December 11, 2012

10 Great Das Racist Moments

10 Great Das Racist Moments

It’s true, man. Das Racist, the world’s preeminent post-meta rap group, has called it quits. The news leaked after Himanshu Suri, better known as “Heems,” announced it at a concert in Munich. The band’s other MC, Victor “Kool A.D.” Vazquez said on Twitter that he’d actually quit two months ago but was asked by their manager to delay announcing it publicly.

Maybe previously recorded material will eventually be released, and it seems like Heems, Kool A.D., and hypeman Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu are still on good or at least OK terms, but a unique, interesting, and very fun group is dead. They are good rappers, but Das Racist was about more than music. To celebrate their legacy, below are fifteen great moments from their four years as a band.

1. Das Racist Schools A Smarmy New York Times Interviewer

I nominate this for Das Racist’s most awesome interview, which is really saying something. The New York Times interviewer, Deborah Solomon, is, for some reason, antagonistic from the get-go. Her opening question: “Your indie-rap group, Das Racist, is known for songs that wittily riff on Taco Bell, Google and the general limitations of American consumerism. Rap is a black art form that originated in the Bronx, so why, as two Wesleyan graduates who met in college, would you think you could rap?” Suri and Vazquez turn the question back on her — hard. Suri questions why one would prefer rappers be uneducated and Vazquez points out, “would we even be on the page of this publication if we had not gone to Wesleyan?”

It continues awesomely from there, showcasing the band’s trademark sense of humor, which is so deadpan, sarcastic, and witty that it’s difficult to tell what’s a joke and what’s not (which is kind of the joke).

2. The Song “Rapping 2 U”

It’s hard to pick a favorite Das Racist song, but this is definitely one of the best ones, off the Sit Down, Man mixtape. Great verses from Heems, Kool A.D., and guest Lakutis.

3. Das Racist Releases A Playable 8-Bit Video Game Featuring Heems And Kool A.D. And Referencing Various 1980s Ephemera

It was also used to make the music video (below) to their song, “Who’s That? Brooown!” In typical Das Racist fashion, references abound. The title is a reference to A Tribe Called Quest’s song, “Scenario.” And one of the refrains in the song references a UPS commercial and a Janet Jackson song back to back.

4. Kool A.D. Challenges New Yorker Cartoonist To A Cartoon-Off (And Wins Handily!)

After a teasing blog post about the band by New Yorker cartoonist Farley Katz, Vasquez challenged him to a “cartoon-off,” a challenge Katz accepted. The result: no contest. The prompts were “a day in the life of a rapper,” “a day in the life of a cartoonist,” and “a futuristic utopia where racism doesn’t exist.” Katz’s cartoons aren’t very clever or creative. Vazquez, on the other hand, submitted the same drawing of domestic slackerdom for the first two and drew a guy in a Klan hood saying “What, too soon?” for the third. Winner!

5. Das Racist Riffs Through An Entire Interview

Just about every Das Racist interview could go on this list, but here’s another memorable one. Interviewed by two corny white dudes on a MTV show, the band largely ignores the questions and riff, sometimes talking over each other, parodying rap interview cliches and refusing to stay on topic or treat anything seriously. My personal favorite line is from Heems: “It’s your boy Kreayshawn dressed as a bear.”

6. Das Racist Invites Fans To Throw Soy Joys At The Stage During Sasquatch Festival Performance

Das Racist is known for confrontational, sometimes off-putting, always unpredictable live performances. One of the more memorable ones was their appearance at the Sasquatch Festival in 2011. As they took the stage, Heems said, “Hello, Sasquatch! Sorry for the late start! We’re Yeasayer and we’ve got some smooth jazz numbers to throw at you!”

The band performed various numbers backed by an all-white wind section. They changed the words to their first hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” to “It was the best of times / It was the worst of times / It was the combination best of times and worst of times.” They did an a capella cover of Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna.”

But perhaps the most memorable moment of the concert was when the band invited fans to throw Soy Joy candy bars (distributed as promotional freebie at the festival) onto the stage. Vazquez said, “Throw up a Soy Joy if you’ve ever been in love,” and hundreds of Soy Joys rained down on the stage.

NPR has audio of the concert if you’d like to listen.

7. Heems Retweets Racist Tweets Following Osama Bin Laden’s Death

Das Racist has always been, as they like to put it, a “complex” band, and part of that is their ongoing commentary on race. Whether lighthearted, serious, or lightheartedly serious, Das Racist’s racial commentary, both in words and actions, is a key aspect of their legacy as artists.

A good example of this is Heems’ retweeting of very racist tweets, anti-brown people tweets, as he might put it, following the U.S. killing of Osama Bin Laden. The virulently bigoted tweets speak loudly for themselves. Racism is very much alive in America.

8. Dapwell Gets Drunken Haircut On Chillin Island Web Series

Lovable hypeman Dapwell hasn’t gotten his due in this list. He was a consistently funny and endearing presence in the band, joking around in interviews, doing memorable things in videos, and, in the first episode of Chillin Island, the band’s web series featuring him, getting a haircut while hilariously drunk.

Fast-forward to 3:25 in the episode to see Dapwell’s haircut. But really, the whole thing’s enjoyable.

9. Heems And Kool A.D. Release Sweet Solo Albums, Which Was Foreshadowing As It Turns Out

Long before the breakup went down, Das Racist’s two MCs were already doing their own things. Heems and Kool A.D. both released several quality mixtapes this past year. For Heems, it was Nehru Jackets and Wild Water Kingdom. Kool A.D. dropped The Palm Wine Drinkard and 51.

There was plenty of solid material in these releases, and the distinctive creativity of each was on display. Gives hope that both rappers will flourish on their own.

Below, Heems and Kool A.D.’s latest solo single releases, both of which I dug a lot.

10. Das Racist’s “Michael Jackson” Generates Memorably Zany Debut TV Performance And Maybe Their Best Music Video

The lead single from Das Racist’s only “proper” album, Relax, is “Michael Jackson,” which features a repeated refrain of “Michael Jackson” and “a million dollars.”

Their debut performance on TV was an odd, almost unsettling rendition of the song, complete with a Michael Jackson impersonator.

The song demonstrates many of the things I love about the band. Inscrutably playful pop-cultural referencing, dope beat, clever verses, and the infectious interplay of Heems and Kool A.D.

The video is just as good: starts like a typical MTV video (band gets kidnapped while walking down street), switches surprisingly to the sounds of an orchestra tuning up as the band faces their captors (a bunch of white people at a banquet table), then transitions to a fairly brilliant send-up of Michael Jackson’s “Black and White” video, a segment with the band as cartoons watching themselves on TV, and more. And to close, the green screen and set is revealed, meta is established, and the credits roll with orchestral music playing in reverse. Arty, fun, funny, clever, and complex. Typical Das Racist. TC mark