Maybe it's the incongruity of being an eccentric rapper-musician playing oddball jazz-rap in the heart of country music, but there's never been a musician even remotely like Nashville's Count Bass D. One of the most original debuts in rap history, his 1995 album Pre-Life Crisis suggested the work of a loopy cocktail-jazz pianist who decided to replace his repertoire of Burt Bacharach favorites with goofy rap odes to T-Boz and Carmex. Crisis won Bass D a cult following, but its abysmal sales quickly got him dropped from his label. Being an underdog suits Bass D, however, and since Crisis, he's released the hard-to-find Art For Sale independently, remixed The Beastie Boys, produced M.F. Grimm, and maintained one of hip-hop's most entertaining and frequently updated weblogs. Most importantly, the self-described "Fender Rhodes Scholar" has augmented his skills as a multi-instrumentalist by mastering the art of sampling. Bass D documents his conversion on "Antemeridian," a track from Dwight Spitz. The new album lets his imagination run wild, as he samples everything from an entire commercial advertising "pure, sure 16-calorie sugar" to Dizzy Gillespie waxing eloquent about the importance of the piano, to a cheesy lost-message song bemoaning the crisis in Iran. While Spitz often suggests the trippy sound collages of Madlib and M.F. Doom, Bass D's winning personality comes through on every track, particularly "Seven Years," a gorgeous bossa-nova-flavored love song to his wife, elevated to sublime heights by Dionne Farris' otherworldly background vocals. The sad realities of the marketplace may make it hard for Bass D to do much more than break even, even with an album this lovingly assembled and wonderfully idiosyncratic. If talent were money, Count Bass D would be richer than Nelly, P-Diddy, and Jermaine Dupri combined.
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