Monday, December 6, 2010
Das Racist - Shut Up, Dude
01. Whos That Brooown
02. You Oughta Know
03. Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell
04. Rainbow in the Dark
05. Fake Patios
07. Shorty Said Gordon Voidwell Remix
08. Chicken and Meat
09. I Dont Owe Nobody Shit
10. Ek Shaneesh
11. Hugo Chavez
12. I Dont Want to Deal with Those Monsters
13. Don Dada
14. One Dollar Can
15. Coochie Dip City
16. Deep Ass Shit Youll Get It When Youre High
17. Shut Up Dude
When you first heard "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell", did you wonder what a full-length Das Racist album would sound like? Did you even think they were capable of an album at all? Maybe you expected a whole mixtape filled with bewildered yelling about name brands on some postmodern Fatboy Slim shit, or one of those hipster-rap records filled with a bunch of half-serious post-crunk/booty bass homages. But if you were a bit more curious, maybe you went to their MySpace page and heard the elaborate reference-fest "Rainbow in the Dark" and a deconstruction of co-opted dancehall dialect called "Fake Patois" and caught on to something deeper. Maybe you started wondering if they were a bit less trivial than you suspected.
As it turns out, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" has as much to do with the whole of Shut Up, Dude as the Beastie Boys' "Cooky Puss" does to the referential overload of Paul's Boutique. Das Racist's Brooklyn-buzz affiliations and humorous bent might mislead you into thinking it's an exercise in cheap laffs for people who don't take rap seriously, but this album feels a lot more like the irreverent hip-hop fanboy mania of ego trip magazine than smarmy genre tourism.
Himanshu Kumar Suri aka "Heems" and Victor Vazquez have something elaborate going on, toying with and subverting the rules of hip-hop lyricism even as they pay them respect. "Who's That? Brooown!" uses A Tribe Called Quest's well-worn "Scenario" as a reference point, but Heems mutters his callbacks to Busta Rhymes' verse in a sleepily cocky voice that sounds like the exact opposite of Busta's off-the-charts energy. The repetition and recursiveness that made "Combination" so polarizing crop up in odd places; one otherwise-complex line in "Ek Shaneesh" simply ends "drinkin' beer, drinkin' beer/ prolly drinkin' some more beer" before teasing an obvious Tears for Fears-referencing internal rhyme that never actually comes. Familiar hit-sourced hooks are self-sabotaged with trailed-off mumbling (the Juelz Santana-sourced, Billy Joel-jacking "You Oughta Know"), the spiritual presence of Bob Marley is called into the not-so-lofty service of soundtracking their tribute to dollar cans of iced tea, and they actually named one of their tracks "Deep Ass Shit (You'll Get It When You're High)" as a rib-jabbing mission statement. (No points in guessing which prolific Oxnard-based underground producer gets his beat used for that one.)
If they were just fucking around, those gags would wear off and leave you with nothing but a series of smug hey-get-it? nudges. But Heems and Victor are serious enough about coming up with memorable lines that they come across like some kind of lyrical stealth operatives. The fact that they often go from water-treading repetition to intricately built phraseology mid-verse is a great riff in itself. One of the shortest and simplest lines on the album is one of the cleverest-- "W.E.B. DuBois/ We be da boys," from "Hugo Chavez"-- but there are also moments where you're left wondering how they could make so many unexpected linguistic connections look so easy. Their go-hard rampage on "Nutmeg" is 1990s-reared, cipher-honed style gone berserk, turning a funhouse mirror on Ghostface's finest moment of abstract pyrotechnics, as it starts with the unlikely couplet "Queens Boulevard/ Kierkegaard" and gets even more dizzyingly ridiculous from there.
Granted, there's a certain information-overload college-student bent to their humor, evident in cross-genre namedrops like "Richard Hell Rell" or the mentions of Tao Lin and "and Dinesh DiSouza. But Das Racist push past mere signifying to come across as straight-up literates with a way of making cultural studies out of entertainment and vice-versa. Several lyrics take offhand references to Bollywood stars and Cuban sandwiches and extrapolate stream-of-consciousness ethnographies out of them, while "Shorty Said (Gordon Voidwell Remix)" draws out punchlines and commentary about identification by listing all the racially divergent celebrities that women supposedly claim Victor and Heems resemble (Egyptian Lover; Amitabh Bachchan; Slash without his hat). Das Racist approach this idea of otherness in a way that feels both playful and provocative, asserting their identities in a way that both reinforces their individuality and goofs on their stereotypes. And if it hits a certain nerve, it's probably the same one that got tweaked by the sociological b-boy stoner comedy precedent of "Chappelle's Show". Fast-food hipster-rap, my ass-- these dudes are the truth...www.pitchfork.com