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Count Bass D - Act Your Waist Size

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Artist: Count Bass D

Album: Act Your Waist Size

Label: Fat Beats

Review date: Oct. 10, 2006

He’s hardly the first rapper to namecheck himself and his record label. But there’s something both silly and poignant about the watermark that’s all over Act Your Waist Size, the latest from the oddball Nashville MC, producer and perennial industry misfit Count Bass D. “This is Count Bass D,” he deadpans. “Dot-com. You’re listening to Act Your Waist Size. Fat Beats Records. Please don’t copy. Thank you.” And then a garbled electronic counterpoint pops in, like CBD’s concerned cartoon buddy hitting the blue screen: “Seriously. He needs every sale.” This happens at least once per track, often many times. It’s one of the funnier manifestations of the profound distrust for music biz economics that permeates Act Your Waist Size, which D’s cryptic blog entries suggest may be his last record for awhile. On “Case O’Dilla,” he gets closer to his point when he solemnly intones, “Don’t feed the mouth that bites you.”

In a genre defined by hypocritical boasts of self-sufficiency, Count Bass D is one of the few lone gunmen. Save two collaborations (only Van Hunt’s production and guest vocal on “Half the Fun” offsets the dominant aesthetic), Act Your Waist Size is produced and performed by “the rapper with the most chords” exclusively. Since his 1994 debut Pre-Life Crisis, a brainy, vulnerable puzzler released deep in the g-funk era, it’s always been this way. While MCs and DJs from bigger, tougher cities bowed to every fleeting fad, Count Bass D collaborated with everyone from MF Doom to Bela Fleck bassist Victor Wooten (and ran the artfully harmless pop label Spongebath) without diluting his eccentric integrity. And, as always, Act Your Waist Size runs on the Count’s rickety homemade funk, unlikely samples (check the wheezy harmonica) and jazzy delivery (more varied and speech-like than your typical rapper’s, but without a trace of annoying slam-poet bombast). And, production-wise, it’s as exquisitely shabby as Bee Thousand. In the way of commercial potential, it’s not exactly a capitulation to popular tastes – it’s as self-inspired, self-indulgent and unmistakable as anything else he’s put his name on. By certain standards, it might not be a big seller.

All of which makes his mainstream fixation rather sad, because Waist Size is otherwise such an unmitigated joy to listen to. While darkness and insecurity can be particularly striking on a hip-hop record, this one really soars when it gets a little ridiculous. The most awkward-sounding tracks are often the most exhilarating. The gospel-inspired “Softy & Tenderly” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” are touching, humorous triumphs of half-informed fusion. After that one-two, D’s straight reading of the 19th Century standard “Long Goodbyes” hits like the first chill of autumn on an old friend’s last night in town. And then there’s that damned watermark again.

By Emerson Dameron

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