The Spin loves when artists get comfortable with their surroundings — there’s nothing quite like the feeling that they’ve invited you to hang out in their living room. Saturday night at The Stone Fox, Bohemian Hype Cult took this sentiment to the next level, setting the stage with their own ornate chairs and a rather tasteful end table. Artistic collaborator Trillbee the Hooligan — responsible for some of the group’s hazy, altered-state videos — participated by doing a live painting during the show, while projecting his visualizations (an Everything Is Terrible!-style mash-up of animation, warped graphics and treated footage from nature docs and monster movies) on the Fox’s projector screen.
Beatmaster Treekeeper’s trademark psychotropic rhythm tracks launched the set, which turned out to be the inaugural live performance from the busy DJ and all four of the group’s MCs. They may be relative new kids on the block, but Macro, Young Pradda, DesTino and Sophisticated Yeti all brought their A-game. Despite the light crowd, they flowed with a dark, manic energy behind their party boasts that would do any punk proud, leaning them toward Earl Sweatshirt circa Earl, with a touch more tongue-in-cheek and a touch less gore. If these guys get this psyched for a crowd mostly of close friends, we’re eager to see what they do with an audience like East Nashville Underground.
We were a little concerned when half an hour had passed since BHC cleared the stage and there was still no sign of Count Bass D. We took advantage of the break to chat with Self’s Matt Mahaffey, a friend and collaborator of the Count for over 20 years, who gave us his take on what made Dwight Conroy Farrell different from the other Nashville MCs who were trying to build a scene in the early ‘90s. “He’s trained on all these instruments, from growing up in the church," said Mahaffey. "Before The Fugees, before The Roots, here comes this guy with a full band, and they sound so good, MCs are going, ‘Damn, can I cut in?’, and stealing the mic from him. In Brooklyn!”
Before we had time for more poetic waxing, D arrived with his trusty MPC. A rough estimate would put the crowd between 50 and 75 people, but the he took the stage with as much energy and poise as if he’d just sold out Madison Square Garden. For their part, the crowd flipped their collective lid: The Count’s set focused on cuts from his mid-Aughts releases, and they knew every word to tracks like “Internationally Known,” “The Mingus Sextet” and the excellent “Antemeridian,” which chronicles D’s stylistic rebirth as a beatbox-based producer, after the end of his first record contract erased his budget.
Even without a band, Count Bass D’s tracks are works of art in themselves. Besides showing off technical skill with the drum machine, he gives every groove the feel of a live band. Like esteemed critic Harold Bloom says of the best poets’ work, each element in a Count Bass D track — from the rhymes to the drum patterns to the horn break sampled from vinyl — is inevitable. No matter how long D slaves over a hot MPC, there is no obvious struggle to make the pieces fit in even the most dense composition: No question that what you hear is the right sound, in the right place, at the right time.
It was abundantly clear that the Count loved this crowd, some of whom we learned had come from as far as New Orleans. Several times, D appeared ready to call it a night, but the audience's enthusiasm was contagious, and when he ran out of prepared material around 1 a.m., he started pulling up beats from his phone. The well is deep: If you were impressed by the collection of beats looking for an MC on J Dilla’s Donuts, peep the Count’s Bandcamp page — last year alone, he released five EPs of instrumentals, each dedicated to a different one of his children. It’s been a minute since our last visit from Count Bass D, who now calls Atlanta home, but we sure hope he decides not to be a stranger.