…that Wesleying must invariably comment on a Das Racist release; to fail to follow the suit of the NYT, the Wall Street Journal, and P4k, among others, would be sheer negligence on our part. They’ve even gotten another one of those sweet feats from GQ (have you ever really looked at soup dumplings…I mean really looked?!). The fact of the matter is that unless you live under a rock—and that rock happens to be located somewhere far, far away from Middletown or any area with a significant population of “indie” folkz—you’re probably well aware of Relax, the latest project of rap wonder duo Heems (Himanshu Suri ’07) and Kool AD (Victor Vazquez ’06) and hypeman Dapwell (Ashok Kondabolu). If you’re not, check this vid immediately.
Relax represents DR’s first attempt at a proper album; technically speaking, their first two releases were mixtapes—ostensibly, more desultory in composition and less organized than traditional records (so goes the traditional distinction; whether that holds any water is up for debate). Given the group’s predilection for associative wordplay, self-referential commentary, and cultural allusion, the flexibility of a mixtape structure worked aptly enough as a format for their endeavors. That Relax diverges from that less formal MO will draw some attention. DR, some hazard, has changed, and not necessarily for the better; that-bastion-of-reviewing-that-must-not-be-named (dayyum, I already fucked this up, and I’ma keep going) was hardly kind in its charges that Heems and Kool AD have fallen succumbed to a kind of jaded indifference toward the process of music-making itself—one that has propelled them in a direction that is slightly confrontational, even hostile towards their listenership.
At this juncture, I’m going to hop off the Pitchfork Express. To an extent, that critical camp (if you’d like to call it that) operates on the same basic assumption that DR does: that it’s safer to appear effulgently jaded (does that make any sense? not really…) than to honestly engage your subject matter. But the admixture of hipster tomfoolery, cultural satire, and genuinely acerbic observation in Das Racist’s music is what has made it so appealing (that and the fact that they’re undeniably gifted rappers). Their relationship to indie pop culture, and more specifically, its epitomization in the persona of the White Demon hipster, has always been enjoyably tenuous and rocky. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with an attack on the genuineness of their relationship to their art or their listeners; I don’t think that’s ever been the point.
It’s that vague quality of indictment that makes their music so enjoyable; for an even more patent example, see: every mention of white people in anything OFWGKTA has ever produced. Das Racist is in the unique position of being able to comment on very real issues by means that are superficially insincere, oblique, and invariably humorous, and we shouldn’t begrudge them for it. Their shit is legitimately fresh. To boot, the album features spots by El-P, Danny Brown, and (here’s the kicker, IMHO) fucking Despot. There’s something in that which feels quite close to old Def Jux magic—backpack collaboration that doesn’t feel so ashamed of itself (if you’re stoked, check this Mishka jawn from Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire).
Maybe, as the NYT suggests, DR has gotten more “legit”, and perhaps that doesn’t sit well with everyone. The album was bound to inspire polarizing opinions. You should listen to it. And if you do, rest assured that when you’re hungover in the shower tomorrow morning, it’s Heems and Kool AD who will be whispering sweet—or, maybe not so sweet—nothings in your ears.