Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 11:01 am
Artist: Das Racist
Release Date: September 16
Das Racist is a wildly polarizing act. More so than most rappers who don’t look like they could’ve been on The Wire. Das Racist really seem to elicit hate it or love it opinions. Cats in the world of erudite rap criticism will tell you that Heems, Kool AD and Dapwell are the greatest thing to happen to rap since MF DOOM bought a box of Fantastic Four cartoon VHS tapes off Ebay. On the other hand, dudes who live and die by the latest heat rocks dropped on Funk Flex’s mix show won’t tell you shit about Das Racist – because they’ve never heard of them. And that’s because Das Racist‘s brand of super referential, slyly socio political, prank rap tends to be a big pill to swallow.
Their introductory single “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell” was fun in a stoned party rap kind of way, think LFMAO before LFMAO. It was the type of song that teenage lil sisters will dig from now till infinity. But by the time their two mixtapes Shut Up, Dude & Sit Down, Man showed up dudes had metamorphosed into a well read entity that could actually rap and were more than a shitty gimmick group. Some of the beats were a lil left of center, but when it worked it sounded amazing and totally unique (check “Commercial” off of Sit Down, Man). Relax their first full length album, was supposed to be the byproduct of their mixtape experimentation.
Relax is not the stylistic coalescing you’d hope for and the brunt of that lays on the quality of beats they use throughout the album. With dudes like El-P and Diplo providing beats you’d think the music wouldn’t be in question. But, this album has a good amount of beats that seem like they were made specifically to keep cats from getting into their music. With Das Racist this might be an actual possibility. Tracks like “Brand New Dance” have no bump to ‘em, the song plods along on a pastiche of guitar noodling and meandering synths. On top of the music, the song has a chorus that has dudes singing so flatly you’d think they were bored with the song while recording it. “Girl” sounds like a song a Pitchfork band would record featuring Das Racist on the 2nd verse. This wouldn’t be a bad look if it was on Yeasayer’s album and not on the Das Racist album. “Punjabi Song” a jam featuring Bollywood style vocals never really comes together the way you want to. It never delivers on the promise of synthesizing Indian music with hip hop to create something new, instead it just sounds like a Bollywood dude going in over a Scott Storch beat. “Relax” on the other hand, chops a vocal sample and some percussion to feel vaguely inspired by music from western Asia while still being something you could nod your head to. A standout track on the album “Shut Up, Man” features El-P and has enough bass to wobble the rearview mirror of your Honda and the breasts of your homeboy’s girl sitting in the back seat (but, if you turn down the bass to stop the mirror from shaking you also stop the tits from shaking. This is a horrible zero sum game.)
Lyrics are rarely a point of contention for Das Racist. Like ‘em or not dudes have a particular skill at flipping from New Yorker art section shoutouts to New York rap shoutouts in the span of a few bars. They continue this on Relax with upped intensity. Kool AD seems to be on a one man crusade to keep the “rhyme-every-single-word-in-the-verse” style that Cam’ron and MF DOOM perfected alive. He goes in with lines like:
“Who gives a f*ck what I’m talking about, walk it out/ Knock ‘em out the spot/ Let ‘em talk it out/ Do the whop, baseball bat, all dat/ Fall back, give a fuck about what you wanna call that”
Heems works in contrast with an excitable flow that comes off like an immaculately constructed freestyle. On “Michael Jackson” he even pulls out a raspy drunk dude that hangs out by the bodega and says hello to all the girls in short skirts flow. It works so harshly against Kool AD‘s monotone delivery you wish that he’d adopt the delivery constantly.
It’s hard to imagine that Relax is going to be the record that gets Das Racist into the public consciousness. We won’t be seeing Drake ft. Kool AD anytime soon (although that collaboration would actually be kind of hot). But, for heads that have already drank the Kool Aid on these dudes it should be a decent addition to the Das Racist catalog. Weirdly though it seems as though on their mixtapes dudes had a more solid grasp of making their music as smart and abstruse as they want to be while not immediately putting off cats who aren’t already Stans.