"I don't really call what I do hip-hop anymore," says Dwight Farrell, a.k.a. Count Bass D, from his home in Memphis. "It's really coming more from the punk aesthetic. Maybe I should start wearing Doc Martens and stop wearing Timberlands."
If the hip-hop boot seems to no longer fit, it's not because Count Bass D—who attended MTSU—has taken up power chords and snarling shout-vocals. To most listeners his new album, L7, will seem way more like hip-hop (with a bit of neo soul) than punk rock. But the meaning of the term "hip-hop" has changed since Bass D started making music in 1993 (probably more than the term "punk rock").
"I was in F.Y.E. and there was my album in a sea of artists I don't understand," he says. "There was a time when if you had said anything bad about hip-hop I would have wanted to fight you." Considering that Farrell laughs at the suggestion (by local music writer Mark Mays) that "rap is the new hair metal," that time has passed.
Probably the most punk thing about Count Bass D is the scattershot way he cobbles together an album's worth of material. "I've had to steal equipment, I've had to borrow equipment at 5 o'clock in the morning," he says. "It's tumultuous, but fortunately the only thing I haven't been lacking is ability."
That talent—and there's no denying it—allows him to work on the fly, improvise and make do with the tools at hand. "The songs kind of show up. An idea comes from here or there, and whatever type of equipment is at my disposal—I'm just trying to get a sound out of it. It's been like that since the beginning. I wish I had a method, but it doesn't even work that way."
But it does work. From the psychedelic bump-and-swell of "Make It Flow" to the '80s-R&B feel of "Let's Hang Out Tonight," L7—regardless of whether it belongs closer to The Cramps than Common on the record store shelf—is a rangy, polymorphic album that rewards repeated listens.
Those who catch Count Bass D opening for Sound Tribe Sector 9—whose record label, 1320, released L7—can expect what Farrell calls "part Doug E. Fresh, part stand-up, part everything...live without a net."
Those who don't catch the show can count on Bass D to keep making music wherever, whenever and however he can. No matter how it turns out, it's not going to be glitzy, slick or easy.
"I don't really have the time, the money, the wherewithal, the support, to do anything," Farrell says. "It gets done, the people seem to like it, they ask for more of it, I just keep making it. I've got my wife here and my five children...we're all here making a way for it. It's not like these pristine vocal booths and conditions—it's real."
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