October 3, 2014
For Promotional Use Only: Das Racist - Sit Down, Man (September 14, 2010)
Some of these write-ups come to be pretty quickly: the words flow out of my fingertips and onto your screen with very little delay in between (aside from rewriting, editing, and rewriting again, obviously). That doesn't necessarily mean that it's easier to write about something enjoyable or that it's faster for me to trash something, though: it's about inspiration (whether drawn from the music I'm writing about or from outside influences) and lack of interruption (you get it). So it is without bias one way or the other when I mention that it took me fucking forever to write about Das Racist's Sit Down, Man.
Of course, it doesn't help that the New York-based Das Racist are a fairly difficult rap group to write about in the first place. The duo of Himanshu "Heems" Suri and Victor "Kool A.D." Vazquez (along with their mostly silent (on the albums, anyway)) hypeman Ashok "Dapwell" Kondabolu) specialzed in jokey rap not exactly aimed at hipsters who enjoy our chosen genre ironically, but that's where their work landed anyway. Almost none of the songs released are to be taken seriously in any manner, as they were basically the recorded history of a group of guys fucking around in the studio after getting lucky enough to have a generous benefactor cover the costs of most of it. Das Racist shined brightly for a brief moment, and then imploded almost as quickly: it hasn't gone past me that the group has actually broken up since the last time I wrote about these guys. Oh well.
Sit Down, Man is Das Racist's second mixtape, released in 2010, a few months after after its predecessor Shut Up, Dude racked up critical acclaim and both ironic and non-ironic fans off of the strength of their passive, sarcastic take on hip hop (and also their live shows). Like their debut mixtape, Sit Down, Man was released to the Interweb as a free download (although today it costs a few bucks, because they have to still eat, I suppose) through the collaborative effort of Greedhead (their own label) and the clothing line Mishka: however, Sit Down, Man also had the assistance of Mad Decent Records, the label run by the overly-popular producer Diplo, who also lent production on one track.
Speaking of those beats, Das Racist branched out a little bit after self-producing Shut Up, Dude, reaching out to the likes of the aforementioned Diplo, Scoop DeVille, Devo Springsteen, Chairlift, and others to create a sound that would be considered the polar opposite of the previous effort, had it not been for the rhymes of Heems and Kool A.D., which are as irreverent as ever. They also opened their doors to guest stars, having developed relationships with others in the industry after hitting it big on the Interweb.
(A couple of you might still remember that, during one of my longer hiatuses, I mentioned a song that I found myself loving, and that writing about the first Das Racist project was but a mere step toward me eventually writing about said song. Well, this review doesn't talk about that song, either. Some of the more astute readers may have figured out the track by now: as for the rest of you, I still plan on working my way to it, hopefully without as long of a delay between posts. I mean, seriously, it's been nearly two fucking years since I've written about these guys. I have to get my shit together.)
1. WKCR STRETCH AND BOBBITO SHOW W/ QUINCY JONES (INTRO)
Well, at least we know where the sound bite that speaks the album's title comes from, right?
2. ALL TAN EVERYTHING (FEAT. JAY-Z)
This weak Sabzi production pretty much sets the tone for Sit Down, Man: Himanshu's verse, while not great, gets the job done while respecting at least the most basic tenet of a rap song (try to stay on beat), while Kool A.D.'s apathetic flow spits in the face of our chosen genre. This is all by design, of course: this is Das Racist deconstructing hip hop through their goofy brand of "rap noise-pop", as Heems puts it at one point. But "All Tan Everything" isn't very catchy, nor is it any good, so on that level, it fails. The Jay-Z vocal sample (labeled as a guest feature in order to bring out the trolls) used for the "hook" also makes no sense, as was expected. Keep it moving, folks.
3. PUERTO RICAN COUSINS
I found it amusing that Heems and Victor would take some casual, probably unintentional racism aimed in their general direction and turn it into a song, but then I'm dismayed by the fact that this Gordon Voidwell and Alex Kestner production sounds so. Fucking. Annoying. So, obviously, I didn't care for this.
4. HAHAHAHA JK?
The most surprising production on Sit Down, Man comes from Drake's go-to mood ring Boi-1da, who loops up a sample from the Days Of Our Lives theme song for Heems and Kool A.D. to pretty much squander on purpose. If you're still reading this review, then you've obviously accepted the Das Racist proposition and are willing to overlook things such as "technical proficiency" in favor of entertainment value, which makes it predictably goofy that "Hahahaha JK?" is actually pretty decent. Victor still doesn't sound that good, naturally, but t he beat legitimizes him a tiny bit, and Heems spits some funny lines, so even with the bullshit anti-hook, this wasn't bad. Even Victor's random list of food and beverages toward the end doesn't fuck it up for me. Weird.
5. TOWN BUSINESS (FEAT. KASSA OVERALL)
An oddly relaxing tune, even with the obnoxious, distorted "motherfucker, I'm ill" vocal sample sprinkled throughout. Guest star Kassa Overall, who also produced, lends the first verse, picking up on Das Racist's absurdist tendencies and mixing them with actual rap aesthetics, and is pretty enjoyable because of it. Heems and Kool A.D. were destined to fall behind their invited guest, probably because Victor starts rhyming just after the listener finally realizes that our hosts hadn't yet done anything and they weren't missed, but the verses from them were satisfying enough, even when Heems kind of gives up while talking about rappers in prison , which I guess wasn't interesting-enough subject matter for him. Which it isn't, let's be real. (And yes, all of Himanshu's "Free Weezy" talk was probably influenced in part by the vocal sample I mentioned earlier, aping a line from Lil Wayne's "A Milli", but that doesn't mean I should care more.)
I just couldn't get into this track, and not just because of the nonsensical lyrics all borrowed from various club-friendly, dance-creating rap songs during the first verse. The Teengirl Fantasy 8-bit-esque instrumental is trying too hard to not sound like something people would ever want to spit over, so while Heems makes a valiant effort (not so much Victor, because obviously), there's no way any of you two will ever sit through this shit more than once, and even that is stretching it.
7. PEOPLE ARE STRANGE
Devo Springsteen's Doors-sampling instrumental holds a litmus test of sorts: if you can manage to sit through Das Racist's aggressive anti-rapping (at multiple points throughout, Heems and Kool A.D. give up on writing actual rhymes and fill in the blanks with nonsense, um, filler instead), then you can probably stomach anything, really. Some of the lines were funny; I chuckled audibly at the "transitive property" part, and Himanshu channels the hook from, of all things, MC Hammer's "Addams Groove" from The Addams Family. So, as per usual, none of this shit is intended to be taken seriously. I wish the beat was better, but then again, I also wish the lyrics were too.
8. LUV IT MAYNE (FEAT. FAT TONY & BO P)
Das Racist are game for pretty much anything, as this Tom Cruz-produced attenmpt at a Southern-fried banger finds Heems and Victor over an instrumental much different than any they have encountered thus far this evening. "Luv It Mayne" actually isn't bad at all, as Heems and guest star Fat Tony (cool rap name, or coolest rap name?) go with the flow, and the hook (from the other guest, Bo P) is just stupid enough to not sound insulting. Kool A.D. is reserved for the end, where he predictably torpedoes the song's chances of ever being considered "good throughout", but is still entertaining enough, especially toward the very end, when his own take on the chorus will probably elicit a chuckle.
9. AMAZING (FEAT. LAKUTIS)
So good that it apparently influenced Victor to try to give a shit during his middle verse. "Amazing" just plain works, from Keepaway's whimsical instrumental to the verses from all three participants, although, as is to be expected whenever Das Racist pair themselves with an actual rapper, both of our hosts are outclassed fairly quickly, and that's even though guest star Lakutis quotes James Cromwell's character in Babe at one point. Aside from that one bar, none of the lines and jokes on here are all that memorable, but I still enjoyed the shit out of this.
10. FASHION PARTY (WITH CHAIRLIFT)
Das Racist's overly-long collaboration with synthpop duo Chairlift (one that would lead to several more collaborations on our hosts' actual debut album Relax) at least gets the monotonous, mechanical, robotic feel of the fashion world partly right. (Am I the only person in the world that doesn't pay all that much attention and sees it for the business it is? Bueller?) Heems and Kool A.D. obviously help break up the rhythm with their efforts to wake the audience up from their slumber, perpetuated by vocalist Caroline Polachek, who technically sounds okay, but the song itself is so. Goddamn. Boring. It is nearly impossible to sit through the entirety of "Fashion Party". Sure, rappers drop the names of fashion designers all the time, and I'm sure Das Racist had a joke about it in an original iteration of this song, but the message was lost in translation and I just don't care anymore. However, it does sample Kraftwerk's "The Model", the very, um, model of fashion-world-as-factory-business because, well, Kraftwerk, so it made me want to listen to that song again. So I'm going to do that real quick. I'll be back.
11. RAPPING 2 U (FEAT. LAKUTIS)
11. RAPPING 2 U (FEAT. LAKUTIS)
Okay, I'm here. Also returning is Lakutis, but, in an interesting turn of events, his verse actually sucks when compared to those from our hosts, who use the Nujabes (R.I.P.)-sampling instrumental to prove to the listener that they're self-aware enough to fucking spit when required. The beat flows around your subconscious and gets trapped there, while Himanshu and, yes, even Victor unleash (gasp!) actual bars a hip hop fan would enjoy, and Victor even stays on beat! Kind of amazing in its way, which means I thought it was a pretty solid track. (And Lakutis does sound okay, but this is many moons removed from "Amazing".)
12. ROOFTOP (FEAT. DESPOT)
Actually really good, at least the first two-thirds, as Heems and guest Despot rap their asses off, with Himanshu playing the smart-ass role to Despot's humorless (not a dis) persona. Dame Grease's instrumental kind of bangs, and the vocal sample that makes up the hook doesn't distract from the participants, so you'll get to enjoy Himanshu's dismissal of You, Me & Dupree and sly potshot at 2Pac without obstacle. When Toctor steps in for the final verse, the energy deflates a bit merely because the dude is significantly outclassed behind the mic by his co-conspirators, but even still, his penchant for not taking anything about hip hop seriously doesn't detract from "Rooftop". You'll probably enjoy this one.
13. IRRESPONSIBLE (FEAT. LAKUTIS)
Lakutis makes his third and final appearance on Sit Down, Man, but I don't give a shit, because this entire song is as bad as the chorus leads you to believe. Next!
14. RETURN TO INNOCENCE
Kind of hilariously samples Enigma's "Return To Innocence", but that joke wears thin less than thirty seconds into the song, so it's up to the Dash Sparks production to keep the audience's attention. Some of the bars are interesting, but your mileage will vary depending on whether you're able to sit through Kool A.D. singing along to the source material. Although it was funny to hear Victor refer to himself as "the second-best rapper with glasses / After E-40". I'm sure he and Mark Ruffalo appreciated their shout-outs on here.
15. JULIA (THE VERY BEST REMIX)
No, it's really not.
16. ROC MARCIANO JOINT (FEAT. ROC MARCIANO)
May as well be called "Max Will Hate This Song". However, Roc Marcy does not fuck the track up for me. In fact, he sounds pretty good, since Mike Finito's (nice) instrumental pounds harder than most everything Marcy has ever produced for himself (at least the shit that I've bothered to listen to), and it has the desired effect of making the blogger favorite seem more alert than usual. Heems also steps his rap game up significantly: he actually sounds like a formidable adversary behind the mic. Victor is the wild card on the we-give-up-just-title-it-whatever "Roc Marciano Joint", and while his lack of a real flow sometimes adds to the overall effect on the best Das Racist songs, on here he disrupts the proceedings with his non-sequiturs and poor attempts at jokes. Cut the track off after Roc Marcy and you'd actually have a pretty solid effort, no lie.
17. YOU CAN SELL ANYTHING
Diplo lends a decidedly non-Diplo instrumental to "You Can Sell Anything", on which, strangely, Kool A.D. and Heems switch roles, with Victor playing it straight with his rhymes (and actually sounding pretty good, too, on-beat and everything) while Himanshu kicks a nice verse that runs the track right off the rails. The title means nothing, as does the unnecessary hook: this song lives and dies by its bars, and when put to the test, it walks away unscathed. Huh.
18. SIT DOWN, MAN (FEAT. EL-P)
The crown jewel of the piece happens to be the title track. Over a sparse but thumping Scoop DeVille instrumental, Das Racist spit like thay give a shit alongside one of their champions, underground royalty El-P (formerly of Company Flow, but if you're actually reading a write-up for a Das Racist mixtape, you already knew that). Both Heems and Victor sound refreshing, their jokey flows still present but curtailed a tiny bit by the beat, as though both men subconsciously decided to take "Sit Down, Man" seriously. El-Producto obviously out-raps his hosts, but the fact that both Heems and Kool A.D. managed to not be entirely overshadowed by someone that most of you two consider to be an underground hip hop fucking legend is probably pretty sweet for them, right?
19. SIT DOWN, PEOPLE (BY DAPWELL & QUINCY JONES)
An interlude (allegedly compiled by the third Racist in Das, Dapwell), one where the crew calls out people who they feel tend to run their mouths, all with the assistance of another Quincy Jones sample. You'll most likely agree with some of these choices.
The following is considered by the group to be a hidden bonus track.
20. FREE JAZZMATAZZ
That song title leads one to believe that an instrumental may be afoot, but then Voctor starts rapping and dashes all of your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. But I still dug this shit: the beat laid underneath (credited to our hosts and Vijay Iyer) is melodic and hypnotizing, aiding the stream-of-consciousness bars from Heems and Kool A.D. The paid pass the microphone back and forth without resorting to using a chorus, and, weirdly, Victor wins the day toward the end, when he starts claiming that "Free Jazzmataz" is "the best song ever", comparing it to "Juicy", any Jay-Z song, and, hilariously, "Fur Elise". This was the way to go out, guys.
SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? It really depends on whether or not this kind of stuff can hold your interest. Sit Down, Man is basically a slightly elevated version of its predecessor, mocking what happens when rappers become successful by filling the ranks with guests both behind the boards and on the microphone. And yet it's still very clearly a Das Racist album: Himanshu and Victor spend the full length of the project talking so much random shit that it becomes difficult to keep track, while Dapwell hypes them up, as always, even though you may not realize that Das Racist is a trio. Sit Down, Man is a mixed bag: there's some really good shit mixed in with some fucking godawful stuff, but all of it represents where these guys feel they belong within the spectrum of our chosen genre. Fans of straight-up rap music should walk on by: of the two, only Heems appears to respect the basics of rhyming, and even still, most of his bars are silly as shit. But if you're like me and happen to enjoy silly and random things, Sit Down, Man contains more than a few moments that you will most likely play more than once. I wouldn't bother with this shit if you didn't care for Shut Up, Dude, though: if you didn't take the gateway drug, you can't be expected to go straight to the top shelf.
Das Racist - Shut Up, Dude