Towards the end of Das Racist’s uneven but transcendent set in Chicago on Thursday, they were joined on stage by openers Danny Brown, Despot and BBU to perform their recent remix of Mr. Mothafuckin’ Exquire’s woozy anthem “Huzzah.” Also joining them onstage was Chicago rap legend, Sharkula. It was three minutes of gleeful anarchy, during which BBU’s Illekt crowdsurfed, Kool A.D. chugged Strongbow and showed off an impressive array of increasingly crazy facial expressions, Despot performed an extended faux-masturbation session with his microphone and Danny Brown just sort of stormed around.
The sold-out crowd was buying every second of it, and I couldn’t help but think “Holy shit, hip hop is fun again.”
“It’s too easy. Even if I told you about it, you probably wouldn’t even believe me.”
Kool A.D.’s tossed off hook on “Power” was quoted by Ian Cohen of Pitchfork in his recent review of Das Racist’s debut studio album Relax as evidence of their indifference to their own talent, “as if they got to this point just to see if they could do it.” While the group certainly conveys this attitude through their deadpan lyrics and even-more-deadpan interviews, it’s precisely this subversion of hip hop’s self-aggrandizement that makes them great.
Make no mistake, Das Racist is hilarious (they repeatedly teased the crowd by announcing their next song would be their indie hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” only to play one of their other tracks, clearly relishing the disappointment), but to call them indifferent is to miss the point entirely.
After the show, Mary and I wandered into their green room, where the artists and an assortment of their friends from Chicago and New York had gathered. Dapwell (nearly as ebullient offstage as he is on) bummed a cigarette from me and proceeded to gush about their publicity company Biz3, which is based in Chicago. “They’re great, they’ve been good to us. I mean, we try to do a good job wherever we are but when we’re in Chicago, we try extra hard.” Behind me, I could hear Illekt raving about how excited he was that BBU is touring with this group after having released only one mixtape. A few minutes later, Kool A.D. freestyled a line (something about Canada Dry) that sent the group into a fit of laughter. If there’s one thing I gathered from hanging around these guys outside the context of a traditional interview, it’s that they really just enjoy writing, performing and hanging out with their collaborators.
Bitch I wanna party like Chris Farley
Shot of Hennessy spike that with some molly
Tell mommy I’m sorry god bless my soul
But life is so sublime going out like Brad Nowell
I got that Kurt Cobain type of mind-frame
Feeling like Keith Moon shrooms in my dressing room
Feeling like Jimi Hendrix and Anna-Nicole mouth
River Phoenix ’93 VIP
With some drugged up porn hoes all around me
Like Teri Diver
Linda Wong all inhale having orgies
Where the horns grow along
Cause bitch I’m Frankie Lymon
Heath Ledger hyped in a jacuzzi doing that John Belushi
With Brittany Murphy we blowing hershey
I’mma die like a rockstar
-Danny Brown, “Die Like a Rockstar” XXX
The school of hip hop being pioneered by acts like Das Racist, Danny Brown, Mr. Mothafuckin’ Exquire and Action Bronson isn’t indifferent, nor is it artistically bereft. These artists not only eschew the well-worn narratives of mainstream rap but also the often inflated self-importance of “conscious hip hop,” defiantly resisting categorization as well as the urge to take themselves too seriously.
It’s fun as hell, but also much more than simply “joke-rap,” often containing subtly brilliant commentary on race, pop-culture and urban life. Not that they’d admit to it, of course.