be making records again on a consistent basis – that’s just monstrous. I really, really hope that they do that shit right. I hope whoever’s putting it out… well obviously whoever signed him wants to see it do well.. but I hope whoever is distributing the shit does right by it. I KNOW how this works, so I hope that those gatekeepers really wanna see him do well because he deserves it.

OK man, we’re officially done – that has got to be the longest 10 minute interview I every did in my life…

Count: Well I hope to have a lot more 10 minute interviews with you like this in the future man. Good looking out. Peace.

BegBorrowSteel

CHECK THE LINKS
WWW.COUNTBASSD.COM
WWW.WRITEHANDED.COM

Thanks again to the Count for taking part, and for Oriana Lee for working with me to hook shit up.

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