REVIEW: Count Bass D – BegBorrowSteel

BegBorrowSteel

Artist: Count Bass D

Album: BegBorrowSteel

Label: Ramp Recordings

Rating : 8.5/ 10

Reviewer: A to the L

Regular visitors to this site and the eight hardcore A to the L groupies out there will already know that I rank Dwight Farrell aka Count Bass D’s last album, “Dwight Spitz” as one of the greatest Hiphop albums ever recorded. Why then has it taken me almost a year to write up a review for “BegBorrowSteel”, the follow up EP to said classic? Well, 80% of the blame can be placed on these guys, and the rest can go on my procrastinating posterior. Sometimes, as the Count himself will attest, real life takes priority over this music shit. So with apologies expressed to all parties involved, lets discuss “BBS” – on with the show…

Let’s open with the following warning… if you’re intending to step into Count Bass D’s realm for the first time, then this is probably not the place to begin. The jerky, disjointed makeup of the EP will throw off many who are not already aware of how we gets down with the Count – zipping through songs that often only last for 40 or 50 seconds as we are battered from all sides by old movie dialogue, choppy soul and jazz samples, head-nodding boom bap, and Bass D’s low vocal tones… “BBS” may well be outright confusing to the uninitiated.

For those armed and ready with their passport to Countville though, “BBS” is another supreme triumph. (Of course the TRULY knowledgable will already know this, having copped the Japanese import eons before this regular version saw light… but its not a who-can-piss-highest contest really, is it?) From jump, this album has a much darker feel than “DS” which may well reflect the feelings at recording time of an artist who is unashamedly open on wax and in print with fans about life and love situations. The opener ‘Bullets Hit Brains’ is a largely instrumental piece of snares and keys that does contain a eeriely prophetic piece of movie dialogue which talks of levees breaking and rivers flooding deltas. This rapidly evolves into the 30 second ‘Doxology’ where Count greets us, welcoming us to the album as the WELOVE radio ident loops in the background.

‘The Mingus Sextet’ invokes lounge cabaret acts on the beat as the Count quickly addresses several topics, making the jump from tantric sex to SCSI ports, and from rap production to online kids who “pitch a bitch cos my songs short” in less than a minute. Who said artists didn’t read their album reviews? ‘Nina and Weldon’ jacks one of Nina Simone’s famous piano breaks (as used by Primo and Blackstreet) for a quick 50 seconds of homage to Simone herself and the late Weldon Irvine. ‘Gimme A Gig’, a dark jazz loopfest, quickly passes and before we know it we’re 6 tracks deep.

‘Drug Abusage’ examines a variety of different substances that do damage to the human body over squelchy basslines and sparkling keys, before segueing into parts 1 and 2 of “Kumbuka Watu Penda Pesa” (look it up – its Swahili). Of course this was criminally ignored by everyone in 2005 but its easily one of the top beats of the year – bone-snapping snares, swirling strings, understated guitar licks flying in and out of the mix, and the eye-opening hook which has several different but equally damning interpretations. On part 2, the Count also adds several of his own life lessons to the listening…

“Make love and not war,
To wife and not whore,
Lies are folklore…

…have sex but don’t fuck,
Don’t smoke but eat pork,
Eat beef and exercise,
Stay up late…”

As the album continues, ‘Des Fausses Impressions’ loops up the intro to ‘Nautilus’ and lays it over a simple but effective set of snares and kicks, an addictive organ roll, and plinky-plonky key stabs, while ‘Dollar Bill’ cuts up several Hiphop tracks over a filthy blues lick as Dwight explains his (and every musician’s) simple aim to get paid at the end of a gig. First single, ‘Down Easy’, then takes over. Probably the most ‘complete’ song on the album, and constructed as such (with a verse, hook, verse format), ‘Down Easy’ sees Count croon over a rubbery bassline and golden strings about the problems of relationship breakups that end on a ‘good’ note. Not every couple that break up can successfully remain ‘friends’ after the event, and D eloqently and passionately sums up the frustrations of one of the parties. ‘Down Easy’ and the following track, ‘New Edition Karaoke’ are worth the price of the album alone. On this track, which sounds more studio outtake than proper song, the Count covers the r’n’b legends in his own inimitable style with surprisingly pleasant results due to the superb production.

The final quartet of songs that round off the EP, ‘Low Batteries’, ‘No.3 Pencil’, ‘Body By Jake’ and ‘Canerow Waltz’ are all worthy of mention, because in completing the project they also offer a look at the varied ideas and skills that Bass D possesses. ‘Low Batteries’, in concept has been down before (think Doom’s ‘Tick Tick’ or the zillion chopped and screwed albums in existence), but not as a direct comparison to batteries on a walkman running out – which is what is attempted here… and nailed with precision; ‘No. 3 Pencil’ meanwhile, is a bouncy number that is one of the more ‘regular’ tracks on here, but still shows incredible board technique; ‘Body By Jake’ slows the vocals down to a menacing slur over a severe set of drums; and ‘Canerow Waltz’ takes the album out in style with scratched whistles vying for attention with snippets of electric guitar, over staccato drums – its the Hiphop equivalent of the Aphex Twin.

So?

“BegBorrowSteel” is a must have. It definitely took me repeated plays to get to the point where I could say I was definitely feeling it… a feat that “DS” achieved on first listen. But the journey to get to that point was a pleasant one. Experimental? Yes, as most Count records are – you’ll find yourself rewinding tracks and snippets of tracks several times to decipher what was said or done at certain points, but its frustratingly enjoyable. Short? Yes, but with many other rap albums being bloated and often up to 10 tracks TOO deep, the brevity is welcome… especially when coupled with the scattering of ideas all over the project. More tracks would perhaps cause a little too much brainfuzz. Couple this with the fact, that its to be viewed as an appetizer for the upcoming LP proper “Act Your Waist Size” and not as a full ‘meal’ and you’ll come to the conclusion that “BegBorrowSteel” is expertly executed and a record your collection is weaker without.

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