[3 January 2007]
Possessing the gall to traverse the line between producer and emcee signifies several qualities of musicians: audacity, spark and willingness to experiment. But to top off these attributes, is pure ambition and, mostly, the need to remain in control. When this breed of hip-hop musician retreats into the studio shell to record an album in its respective creative image, artistic insulation tends to become more of an exercise in balancing outside inspiration and actual capacity to bend the lines of predictability. On his third release, Act Your Waist Size, the multitasking Count Bass D once again forgoes this challenge of staving off peripheral influence. As the record spins however, it becomes clear that his attachment to previously accomplished styles hangs as a shadow on his productive journey.
The musical fashion that D unknowingly has embedded in his creative process is that of MF Doom, a one-time collaborator on the track “Potholderz”. Doom, who has arguably become one of the few and recent impresarios to bring originality to both production and lyricism, stands as the dominant muse for D, who adopts almost every musical characteristic that Doom has refined in the progression of his discography. Under the guise of Metal Fingers, Doom has mastered the art of catchy and glossy production by relying on fuzzed and jazzy samples. On the mic, Doom and his lulled lyrical delivery may appear to slop into monotony, but he almost always makes up for it with thought-provoking wordplay. Whether or not intended, Act Your Waist Size stands as D’s attempt to capitalize on these musical methods, and although D appears ambitious in creating his own niche of originality, his third effort merely accentuates this tendency to cling.
As Doom uses Metal Fingers to explore the sparkle-white samples of yesterday, D digs the crates in search of blistering clips that parallel the same loose quality that makes Doom’s instrumentals an overall captivation. The production on Act Your Waist Size is sunny and optimistic, but although D is skilled in the art of sample flipping, his ideas tend to be too cluttered and busy for their own sake, especially on the instrumental tracks. On the distracting “IMEANROC&RON,” D concocts a beat that features gutter buzzes, stop-and-go vocal clips and unidentifiable brusque samples, but where the track goes astray is its tendency to get lost in its own musical whirlwind. Where Doom remained merely content with an iron grip beat and a simplistically chopped record, D overloads his instrumentals with a distracting push-and-pull myriad of sounds. Although this modified style can be dissatisfactory in keeping the listener’s attention, most of the instrumentals do manage to dazzle in their own right. “You Know That You Play This” holds a catchy and bouncy ‘80s sound despite its off-putting shape shifting, while “It Is Ibass (Duxie)” takes a breezy jazz sample and lets it ride, as Doom does on most of his records.
Although the connected points are unquestionable in the instrumental relations between Doom and D, the lyrical style on Act Your Waist Size propels a different sort of musical adoption on D’s behalf. D may languidly drip lyrics out of his mouth in the same way that Doom does, but in terms of lyrics, D remains far more accessible in producing digestible content. The album’s single, “Internationally Known,” features a thick mid-paced beat based on a cascading piano glissando, with a Ghostface sample littered below D’s lyrics. On the track, he raps “The jury’s still out ‘bout the best spitter behind the boards / But please, believe it, I’m the rapper with the most chords,” channeling the missing egotism of most of Doom’s work. D adopts this same refreshing braggadocio elsewhere on the album, calling for respect on the funk bap of “The Slugger of Louisville.” D raps on the song, “Count Bass produced the track / No diss, pops, but I get very little credit,” leaving the listener with the rightful abilities to challenge the authenticity of the latter half of that claim.
D uses most of the album to carbon rap and create hyper-clogged instrumentals, but where he manages to exhume a wad of originality is on the album’s sung tracks. Throughout Act Your Waist Size, D includes tracks that delve into overall experimentalism, like on the bizarre “False Or True”, reminiscent of a theme show song. On the track, which features a chopped and sewn sample, D can be faintly heard crooning under the muffle of heavy filters as the beat glides along. In this regard, D is allowing himself room to shift away from the typicality of Doom’s tactics by making his presence known, yet underdeveloped, a method which further distances him from his muse. An unlikely guest appearance from Van Hunt on the jammed track “Half the Fun” acts as an accessible protrusion on the album—and one of the most enjoyable—as D smooth talks his way between Hunt’s soulful choruses. By including a track like this on the album, D proves himself capable of getting close to the top of the experimental hip-hop pile.
But as the rest of the album proves, D was unable to discard most of his inspired tendencies before creating Act Your Waist Size. While it is surely a light album in its design, the flaws in imitation reign too exceedingly apparent throughout its play, and though the album boasts several moments to remember, most of it is left in the hall of hip-hop caricatures. As a lesson hopefully learned, Count Bass D may need to detoxify his style before creating another album ... but since his music seems to be turning into a mirror image, Doom fans will have something to tie them over until the next installment of Metal Fingers.