Tricked out with a video projection screen, an effects microphone and a plethora of guests, Das Racist had the look of legitimate rap outfit. Then the reggaeton airhorns effects ring out and it once again became unclear exactly who the joke was on.
Welcome to a Das Racist show.
The trio’s ability to cheekily flip the script and unveil the unexpected was on full display last night in a lightly attended but highly entertaining concert. Early on, the group memorably mashed both “Relax” and “Shut Up, Man” over 50’s “21 questions” beat . The latter in particular was a stark contrast to the booming El-P-produced album version.
In another example of their art-rap meets meme-machine Internet culture, DR had the audience chanting the names of past Batmans (from Keaton to Bale), an exercise lifted from the song “Berserker”.
The evening’s energy was at its highest levels when the group delved into their more raucous numbers. “Who’s That? Brooown!” went over particularly well as one could safely assume there were some Brown University students in the audience that took to the song with particular panache.
The beat for “Rooftops” banged loudly, assisted by a booming verse from opener Despot. And as one might expect, the Onyx-meets-oxycontin energy of “Michael Jackson” was a highlight.
The lone complaint here is that too often the group descends into “lyrical etceteras,” replacing their slick and complex rhymes with drunken garbles. They can deliver the rhymes but they’d rather ad lib, almost insulting you for caring more about their lyrics than they do. But such is the post-irony-meets-meta realm in which DR thrives – and in which they ultimately win you over.
The show concluded with the posse cut “Power” and an encore of the “Huzzah” remix, both featuring Despot and fellow opener Danny Brown. And it’s around then that it becomes abundantly clear, when Heems is singing “All my friends be rapping…Wake up like, ‘What happened,’” that Das Racist conclusively put the full stop on anyone questioning if they are serious about their craft.
The diminutive Despot impressively opened the night, bringing with him a braggadocios baritone and a rapid-fire cadence. He did his best to get the crowd involved, despite feeling “like shit” and noone in the audience knowing his material. A former Def Jux signee, (“I sunk the label by not putting out an album. It’s all my fault.”) Despot is working on a full-length produced largely by Ratatat and his complex internal rhyme schemes broadcast well over the heavy, booming beats.
Danny Brown took the stage second with his unique delivery and (#)style in full effect. His hypeman Dopehead worked the audience but it was clear from the onset only a few cats in the audience were familiar with the Hybrid oeuvre. Undeterred, Brown went in on XXX stand-outs “Die Like A Rock Star”, “Monopoly”, and “DNA”, to name just three. Brown excels by reveling in the uncomfortable extremes, (“My dick so big, left stretch marks on her jaw,” he brags on “Detroit 187”.) an experience made even more memorable by the intimate venue.