Das Racist – Relax

written by: September 27, 2011
Das Racist - Relax Release Date: September 13th, 2011


Are we all aware of the existence of “Xtranormal,” the website where users can create their own videos with slow-as-molasses cartoon characters and android-like computer voices? For those who are not: “Xtranormal” videos are hilarious because the comically monotonous delivery of whatever script is being performed unveils the inherent absurdities in what’s being said. (Duh.) It is delightful. It is unsettling, sometimes, what we become comfortable with because of good or stimulating delivery.

What Xtranormal does for text, Das Racist does for rap. Sort of.

The dance/rap trio (Heems, Kool A.D. and Dap) has become known for their humorous, infectious, self-aware and occasionally-deemed “nonsensical” lyrics. And based on the titles of their first two mix tapes—Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man—and now their first full-length album—Relax—it can be inferred that they may want listeners to stop overthinking their non sequitur style of storytelling.

But they don’t. While Heems himself has used terms like “dadaism” and “ non sequiturs” when describing their music, the lyrical choices they make go a hell of a lot further than nowhere. As notoriously polarizing as their music may be in terms of meaning vs. lack thereof, the discontent and disaffection within Das Racist is palpable. The silliness of their lyrics contain an intelligence and conscience within the comedy: it lays bare the absurdity in so much of the dance/rap/hip-hop music that becomes wildly popular. Adopted vocal personas and chants, like the pitbull tough aggression on “Michael Jackson” and “The Trick,” indirectly reveal the atrocious lyrics that we become comfortable chanting in a lot of commercially popular music; see, for example: “I’m fucking great at rapping!”

And they do more than function in stupidity alone even though the chants in “Michael Jackson” may seem completely nonsensical, the specific phrase choices seem to point directly at the hilarity and meaninglessness of celebrating ludicrous wealth to our Millennial Generation.

That said, the problem of Xtranormal must be acknowledged. While its deadpan, purely self-referential mode of being has a very specific and worthwhile function, it is not what we turn to as the kind of art that will satisfy us on a regular or prolonged basis. Similarly, the self-referential, unmoved attitude of Relax is important for a generation for whom there is such abundance of musical choices in which it is so simple to be mindless, it does beg for some substance to refer to at some point. At 14 tracks long, this blasé, meta-rap gets to be a bit relentless, despite the insanely great beats.

“The Trick” approaches some heart with its Lost Boy cry-out: “I’m ill/People really love me/I’m whack/People think I’m ugly/I’m ill/Five hundred for the boots/I’m whack/I never tell the truth/Four hundred for the boots.” But, again, its heart wouldn’t be present without an outside musical influence to criticize.

They’re functioning in this critical mode quite well. Das Racist makes amazing dance music with beats so infallibly badass, it makes the listener want to lower their chin, steady their gaze and mad-dog any motherfucker who dares to get in their way. Low, heavy tones abound, causing inevitable pursed-lipped, brow-furrowed head-nodding on nearly every song. The title track is particularly innovative in its disjointed, contagious sampling and auto-tuned cackling, which disintegrates into chaos by the song’s end.

But it also seems reasonable to ask what Das Racist cares about besides the shitty lyrics, beliefs or standards of everything that is outside of Das Racist. There is more to be said by these innovative, talented beasts besides “yuck.”

Das Racist – Relax tracklist:

  1. “Relax”
  2. “Michael Jackson”
  3. “Brand New Dance”
  4. “Middle of the Cake”
  5. “Girl”
  6. “Shut Up, Man”
  7. “Happy Rappy”
  8. “Booty in the Air”
  9. “Power”
  10. “Punjabi Song”
  11. “Selena”
  12. “Rainbow in the Dark”
  13. “The Trick”
  14. “Celebration”