Originally appears in Issue 4
Hyperbolic statements concerning the death of Hip-Hop come around every once in a while. Many fans bemoan the demise of any kind of postive thinking in the genre and those who consider themselves ‘right-minded rappers’ get overly concerned about who is and who isn’t a “real MC”. But don’t fret. Hip-Hop is still alive and well, and these complaints only belies the guilt of the genre to take itself a little too seriously sometimes. This is something Brooklyn-based absurdist rappers Das Racist can hardly be accused of. Consisting of MCs Victor Vasquez and Himanshu Suri (Hima), the group is completed by Ashok Kondabolu (Dap), who they describe as their “hype man and spiritual advisor”.
So “Das Racist” is it? Question number one had to be where the name came from? “We got it from an online Wu-Tang name generator,” says Vasquez. “My grandmother came up with it. She’s a huge (Rap duo) Das EFX fan,” contradicts Hima. Both of these might be partially true, but based on their penchant for nonsense, we best take their explanations with a grain of salt.
Das Racist gained attention last year when their track ‘Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell’ went viral, despite consisting almost entirely of the lyrics “I’m at the Pizza Hut/ I’m at the Taco Bell/ I’m at the Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”. Called by New York’s Death and Taxes magazine “both feverishly juvenile and somehow profound” at the time, the song was quite divisive, irritating plenty of people, and found the group collecting labels like “dumb” and “joke-rap”.“I hope the 16 other songs on the mixtape aid people in their perception of us,” says Hima.
The mixtape in question, Shut Up, Dude, is their first and was released in March for free on their website. The tape displays an amalgamation of different styles, leaning heavily on various iterations of Electronica, Dub, Reggae, Dubstep, Jazz and Soul sampling, and Bhangra. Of the lyrical content Hima summarises, “We use humour and poetic devices like repetition to talk about mundane things like food and things that upset or freak us out.” Their stream of consciousness flow hops from one unrelated topic to the next, and it may seem that there’s no point to the absurdity of certain tracks, until you realise that is the point. “I majored in Non-sequiturs and (anti-art movement) Dadaism in college” explains Vasquez. The range of lyrical topics and musical styles is also no surprise given their disparate inspirations – everyone from MF Doom to Sun Ra to the painter Basquiat and novelist Salman Rushdie. Though Hima concedes his real inspiration, “I decided to make music and rap so people would think I was really cool and like me.”
So what’s next for Das Racist? “We’re talking with a couple different labels. We’re still trying to figure out a tour. We’re learning how to build explosives with household items,” claims Vasquez. Fair enough, anything to add Hima? “This interview is a pipe bomb.” What an absurd thing to say. -- Stephen Rogers