You Oughta Know
Following a couple of recent cancellations, Das Racist finally brought their self-described “Weed Edge/Hare Krishna Hard Core/Art Rap/Freak Folk” to the Fortune Sound Club. Third time’s a charm! Of the wild snows that caused the Brooklyn trio to reschedule a late January appearance, Das Racist’s Heems claimed they were an attempt to censor the group’s political views because, after all, snow is an unacknowledged white supremacist conspiracy.
But wait, let’s start from the beginning. Fortune was packed. It was a sold out show and the Winnie Cooper DJs kept it bumping as the crowd mingled. Vancouver locals Hot Sex and High Finance then pulled out a solid opening performance of gritty, white boy electro crunk. Pop Pete had the crowd moving while he gruffly rapped in a style that suggested what it would be like if the anticon posse’s Sole fronted banal electro outfit Adult.
But on to the main show. By traditional standards, you could have called Das Racist’s performance an utter failure. I had heard some bad news about their live show and I’m not going to lie, they were mumbling their way through lyrics, rapping over each other in a cacophony and I think Heems was on something strong. At one point he started staring off into space before wandering around the stage aimlessly; Kool AD teetered with a stiff drink in one hand and his mic in the other. Hype man and spiritual advisor Dap acted more like an MC, but his near-constant rapping just added to the already difficult soundscape.
That being said, these guys are brilliant. In a more straightforward sense, they pulled off “Chicken and Meat” and “Hugo Chavez” in a stellar fashion. When you remove yourself from the immediate musical experience and engage with Das Racist conceptually, things get more interesting. Their “hahahaha jk?”, for instance, featured the paradoxical hook, “We’re not joking– just joking/ We are joking– just joking/ We’re not joking.” So are they, as the critics claim, just a joke-rap band that met at a liberal arts college? Evidence suggests that they are joking, but they aren’t just joking.
Das Racist uses goofy stoner humour and dope beats to get their audience to swallow the bitter pills of racism and oppression, but the heart of their stage performance is a confrontational form of conceptual art. The bottom line here is that appreciating Das Racist live means you need to understand that they are trying to fuck with their audience. Heems briefly apologized to the crowd late in the show, claiming that the band finds what they do really funny, but admitted it’s kind of an inside joke. In this sense, they evoke the stagecraft of Andy Kaufman or, due to their intoxicated madness, the legendary Ol’ Dirty Bastard. My only complaint is that they don’t take it far enough.
They had a room full of (mostly) privileged (mostly) white hipsters who paid to hear them make some social critiques, and to that end, they did deliver a few quick jabs. Yet there were white folks in the audience wearing stereotypical native attire ironically, a commonplace occurrence that takes a baffling lack of awareness when it comes to race relations (see nativeappropriations.blogspot.com for more examples). Das Racist, you were at a hip nightclub in a gentrifying area of the Downtown Eastside. Fuck with these people! For all the name dropping of Gayatri Spivak and Edward Said, some fools only sank their teeth into “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”.