Matson on Music
Das Racist will rap on your chillwave
Posted by Andrew Matson
Das Racist's Victor Vazquez with Mayor McGinn, still image from YouTube
"All Tan Everything" by Das Racist
"Fashion Party" by Das Racist
"Return to Innocence" by Das Racist
New York City rap group Das Racist's "Sit Down, Man" is a crucial album of 2010, an inverse "sophomore slump" that thoroughly entertains while telling us where we are and where we're going.
On one level, it's top-shelf comedy, SNL/Andy Samberg's joking/able parodies done one better, Flight of the Conchords' "song as genre" bits met for deadpan silliness.
On another level, it's for-the-art-of-it, skills-centric hiphop.
On another level, "Sit Down, Man" is music in 2010: freely downloadable, and calling itself a mixtape when it's all original content (there is no mix) and all mp3s (there is no tape).
On yet another level, it's brown people using music and comedy to talk about race in America.
"All Tan Everything" (produced by part-time Beacon Hill resident Sabzi, a past collaborator) and "Puerto Rican Cousins" are big hits in a perfect world, each easily allowing a given American to laugh at his/her own racism along with rappers Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez, "along with" being key. Suri and Vazquez are expert at that, or maybe just guys with open hearts.
"Return to Innocence" has behind it the unstoppable weight of a good idea that was right there to do — rip off the tribal yodeling from the embarro/awesome '90s hit of the same name by Enigma, and turn it into a joyous rap jam.
It's the most "chillwave" gesture on a release full of them, chillwave being the nostalgic, computer/synth beats-type music coming out of America's dorms nowadays. Chillwave is frequently rap-able, but seldom rapped on, and it's great to hear such able MCs put down the flag for chill-rap. In Das Racist's "Return to Innocence," producer Dash Speaks chops up the famous vocal sample and hammers it to hypnotic effect, pummeling a '90s many remember well but are only now beginning to laugh at, and still many more are just discovering. With its cheesecloth synths and trance-rap breakbeat, the original was a worldwide hit that registered across socioeconomic divides, and that shared history brings an absurd but valid profundity to the otherwise idiotic wordless singalong toward the end of Das Racist's version:
"On some level, we are all the same," the track says, explaining its points while also making fun of frat guys. "For example, we all remember this dumb song, right?"
There are many more levels happening simultaneously on "Sit Down, Man" and yet no cacophony, owing to a strong overarching personality.
Not to dip into wide-scale generalizing about humans, but Suri and Vazquez speak for a nation within a nation, the swath of America that's in their 20s right now and about to seize political power in the next 20 or so years called the Millennials. Of this, Suri and Vasquez rep for the urban contingent, which listens to rock, but when push comes to party heavily gravitates to hiphop or dance music. From inside that group, their individual identities as people of color in so-called postracial America come through in their raps — self-styled nerd-cool, with a touch of sneer.
And how about those raps, huh? So many dense, mentally invigorating rewindables. Each seems hotly transcribed after deep philosophizing, substance inebriation, intense laughter or some other gestalt-enabler. Always, there is a sense that some traditional stage of editing has been forgone, and that this is a delightful error.
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