Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Greedhead Music
And to think it all started with "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." The hip-hop jokers in Das Racist have grown into acerbic satire hustlers - they sound like Cheech and Chong, if those guys were into rhymes like, "No trustem whitefaceman like Geronimo/Tried to go to Amsterdam, they threw us in Guantánamo." The trio's first official (i.e., for profit) LP has one-liners over beats from Diplo and El-P. Their political humor is, as they say, "dark like the rainbow in a Ronnie James Dio joint." But they also love dumb wordplay ("Don King playing Donkey Kong"), video games and girls whose hair smells like Newports. Related:• SXSW Interview: Das Racist .
The biggest talk coming out of Das Racist’s impressive 2010—two mixtapes (Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man) and spots on many end of the year lists-- was whether or not a label would take a wild gamble on their inventive, humorous, thought-provoking, and damn-near perfect version of rap music, and how long Das Racist would have to sit on that label’s shelf when they turned in a LP. The mind still spins at what Das Racist would sound like with notes from Jimmy Iovine, but for the sake of all of us, Das Racist went the indie route: they’re self-releasing their first official LP Relax via Heems’ own Greedhead label. It’s a testament to Das Racist’s wild tenacity that Relax is able to distill their frenetic mixtape masterpieces into a 14-track LP.
Relax covers a lot. Bhangra (“Punjabi Song”) and The-Dream-like Prince homages (“Celebration”) beef up a heady run-time replete with subtle digs at everyone from clucking simpleton Lil B (“Call me Tahj Mowry / Call me Tia Mowry / Call me Tamara Mowry”) to icon Nas (via the Cool Kids, maybe: “Do the wop, baseball bat / All that”). Das Racist are made for parentheses and hyphens—fucking born for a twofer like El-P-helmed “Shut Up, Man” and Diplo’d “Happy Rappy,” where they slouch through their self-proclaimed “deconstructionalist” hip-hop and find some transcendently bare bars at hand.
Das Racist's "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," an unlikely but undeniable out-of-nowhere breakthrough hit/joke/meme, turned heads across the Internet and beyond in 2009. The following year a pair of improbably solid, skilled, but still impishly playful free-download mixtapes established their no-joke chops, and now the smarty-pants Brooklyn rappers deliver their first legit, purchasable album with goodwill (and talent, and charisma) to burn. And they have little to prove except their ability to keep a very good, emphatically original thing going.
Review Summary: Relax is great, duh. More importantly, Relax brings new meaning to Das Racist's identity.They're not joking. Everything about Das Racist's debut album intimates their desire to be taken seriously, not as a joke rap group for white kids to laugh at. That couch featured on their mixtape covers? It's burning behind them on the album cover.
It initially seems strange that, after coming so far from the joke-rapper appellation foisted on them after 2008’s “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bello” was perceived by many as a novelty song, Das Racist would release a proper debut more silly and inane than most of their mixtape material. Less dense and abundant than those two fonts of shambolic brilliance, Relax has more hooks, bigger beats, and more overtly delivered jokes, which at first seems to indicate an inability to port their sound to a bigger platform. Witness lead single “Michael Jackson,” a skittering banger that hinges on a deceptively simple hook: “Michael Jackson/A million dollars/You feel me?/Holler.
Das Racist always come off as being at least two steps ahead of whomever they're addressing on or off record, which goes a long way toward explaining what made their 2010 mixtapes, Sit Down, Man and Shut Up, Dude, so inexhaustibly fresh and frankly pretty fucking intimidating to encounter as a critic. A style so reliant on self-reference and continuity doesn't appear to leave much to coincidence, so I'm wondering what to make of my suspicions regarding a line that appeared on both of their completely free mixtapes, but not their first commercially available release: "You should probably buy it. " This isn't wholly unexpected-- Heems, Kool AD, and Dapwell can appear unimpressed to a fault, and Relax draws from a rich tradition of antisocial reactions to newfound fame: at times, it's a sour demystification that seeks to define its own backlash à la De La Soul Is Dead, at others a simplified CliffsNotes for people still playing catch up, and a lot of times it simply wants to be Bazooka Tooth.
Das Racist's Heems (Himanshu Suri) and Kool A.D. (Victor Vazquez) were never not good at rapping. Sure, 2010 mixtapes Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man were cast in a pungent pot haze, but that's what made their incisive, absurdist observations better than try-hard joke rap like the Lonely Island's. This studio debut, however, doesn't sound like it was recorded during the kind of heinously hedonistic week when you subsist entirely on HBO's Cathouse programming and rations from Rabba.
The myriad of ways to describe Das Racist and the mile-a-minute pop culture references, bizarre banger beats, and dizzying, clever rhymes on the rap trio’s new record, Relax, is overwhelming for even the most seasoned music writer. Its scope of content is broad, fast, and furious. Its subtext, context, content, and artist intent are all really slippery, for one, and it gets more so when you consider cultural, ethnic and racial cues.
Oh, Das Racist. How excitedly I anticipated the release of Relax, and how I looked forward to giving it a rave review. I’d replayed infinitely your outstanding mixtapes Shut Up Dude and Sit Down Man, and I’d already mentally composed half of this review based solely on that amazing work from last year. It seems a shame to discard those sentiments, so here’s the gist of what I wanted to say about the polished, album-length version of those mixtape sketches.
In 2008, the unknown Das Racist suddenly burst onto the hip-hop scene (as well as the blogosphere) in a big way with what became an Internet meme: the addictive “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”. The tune was a hit of sorts in cyberspace largely because, as with anything that goes viral, it seemed like a joke, the kind of thing you would forward onto friends who appreciated LOLcats humour. For those who missed it, the conceit of the track was that you had a bunch of Indian-American rappers (which, unfortunate as this may seem, seemed like a gag in and of itself) talking on their cell phones to each other while they were high on weed in a Queens fast food franchise and had no clue where the other party was, even though they were in the same restaurant.
Part of the sizzle that made Das Racist last year’s favorite new hip-hop act was their undeniable ability at being true wordsmiths. Sure, there was heaps and heaps of frenetic vigor on their two respective ’10 mixtapes, Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man, but beneath the attraction of two playful MCs and a production line that scattered from electronic to grimy dubstep to b-boy delectable chants galore, Das Racist prevailed on their magnificent skill as emcees. Never the kind to slack quality for quantity, the Brooklyn-based group filled every single corner with prolific gems that enabled their mixtapes the longevity and more over, substance, to become critical darlings.