Artist: Count Bass D
Album: Dwight Spitz
Label: Day By Day Entertainment
Rating: 10 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
As with every review I write, I began by sitting down, and quickly skimming through the first 10 or 20 seconds of each track on this album, before returning to the beginning to start listening in detail. During the skimming I got the feeling that this was an album I could really get into… there was just something so familiar about the whole vibe this joint seemed to be giving off – it was like sitting down to build with an old friend or something. At a time when a lot of Hiphop that’s coming out is built around MTV videos, and commercial stereotypes, its nice to be able to take things back to the essence without it seeming like an artist is “trying too hard” to take it back to the essence…
Right from the opening intro cuts, (the far-too-short ‘Jussa Playa’, and ‘Aural Sects’) the warm feelings just emanate from the speakers. Both are comprised of gorgeous little jazzy loops, that hook you in, welcoming you to sit down and chill with Dwight for a little while. The latter cut is a minute and a half glimpse into the intricacies of Bass D’s production methods and influences – coming off as a cousin of Tribe’s ‘Mr Muhammed’, with splatterings of the Beasties’ “Paul’s Boutique” signature of dropping vocal samples in anywhere and everywhere.
‘Antemeridian’ and ‘Postmeridian’ also provide evidence to back up Dwight’s claim to “have finally mastered the art of the MPC”, both being heavy on the headnod scale. ‘Antemeridian’ in particular stands out, and is really the first opportunity to hear D on the mic. Its hard not to draw a comparison with Pete Rock, not only due to the jazzy horn laden loops homeboy has hooked up, but also due to the fact that vocally they are incredibly similar.
The album continues with ‘How We Met’ and ‘Sanctuary’ – both a little more laidback that anything that’s come before. ‘How We Met’ is the first track to feature a guest – in this case its Edan, who also helped with the production for this joint. Over another mellow beat, Edan comes with some futuristic crazy type rhymes that are perhaps a little out of place over such a laidback beat. ‘Sanctuary’ meanwhile is constructed around a haunting vocal sample hooked up by DJ Pocket, and provides the closest examination so far of Dwight’s skills on the mic.
‘Subwoofer (Dumile)’ sounds like something that would sit comfortably at home on KMD’s “Mr Hood” album. No surprise when you realise that Dwight is down with MF Doom (formerly Zev Love X of KMD) and MF Grimm. Over a sprinkling of acoustic guitars, Bass D throws up references to his two MF pals, Monie Love, Spinderella, Funkytown Pros, and Timothy McVeigh… don’t worry it all makes sense when you hear it!
As you progress through the album its clear that Bass D is supremely skilled on the boards. If what you’ve already heard doesn’t convince you, then the middle portion of the album certainly should. ‘Truth To Light’ is all about an addictive Hammond organ loop and Nice & Smooth samples. Bass D even corrects Greg Nice’s infamous faux pas – on this cut, Dizzy Gillespie does indeed play a trumpet. ‘Real Music vs Bullshit’ meanwhile presses home the idea that “real music’s gonna last – all that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow”, over an incredibly funky bassline that is the main driving force behind this track.
Its ‘August 25,2001’ though that really serves to illustrate the fact that Hiphop music IS music. When people try to write it off using the typical stereotypes that always get pulled out of the air… just throw this on and laugh in their face. This is beautiful music – with a PURPOSE to, as its an ode to the late Aaliyah. Echoing synths, understated snares that “double-snap” in all the right places, and a genius inclusion of snippets of Bonez Thugz vocals make this track the perfect tribute to the talented young vocalist.
The second half of the album is equally strong. ‘Reign Or Shine’ features a harder beat built around Lord Finesse and Mobb Deep samples, and really throws you for a loop when you hear guest emcee Rayna Shine (geddit?) spitting. Why? Well the fact that she sounds around 10 years old probably has something to do with it! Despite sounding tender in years she handles her mic duties extreme competently. As does MF Doom on the aptly named ‘Quite Buttery’ – ol’ Metal Face flows effortlessly in his usual uncopyable style over a nice jazz piano loop, before we proceed to Dwight’s shoutout to the incarcerated MF Grimm, ‘Blues For Percy Carey’. It really is quite an emotional little piece, and should be recognisable to many for its inspired use of the Hill Street Blues theme.
‘Seven Years’ manages to pull off the often difficult task of dropping a Hiphop cut with a catchy female hook, WITHOUT sounding like it was intentionally made to sound a little commercial. In this case its Dionne Farris on the chorus, as Bass D talks directly to his wife, thanking her for being with him, for having kids with him… stuff that a lot of rappers should take notes from. THIS is keeping it real.
J Rawls pops up on the boards on the sparse ‘Ohio Players’, as Dwight drops an almost spoken word freestyle, before the superb title track lurches into view, throwing up images of classic mid-90’s Hiphop classics, with its horn heavy break. Seriously – this beat is just fucking disgusting, and Bass D blesses it with a flow that matches perfectly. Boasting, braggadocio nonsense, that left me with a big smile on my grill.
The last few cuts round the album off perfectly – ‘Take Control’ is beautiful. Mary J Blige samples float in and out as a dreamy bassline takes centre stage, and Bass D turns the snares on and off like a tap, making this jump from rootsy soul joint to upbeat banger and back. Meanwhile ‘Coming Soon’ is a crafty ploy to hide a bonus track in among the end of album silence. Its definitely worth skipping forward through the quiet to hear it – its an instrumental mishmash of synths, horns, and stern sounding broadcast announcers that would really soud quite ill with some lyrics laid over the top.
Its hard to find fault at all with much of the album. There’s really only a couple of tracks that I can say I didn’t get into as much as the others – ‘Blackman Dreams’ has its heart in the right place, but the production here is a little bland. Or maybe it just seems that way because the preceding tracks have built the levels of expectation so highly. ‘No Time For Fakin’ (Part 2)’ features Dwight singing rather than spitting, and although there’s a familiarity about the music, (an electro-tinged version of the JB’s ‘Same Beat’), it all seems a little TOO experimental. Saying that though, it is one that will grow on me – its already starting to! The only other minor bug for me was the fact that several tracks were too damn short! It seemed that I was just getting into some of them, and all of a sudden they ended. A minor point really, and one which is really negated by the fact that the track coming right behind was normally equally good.
So a round of applause for Dwight Farrell. If this doesn’t feature in many peoples’ top ten albums of 2002, then there’s something wrong with your collective ears. This is easily one of the best albums I have heard so far this year, and there’s nothing else to do but give it the high mark it obviously deserves. You NEED this.