Rating: 3 out of 5 Potholes
Although Count Bass D had cemented himself as a talented rapper/producer/musician, it was not until his appearance on MF DOOM’s “Potholderz”, off MM..FOOD?, that he found his way into my constant rotation. At first, it was just the mere impact of his stellar verse, particularly that line my friend loves to quote: “Tyson is a fowl holocaust.” Then the revelation came that he had in fact handled the production as well. I was hooked.
But the Count is more than just a great producer and guest-emcee. With his groundbreaking debut Pre-Life Crisis in 1995, Count made it clear that hip-hop would not be pigeonholed. He went on to produce and spit on several more albums, including 2006′s Act Your Waist Size, a slick blend of brash instrumentals and clever wordplay. But on his latest, L7 (Mid-Life Crisis), it appears that the always-progressive Count has taken a step into muddier and ultimately less-accessible territory. Now, for him and his fans, this isn’t much of a problem. He makes his music for the love of it, as he makes inherently clear on the piano-laden “What I Do”. And his fans will, of course, be satisfied with having new, and mostly solid, material.
New listeners are bound to struggle with this record. Following any kind of story on here remains a difficult task, primarily due to the oddly-mixed vocals that tend to waver in the background. For example, tracks like “Gio Any (I Cold Just Came In)” and “You Got It” could have dope lyrics, but they’re mostly indecipherable. And it’s a damn shame because both joints, especially “Gio Any” and its smooth guitar and twinkling keys, have great beats. When Count’s vocals are audible, though, he is nearly unstoppable. On “Neon Soul”, which features an enticing, otherworldly beat, he spits some of his best lines, such as “black like a hockey puck, compose like Wolfgang/cook like a French chef, mad cream like Wu-Tang.” Most surprising, though, are two tracks where sings. Yes, he sings. While he doesn’t reach for the stars vocally on “Can We Hang Out Tonight?” and “(Don’t) Run Out On Me”, he offers a surprising curve-ball that’s rather enjoyable.
With the production being muddy, one would hope Count brought out the instrumental big guns. And, for the most part, he did. “Back Pay (Parts 1 & 2)” is straight-up insane with reggae-vibe and infectious beat. You can almost picture Count messing with his MPC and bobbing his head along to this one. Just as stellar is the erratic “I Love You”, which sounds like it was produced in a rolling tin can kaleidoscope. But the others, “I Need Your Love” and “Y.B.A. Square”, don’t carry the same weight.
While the hits on L7 definitely outweigh the misses, those hits still take time to grow. And the album itself is truly the very definition of a grower, like his other records. The first two listens might drive even you up the wall, but at the third spin, something just clicks. The only problem is that some listeners, particularly the finicky hip-hop heads, might not get that far.