Monday, July 12, 2010

Das Racist: Shut Up, Dude Mixtape Review

You all know them through their misunderstood social commentary
Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell quirky hip-hop trio Das Racist is made up of hyper-literate rappers Himanshu Suri and Victor Vasquez, and occasional hype-man Ashok Kondabolu a.k.a. "Dap."  Cursed and blessed with an instantaneous spotlight after "Combination" officially crossed over into meme-dom, Das Racist has been busy proving their act's legitimacy to the world.  Finally, with their official mixtape "Shut Up, Dude" 's release we can be the judges of that:

But B4 we get to the actual songs here's something to mull over:

Das describes their method as "deconstructionalist," "sawing the legs out from under hip-hop as they celebrate it" (I don't know how to use footnotes on blogger, this quote if from a New York Magazine article by Josh Eells, Josh, please don't sue me), complete with repetitive lyrics and what would be considered lazy poetic composition if it weren't for the knowledge that they are apparently doing it on purpose.  There are three things that come to mind with the term "deconstrucionalist":

1. It's not a word (the real word is deconstructionist)
If deconstructionist is the implied term then I consider the two primary definitions
2. The architectural sense of dismantlement, demolishing, etc. as everyone has taken Das's statement to mean (exemplified above) or
3. The literary theory (Thank you 11th grade Great Books)


Deconstruction is essentially the cop-out of literary theories.  When after a long school-night of looking for feminism, Marxism, modernism, and Freudian complexes in some book you never read in the first place, the best way to relax is to say "Screw it all! I'm going with Deconstructionism!"  It is the anti-theory that says that a work is inherently self-contradictory and that any attempt to formulate a uniform theory about the work will be undermined by clashing details.  Awesome right? This sounds a lot like Das Racist to me.

So here's my theory: Maybe I'm just justifying a really stupid misuse of the word by Victor and Himanshu, but I give them more credit than that.  I think they must also take into account the literary theory's definition when describing their work.  Das doesn't have a "style," purpose or intent and any attempt to issue them a moniker will go up in smoke.  As you will see, Das's songs are too intrinsically weird.  And the fact that they say "deconstructionalist" instead of deconstructionist is really funny because it is essentially proving the deconstructionist theory: their attempt at using an intellectual term undermined by their incorrect knowledge of it.  Genius! You better have meant this to be the case, guys!!

Ok so obviously Das Racist are way smarter than "Combination" attests to.  The problem is; that isn't always a good thing.  The proof is their comedic rap "Fake Patois," which is simply four minutes and seven seconds of them making fun of artists with simulated accents.  Now this idea by itself is great, but in execution (or lack there of) it falls flat.  Victor simply raps "(insert name) had a fake patois" while Himanshu adds "O-ridgey-nal rude boiiiiii" 's to the mess.  It's a funny idea that would have been better executed by the likes of Andy Samberg, someone with perseverance, willing to see an idea through to the end (Ras Trent kicks this songs a**), and a heart to appeal to his fans.  Das Racist are smart and talented, but it seems they have no goal to please people.  They're making music for themselves and that's why the songs are so alienating.  But I've bagged on them long enough and only talked about one song.  Das Racist does have a few gems on the album.

"Rainbow in the Dark" is their masterpiece, laden with pop culture references, featuring the sickest beat on the album.  It'll make your head hurt trying to lock down exactly what they're saying.  Some of most strictly lyrical rhymes are on here as well:  "In the periphery/of little Sicily" "tiny-ass chicken sandwiches/it's outlandish kid."  And some of the smartest: "We could eat the flyest cave-aged cheese fa' sheez ma/ yeah we're getting gruyére/ as if we care/ we could eat Roquefort/ or we could just kick it like Rockports."

"Shorty Said" is another great one, with an actual perspective and slight narrative as Victor and Himanshu mock their experience with racial profiling.  Here's Himanshu's part: "Shorty said I look like Slash with no hat on... shorty said I look like Devendra Banhart/ shorty said I look like that dude from Japan's art/ you know the dude who did the Kanye album cover?/ shorty said I look just like Egyptian Lover."  

As you can see, Das are at their best when they have a format, narrative, or message. The fact that I consider "Rainbow" and "Shorty Said" to have a format/narrative should tell you something about the other songs on the album.  Yes "Combination" is fun for a little while, but you won't want to listen to it more than a couple times. Most of the songs on "Shut Up, Dude" are in the "Combination" camp: half-assed rhymes with no poetic composition, repeating stale lines sometimes up to seven times.  It's sad because with their level of talent they could really create some everlasting hip-hop.  Unfortunately, "Shut Up, Dude" ends up with four amazing tracks and 13 "Fake Patois"s.

Cop these:  "Rainbow in the Dark," "You Oughta Know," "Shorty Said," "Deep Ass Shit (You'll Get It When You're High)."  The rest are all bulls***.

P.S. for a VERY different take, check out the Pitchfork "review" here: Shut Up, Dude