Photo by Maxine Builder
The crowd at Das Racist’s sold-out show on Wednesday, September 28 at the Middle East Downstairs was varied. There were some hip-hop heads, some hipsters and many hangers-on who came to see what the hype was all about. And since Das Racist – a New York hip-hop trio made up of Heems, Victor and hype man Dap – released their first studio album “Relax” at the beginning of the month, they have been getting a lot of attention.
The band’s hour-long set proved that they are well aware of this newfound scrutiny. For instance, whenever an audience member tried to take a photograph, Victor would stop rapping and make a face at them. In fact, the performance as a whole seemed to be part of a long running inside joke among the guys on the stage, and the audience either needed to go along with it or needed to just get out. For instance, they called their music “classic rock” and before starting a new track, Heems would tell the audience, “We’re going to be playing more of those, you know, classic rock songs.”
This nonchalant attitude was also reflected in their choice of songs. Most of the material they performed was from their new album, which was not entirely surprising given the recent release of “Relax.” It was surprising, however, to see how far Das Racist tried to distance itself from their two EPs. The only reference to their hit song “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” came in passing as a line in one of Heems’s verses during their encore: “I’m at the Taco Bell. I’m at the Pizza Hut. The combination made my eyes bleed.”
This isn’t to say that the show wasn’t entertaining or that the performers weren’t engaging. The show began with Heems and Victor strolling onstage and shaking hands with audience members in the front few rows. Within twenty minutes, Victor jumped off of the stage into the crowd. Dap was moving around and dancing during the entire set, clearing sweating buckets in a navy blue jumpsuit. Another highlight was when Victor and Heems busted out a very, very rudimentary a cappella version (to the point of sounding like a drinking song) of the Smashing Pumpkin’s “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” which had the audience howling, “The world is a vampire.” This was only the start of the eclectic list of references, which ended up including an animation of Donald Rumsfeld riding a mythical horse and a five-minute long conversation about whether featuring an Indian actor on the TV show “Mad Men” would be a historical inaccuracy or not.
Even with all of the onstage hijinks, it was clear that Das Racist was playing to those in the crowd that were already fans. It almost felt like the group was testing the limits of what the audience would accept before either leaving or mutinying. Their irreverence is what either draws you in or repels you entirely. But one thing is certain: the music is good. Heems and Victor are solid rappers with some real talent. The beats are catchy, and these guys are very smart. If you see Das Racist live, be prepared to feel like they’re laughing at you. Once you understand that, you can start to laugh with them instead…maybe.
Das Racist will be on the Relax Tour until mid-November, traveling with Danny Brown and Despot. For more information, visit their website.