“Interstitial material, skits and even songs that are obviously recorded as filler do not have to be seen as less valid art but can be seen as part of the tradition (often enough, “filler” and skits contain truly avant-garde and surreal moments).”
That’s Victor “Kool A.D.” Vazquez, writing nearly four years ago in a perfectly executed takedown of Sasha Frere-Jones’s article in the New Yorker where Frere-Jones used a Nas album and his years of being a dude who writes about music for a magazine for dads to declare that hip-hop was dead.
The rebuttal Vasquez wrote was important for two reasons. First, it killed any notion that Das Racist were the pre-LMFAO, empty-headed goons people insisted they were post-“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”; these were guys attacking the culture with their wild-eyed deconstruction of the form. And secondly, that section of the article up there might as well have served as the directive for Kool A.D.’s solo career.
His solo efforts—last year’s so-so Palm Wine Drinkard and the great 51, and now this two mixtape “outtakes” collection, 19 and 63–make a solid case for his position in the evolution from E-40 to Lil B on the continuum of Bay Area rap. Kool was “based” before Lil B—what was “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” but the best possible version of Based God’s “Ellen DeGeneres”?—and now he’s making mixtapes that have the highly visible loose ends of Lil B releases, crossed with the infostream, top of the head pop cultural references he’s prone to. This is as good as one take rap gets.
For being 38 tracks, and culled from a large batch of unused material, 19 and 63 are actually pretty cohesive. 19 is heavy on the cloud rap spectrum, with clanging and buzzing production from the likes of Young L, SKYWLKR, Steel Tipped Dove and Ad Rock (!), and Kool A.D. spends a lot of time manipulating his voice, calling himself Madonna (a la Lil B), and dropping a recurring “Bieber!” ad lib. 63, meanwhile, is more of a piece with 51, a tape heavy on posse cuts (the finest being “Finito Posse Jawn”) and dusty, jazzy production from frequent collaborator Amaze 88 and Heems producer Mike Finito, among others.
With the wealth of material on these two tapes, picking out moments to highlight is a fool’s errand that would lead to roughly seven more paragraphs of random quotations (“I was trying to be a novelist/but who the fuck reads books? Be honest”) (one more: “White people give me 20 dollars, Monopoly!”), recounting the hilarious ad-libs and trying to pick the best guest appearance (Lakutis crushes his two verses), so I’ll leave it at that. Just know that 19 and 63 are probably going to be pretty divisive; if you’re in the tank for Kool A.D. already, you’ll find a lot to love here. If not, this will surely cement every single criticism about Kool A.D. you can think of.
“Shouts to Das Racist and all the fools that paid money to see exactly how we laced it/ you helped me pay rent and eat food so I could say shit for a living”—“Lush”
It’s hard, given its recent timeline proximity, to not frame 19 and 63 through the lens of Das Racist’s too soon recent breakup. But then again, it’s hard to imagine where the group would have gone with the major label distribution deal they landed before breaking up. Given his solo material, it’s even harder to imagine what a reined in Kool A.D. project could even sound like; with his four most recent tapes, he’s gone deliriously off the deep end to endlessly entertaining results.
Would he be able to review Black Snake Moan in the middle of a verse? Would he still be able self-cannibalize from past verses? Would he be able to steal lines from Murphy Lee and Beck? Would he be able to have a chorus go “I’m Dave Thomas, square burgers” like on the hilariously titled “Beautiful Naked Psychedelic Gherkin Exploding Tomato Sauce All Over UR Face, Flame Grilled Painting”? He certainly wouldn’t be able to go off over “New God Flow” (“Exotische Kunst”) and end the song with an avalanche of ad-libs.
The freedom of this type of mixtape has allowed Kool A.D. to chase his increasing eccentric muse, and that, as much as Heems’ self-confessional bend on Wild Water Kingdom, is an argument for the positives of the Das Racist divorce. It’s hard to lament the demise of the group when tapes as beguiling and weird as 19 and 63 exist.