Das Racist Drops “Sit Down, Man!”
Generally speaking, we all consider our specific circle of friends to be the flyest, smartest, freshest, most earth-shatteringly talented-est in the game #realtalk #youhearditherefirst type shit. Unless you fancy yourself a loner, we all assume the “hypeman” role for our nearest and dearest. So here I am, delighted to share Das Racist’s mixtape “Sit Down, Man” — the highly anticipated follow up to their debut “Shut Up, Dude”. While I could sit here (ha!) and type the list of contributing producers and artists featured on the tape, you could also click HERE and read what someone else already wrote (doing my part to minimize blogosphere redundancy). Whether or not you are partial to the likes of Diplo and Boi-1da, you should expect a healthy dose of razor sharp wit and clever lyricism.
Like any listening experience, there are countless permutations of interpretation and various levels of engagement to be had. On the one hand, you might revere the tape as an exercise in post-modern rap (or whatever the blawgs are diagnosing their sound as) or you might find it altogether unintelligible but nevertheless entertaining. In truth, one has to be quite fluent in a host of pop culture and social theory references to fully enjoy the constellations of meaning and humor laced in their lyrics. Perhaps, they can attribute the success of joints like “Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell” to the ubiquity of fast food (as shared cultural reference); allowing listeners to feel inside the “joke” (I put that in quotes because I’m speaking more to audience perception than artist intent). Speaking of inside jokes, one of the stand out tracks from “Sit Down, Man” is by far “hahahaha jk?” produced by Boi-1da. Pay close attention. It brilliantly opens with “Like sands through the hour glass; so our the days of our lives” juxtaposed against the contrived sounds of chains jingling as heems meta-monologues “Are we supposed to talk shit at this part…about how like…the world didn’t see it coming?“. Within the first 10 seconds of the track, Das Racist establishes their uncanny ability to call attention to the cliche elements of rap we love to hate: excessive bravado and narcissism, quantified “realness,” compulsive references to money (and letting it stack) and nicknames beginning with “lil” or “young”. I find the strength of this mixtape precisely in the subtlety of their satire. Overall, this track nicely captures Das Racist’s disposition for playful irony: “we’re bringing back all that smart shit that’s actually stupid“.
Unlike self-proclaimed “conscious” rappers, Das Racist holds no illusions about their internal contradictions. While they shamelessly rhyme about Bono’s pathetic philanthropic gestures (hey, someone has to say it) and put gentrifying yuppies on blast in their videos, they do not profess to be revolutionaries on some noble quest for social change. That’s not to say that they’re hostile towards revolutionary activity either. In fact, they embrace their paradoxes as stories to be told rather than hidden. On “Sit Down, Man” heems perfectly animates this point:
I’m from Cop Killer
Never killed a cop tho’
More the type to burn a spliff and eat a bag of nachos
More the type to read a novel maybe by Navajos
On a sunny day, I’m on the block in a poncho.
And so while both of these dudes could speak at great length about global capitalism and cultural appropriation, they’re certainly not interested in playing politician. To be sure, heems and Kool AD do not shy away from “provocative” raps (let’s face it — anything more thunderous than euphemism is considered “controversial”). With lines like “white people play this for your black friends / black people, smack them” and “who you foolin’, b? white people’s skin is their jewelry” and my personal favorite “we not racist / we love white people / ford trucks, apple pies, bald eagles”. — they manage to effectively smuggle critical analysis into their humor. In the same vein as the Godfathers of hip hop satire ego trip, their clownage extends far beyond the constrictive black/white dichotomy. With bangers like “puerto rican cousins” and “all tan everything,” Das Racist covers diverse ground in their lyrical lampooning. At times, they are almost paralyzingly self-aware of their social location (and dislocation) by white and brown folks alike.
Of course, any rapper of color (no matter how parodical they are) who has “racist” in their name should expect to be scrutinized, projected onto, fetishized and/or misunderstood. It sounds harsh but it’s just the facts, jack. Already categorized as “joke rap,” certain listeners find their comedic approach more suspicious than sincere. It’s frustrating enough that hip hop continues to asphyxiate itself with the futile search for “authenticity” as the on-going “REAL” vs. “FAKE” debate rages on. Personally, I choose not to engage this constructed scarcity narrative — as if there’s no room for two dudes whose laid back contributions to rap prove to threaten some purist definition of “hip hop” that inhibits rather than transforms. Somehow an MC like Eminem accrues more props for “legitimacy” than two rappers of color who fail to occupy a stereotypic role that might lend itself more forgivingly to “street cred”. While there are important conversations to be had about the co-optation of a “Das Racist” by adoring white fans who might mistake their accessible humor for watered down critical race theory; it’s worth acknowledging the complex web of dynamics that contribute to an artist’s demographic appeal. Politicized hip hop has been criticized since it’s inception for pulling predominantly white audiences — and yet I’ve never been clear on the proposed solutions. Should we not speak from our respective socio-political positions? Should we tailor our music to the audiences that would better authenticate us? It seems like Das Racist accepts their unavoidably white hipster audience “problem” and openly exploits it …in a funny way that minimizes trauma. The alternatives mandate an irresponsible, largely symbolic disavowal of privilege. We have to come to terms with the fact that the art/music/culture these artists create and circulate often reflects the dysfunction and hot mess within which we’re all implicated. It’s easy to either fetishize/deify or hate on/condescend artists without simultaneously acknowledging our responsibility as listeners to talk and contribute back. Das Racist is neither saving hip hop nor killing it — it’s challenging the very conception of “hip hop” as a helpless victim to be rescued or abandoned. Like all things, Das Racist may not be your cup of tea but don’t throw away the bag before you let it steep. That’s my corny way of asking you to give it a try before reaching your own informed verdict. At which point, I would love to dialogue with folks about DR and the myriad of questions their music provokes. Phew, I just went in…it wasn’t my intent to write a lightweight defense of their contribution to the musical landscape but alas…no looking back now! Download the tape and break us off with your initial reaction. Shout out to heems and KOOL AD all day, ‘ppreciatcha.
DOWNLOAD “SIT DOWN, MAN” HERE