Dwight Conroy Farrell, better known by his alias, Count Bass D (which pays homage to the legendary jazz musician/band leader, Count Basie) is a musician, producer and emcee that most of you have probably never heard of. Then again, some of you may have heard the Bronx born, Ohio-raised emcee spit alongside MF Doom on “Potholderz” from his 2004 release Mm…Food, which Count also produced. I first heard Count Bass D on his cameo on the Grits’ (another group most of you probably aren’t familiar with, but you can read my review of their debut album here while you listen to it on your favorite DSP) “People Noticin’ Me” record from their sophomore effort, Factors Of The Seven. But before the MF Doom and Grits cameos, Count Bass D would sign a deal with the Work Group label (which was also the label home of the London-based acid jazz group Jamiroquai throughout the nineties and the label J-Lo’s debut album, On The 6, was released on), where he would release his debut album Pre-Life Crisis.
Count would be responsible for most of the production on Pre-Life Crisis, as he plays live drums, keys and bass on most of the album and invites a few other musicians to help with a portion of the load. Legend has it that because of Pre-Life Crisis‘ progressive style, the label found it hard to market the album, so it never got a proper promotional push and failed both commercially and critically, which eventually led to the label cutting ties with Count, which is a nice way of saying they dropped his ass. Since then, Count has released several projects independently and built a solid cult following over the past 25 years.
Several years ago, I found a cd copy of Pre-Life Crisis at a Pawn America for a dollar, still in its original packaging. And since I liked the cameos I heard from him previously, I spent my hard earn cash on it. Read along and let’s see if my dollar investment was worthwhile.
The Dozens – Count kicks off the album with a jazzy mid-tempo mash up that he uses to hurl insults at his competition (and himself) and boast of his lyrical prowess in his own unique lighthearted way. If you were born before 1985, you’ll recognize the hook, as it’s built around an old playground chant. Count also pulls from his church upbringing, briefly remixing and singing an old hymn at the end of a verse. This was a great way to start the evening.
Sandwiches (I Got A Feeling) – Apparently, this was the first and only single released from Pre-Life Crisis. Sandwiches is Count’s slang term for promiscuous women, aka hoes: “Speaking on sandwiches kinda fickle, she can be white, or wheat or even pumpernickel, she don’t even walk around being discrete, on the contraire she walks around looking for the meat”. He remixes and sings another old black church hymn for the hook that some might find blasphemous, but I found it comically entertaining. The true star of this one is CBD’s dope groove and the seductive guitar chords from his friend Mark Nash. Dope. Period.
T-Boz (Part 1/2) – A funky bop plays for about thirty seconds, while Count harmonizes over it.
Shake – CBD spits more fun-spirited rhymes over some cool jazzy instrumentation. The airy vocals of Kismick Martin and Vincent Sims on the hook and adlibs was a nice added touch.
T-Boz Tried To Talk To Me – CBD brings back the instrumental from the “T-Boz (Part 1/2)” interlude and shares his story of meeting the raspy-voiced singer from TLC in Atlanta, GA, where he claims she tried to get with him. Apparently his insecurity kept him from responding before the once in a lifetime opportunity passed him by. I laugh every time I hear him dis Jodeci’s former lead man on the second verse: “Rumors ran free, that she loved Jodeci, who gives a fuck about K-Ci? He’s just as skinny as me”. Whether the story is true or not, the hook is hi-larious and the record is entertaining as hell.
Carmex – This is definitely one of my least favorite tracks on Pre-Life Crisis. But the laidback live instrumentation is still enjoyable.
I Got Needs – CBD uses this one to have a heart to heart with his women, as he clearly expresses to her what he needs: “Whether it’s sexual or intellectual, I have needs which are emotional and very personal, you try to play the selfish role to always get what you want, which happens to be control, of my thoughts, of my whereabouts, trying not to pout, I get soft and never go off, but you try to take advantage of the nigga that you want me to be and you describe him to me”. Count builds the hook around a dope Lord Jamar line (whom he shouts out at the end of the song) and the soulful organ chords make the sophisticated instrumental sounds even more amazing.
Broke Thursday – In court jester fashion, Count laments about being broke over a melancholic bluesy backdrop: “Let me tell you what’s triflin’, I got a shirt with my name on the back but I couldn’t afford the hyphen, or the “O” or the “U” or the “A”, I hope you can recognize my name without the vowels, cause “C-N-T-B-S-S-D” is the new way of spelling Count Bass D due to a lack of money, maybe one day I’ll look up and manage money better, because there’s so many times I fuck it up like Chris Webber.” It’s always refreshing to hear an emcee display vulnerability, and it resonates even more when he can rap and the music behind him sounds good.
Agriculture – Count invites his homie Vincent Sims to join him, as the two take turns comparing sex to gardening and cap things off with a hook that has the two asking each other “Did you plant her?” and “Did she bear fruit?”, to which they both reply: “No, it wasn’t in the season.” The hook is massively corny, the rhymes are mildly cheesy (ecspecially Vincent’s) and the instrumental is too pretty and refined for my taste buds. This is definitely my least favorite song on Pre-Life Crisis.
Brown – Our host sounds super confident and spits some of his strongest bars of the evening on this one, proclaiming “I feel better than Tony Toni Tone bustin’ a nut without a rubber on, word is bond, cause I got the clout ya understand? My records out sell a sellout like the Cream of Wheat Man.” But even stronger than his bars is the sick groove he creates to place them on. This is easily my favorite song on Pre-Life Crisis.
The Hate Game – CBD sticks with the mellow smooth jazzy instrumentation and dedicates this one to all his haters. The hook is kind of annoying, but overall, it’s a solid record.
Pink Tornado – The song title is Count’s unique term for big mouthed people whose tongues won’t stop moving. Our host is fed up with people shit talkin’ and backbiting (I laugh every time I hear him say “Your album’s phat, nigga please, rhymin’ aint shit, I play drums, bass and keys.”), so he lets them have it over this pleasingly melodic bop. I like this one, and I love the song title.
Sunday School – This one definitely brought me back to my childhood days as a peasy-headed church boy. Count hooks up a smooth groove and reminisces on the good old innocent days of Sunday School: “Back in the day we use to go to Sunday School, riding the church bus, actin’ a fool, breath smellin’ like milk from that bowl of cereal, our backs are extra itchy from the wool material, tight dress shoes and clip-on ties, you want to smile for pictures but the sun was in your eyes, we buy a bag of sweets before we got to the bus stop, strictly Jolly Ranchers cause you can’t hide Blow Pops, the toughest niggas never had no beef, are tongues were purple and green with Now & Laters stickin’ to our teeth.” My connection to the song’s sentiment might make me a little bias, but I like this one.
Baker’s Dozen – Clever title. CBD ends Pre-Life Crisis by bringing back the instrumental from the opening track.
On “Brown” Count Bass-D makes a very profound statement and asks an interesting rhetorical question in jest: “Niggas out here tryna be 3pac and Spice-2, so what’s an original emcee to do?” Pre-Life Crisis is his rebuttal. Count goes hard against the grain, avoiding all the hardcore Mafioso materialistic rap that begin to flood hip-hop in the mid-nineties and offers a quirky, playful, vulnerable and self-deprecating style, occasionally mixing in some braggadocio shit, just so you don’t mistake his silliness for a wack emcee. Musically, CBD’s musicianship makes for a cohesive batch of cool jazzy-seasoned hip-hop instrumentals with sprinkles of church influence that come together to form feel good vibes. There are a few songs on Pre-Life Crisis that could have been left off, but their inclusion doesn’t disrupt the overall flow of the album. Pre-Life Crisis is a great debut album from Count Bass D that was ahead of its time and unfortunately will probably never get the retro-props it deserves from the masses.