Das Racist is back with Relax, their first official commercial album! Finally. Das Racist is a stellar Brooklyn-based, 1/3 Afro-Cuban, 2/3 Punjabi, hip-hop trio (formerly duo) consisting of Kool A.D., Heems, and Dapwell, whose real names are Victor Vazquez, Himanshu Suri and Ashok Kondabolu. It has been about a year since Das Racist released their first and second mix tapes Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man; both of which are still available online, free of charge. A single from Sit Down, Man, ‘hahahaha jk?’ (produced by Boi 1-da), was placed #48 on Rolling Stone’s “50 Best Songs of 2010”. In addition to Rolling Stone, the group has also generated critical acclaim from Pitchfork Media, Spin and countless others. Das Racist’s style is known to be composed of eccentric but sometimes enigmatic lyrics, occasionally sampled beats (à la Jay-Z, Billy Joel, The Doors…), and general comicality with absurd references- from Jeff Magnum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) to General Dyer (of Jallianwala Bagh massacre and British Indian Army of the early 1900s). Even though this is Das Racist’s first not-free album, it’s definitely worth a buy, especially if you want to take a break from this generation’s “for-the-radio” rap and hip-hop music (e.g. Lil Wayne, Pitbull, and B.O.B). On Relax, Das Racist continues to preserve their sense of humor and natural flow that we’re used to hearing in Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man.
It is apparent that Das Racist has become, to some extent, more noticeably socially conscious; comparing their ironic Soulja Boy-esque song that earned them internet fame –“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” (a ‘joke’ rap song about… you guessed it, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell)—with ‘Relax’, the first song off of their new album: ‘Relax’ deals with a few touchy subjects, with Heems briefly discussing the conflict and suffering in Kashmir. “What good is this Cashmere/If they’re still dying in Kashmir/there was just homes/now there’s just dust there/a rough year/stay in after dusk here” raps Himanshu. As the song starts to come to an end, Heems wraps it up with bars reminiscing of his teenage years continuing onto the present. “These days, I’m mostly focused on my bank account/I ain’t backin’ out until I own a bank to brag about”. When the song finally comes to a close, we are left with meaningless robotic laughter that fills up the remainder of the song’s duration.
Don’t expect Relax to be a full-time serious or melancholy album. You might even be let down if you’re expecting hard-core, serious rap. “Michael Jackson”- released as a single, is a good example of Das Racist’s more playful and less serious tracks, complete with what appears to be influence by renowned internet goofball, Lil B (“the Based God”). Also, despite the misleading title, this song is in no way a dedication or homage to the late King of Pop but does contain a couple of Jackson references. The hook is an element of the song that’s impossible to ignore—“Michael Jackson/one million dollars/you feel me? / Holler!” is repeated ad nauseam. Not in an obnoxious manner, but enough to make you forget about the rest of the song’s lyrics.
Das Racist channels their inner Kanye in “Power” (ft. Danny Brown and Despot), with a synth-y beat similar to the Kanye West song of the same name. Detroit shock rap artist, Danny Brown, makes a guest appearance and plugs in eleven bars full of puns and clever wordplay. “Another episode/you still writing pilots/I’m the big dog/yousa fire hydrant,” boasts Brown. Of course, there are many other great lines by the Despot and Danny Brown; but the lyrics are too explicit to make note of here!
My personal favorite track off the album, titled “Rainbow in the Dark,” epitomizes Das Racist’s trademark style—comical and ironic yet still holding some truth. Some memorable lines include references to a “rap bridge on a duet with T-Pain and Stephen Hawking”, poking fun at T-Pain’s infamous auto-tune rap style, comparing it to Stephen Hawking’s voice-box. Das Racist is a big fan of food, so it may not be surprising that they not only start with a White Castle reference, but they also shout out pizza, cave-aged gruyere and Big Macs. Kool A.D. raps: “I’m at the White Castle (I don’t see you here, dog!)/tiny hamburgers/tiny cheeseburgers/tiny chicken sandwiches/It’s outlandish, kid.” There’s probably no significance to this verse, and if there is… it sure is obscure.
Das Racist isn’t trying too hard to be the best of the best in the rap game. They don’t want to be taken seriously, a point they’ve been trying to emphasize since ‘hahahaha jk?’… “we’re not joking/just joking/we are joking/just joking/we’re not joking” . Das Racist wants everyone to do what the album title says- Relax.
Album Rating: 7.5/10