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Review: Das Racist – Relax

Das Racist – Relax

Released: September 13, 2011
Label: Greedhead
Purchase: iTunes | Insound | Amazon

“I’m f*cking great at rapping,” Das Racist frontman Himanshu Suri boasts with quite a bit of gusto on lead single “Michael Jackson”. If these words were uttered on past mixtapes/albums Shut Up, Dude or Sit Down, Man, there would be little to object to. But since they entered our ear canals by way of Das Racist’s studio debut Relax, more must be said.

For some reason, the rap duo seem to have lost quite a bit of the wittiness and charm that made their first two efforts stand out so much. For the most part, Heems unfortunately sounds quite sluggish with his rhymes, failing to deliver quotable after quotable like on Sit Down, Man’s “amazing”, “hahahaha jk?”, and “rapping 2 u”. Instead he chooses to rattle off seemingly incoherent thoughts in a raspy, grungy-sounding voice, leaving us wondering what exactly happened to the sharpness he previously displayed. His partner and long-time friend, Kool AD (aka Victor Vazquez), on the other hand, sounds much the same and provides ample reminders of what made us fall in love with Das Racist in the first place.

The social commentary is still there, the glitchy beats are still there, and the genius is still there. The magic, however, is gone. Everything is still seemingly intact though, so what makes Relax sound so detached and uninspired compared to the rest of their catalogue?  Who knows? Heems, Kool AD, and Dapwell probably don’t even know.

Perhaps it’s a change of focus. As Heems says on what is perhaps his best verse on the album (on opening track “Relax”), “Juvenile shit / I ain’t really tryna rap about / I don’t remember from b-b-ba b-blackin’ out / These days, I’m mostly focused on my bank account / I ain’t backin’ out until I own a bank to brag about.” Making music that sells is certainly different from making music that shines.

Or maybe it’s the fact that Das Racist have already, well, ‘made it.’ The hook for album standout “Power” tackles this issue head on: “It’s too easy. Even if I told you about it, you probably wouldn’t even believe me.” Bursting onto the scene from literally nowhere with the ridiculously infectious and utterly confusing “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” and then securing collaborations with the likes of DiploBoi-1daRoc Marciano, and El-P on their second release. And everything was released to critical acclaim. It kind of reads like a script, one where we got to watch the trio hone their art while enjoying huge amounts of success along the way. Perhaps things were way too easy.

Fortunately for us, however, Das Racist don’t stray too far away from their fundamental skeleton. Play the record for anyone familiar with the group and it’ll be clear that it is indeed a Das Racist record. The repetitiveness and non-sequiturs on “Michael Jackson”, the danciness of “Booty In The Air”, the posse-cut “Power”, the unabashed self-referencing on “Selena” – everything is still distinctly Das Racist. The only difference is that altogether the whole record feels less densely packed with references and much less technically satisfying. Even production by Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij fail to make a big impact – without looking at the credits, it’s hard to even tell what songs they worked on (“Middle of the Cake” and “The Trick” respectively).

There’s no need to take these reviews seriously, though. A group like Das Racist obviously isn’t out searching for approval from critics; all they need to do is take everything in stride and just relax. Then, finally, they can come back when they’re ready to put together a more inspired effort.

We’ll be ready.


Standout Tracks: “Michael Jackson” and “Power (feat. Danny Brown & Despot)”

Vampire Weekend Settles Album Cover Dispute

joomplu:316Last year in January, Vampire Weekend released Contra. The album cover was a picture of model Ann Kirsten Kennis and she accused the band of using the photo without her permission. She sued the band, photographer and label for $2 million. The year-long case has finally been dismissed by a Los Angeles federal court, but now Vampire Weekend and XL Recordings are suing the photographer Tod Brody for misrepresenting the rights to the photo. To make things worse for Brody, his attorney’s have left him by himself in court for not paying his bills, so Brody has to represent himself in court. Good luck, man.

Video: Matt & Kim (feat. Soulja Boy and Andrew WK) – “I’m A Goner”

Last year, Converse brought together Kid CudiVampire Weekend‘s Rostam Batmanglij, and Best Coast to create the cheery “All Summer”. Yet again, Converse has created another random combination of musicians, putting together Soulja BoyAndrew WK, and Matt & Kim to create the extremely catchy “I’m A Goner”, recorded at the Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn. Talk about a weird group.

The video features the foursome rising from the dead to “throw a raging dance party in a morgue.”

You can download the track or find out more about the project over here.

Listen: TV On The Radio – “Caffeinated Consciousness (Das Racist Remix)”


Who saw this one coming? Heems and Victor of the rap group Das Racist were invited by Interscope to remix TV On The Radio‘s “Caffeinated Consciousness”, collaborating with producer patrickWhat. The remix features a slowed-down version of “Caffeinated Consciousness” and a few rap verses from Das Racist. “Pitchfork dot com… I don’t even read that,” rhymes Victor. Stream the remix below.

Das Racist’s first proper release, Relax, will be released September 13, 2011 via Greedhead (Himanshu’s own record label). You can preorder from Insound here. The album features production from DiploEl-PVampire Weekend‘s Rostam Batmanglij, and Yeasayer‘s Anand Wilder.

Cults Ready Self-Titled Debut

Cults will be releasing their self-titled debut album on June 7 in North America (May 30 in the UK). The New York duo are currently readying the release via In The Name Of / Columbia Records. The eleven-track album is completely self-produced, but was engineered by Shane Stoneback (Vampire WeekendSleigh Bells).

Check out the tracklisting below.

01 Abducted
02 Go Outside
03 You Know What I Mean
04 Most Wanted
05 Walk at Night
06 Never Heal Myself
07 Oh My God
08 Never Saw the Point
09 Bad Things
10 Bumper
11 Rave On

Review: Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard

Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard

Released: August 24, 2010
Label: Barsuk
Purchase: iTunes | Insound | Amazon

Ra Ra Riot’s sophomore effort The Orchard is a step in the right direction for the band, trading the catchy pop choruses on The Rhumb Line for introspective lyrics about their own personal lives and how they have grown and developed. The soaring instrumentals and soft, reflective cooing from Wes Miles demonstrate strong musicianship from the band, but the album fails to impress holistically.

There is no doubt in my mind that the members of the band are incredibly talented with their individual instruments, but as a whole, Ra Ra Riot seems unable to combine these talents together as a cohesive unit. The creative bass lines, although quite intricately played, seem to have been turned up way too loud and distract from the other instruments. In the first two tracks, “The Orchard” and “Boy,” the boosted bass line is quite noticeable, and opens the album on a rather bad note (pun not intended). Otherwise, “Boy” is a touchingly reflective song and a great choice for first single.

The signature orchestral lines from cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller are stylistically brilliant, especially when combined with the energetic guitar playing from Milo Bonacci. The drums from Cameron Wisch keep the songs moving along at a decent pace, even though The Orchard features some of Ra Ra Riot’s slowest ever material.

“Too Dramatic” is a bright, poppy song, standing out from the comparatively somber first two tracks. Directly after “Too Dramatic,” “Foolish” once again returns to the slower, more thoughtful sound that pervades The Orchard as a whole and ultimately drags it down. As a whole, the record feels sluggish and lethargic, even when the band launches into moments of orchestral beauty.

At times, vocalist Wes Miles seems to be a dulled down version of Vampire Weekend’s lead singer Ezra Koenig. In fact, “Massachusetts” could almost be a Contra B-side. “You And I Know” features the voice of cellist Alexandra Lawn, which is touching lyrically and a breath of fresh air sonically.

Unlike their debut The Rhumb LineThe Orchard offers little variety between songs, making the album less intriguing to first time listeners. Instead of the vibrant energy found on The Rhumb Line, Ra Ra Riot takes time to build up the momentum on each song, before launching into lulling, orchestral perfection.

Altogether, the album remains rather drab and fails to really hook the listener. It is certainly an album that grows on you after multiple listens, but The Orchard is in no way, shape or form, a classic. It is, however, a big step forward for the band and hints at an extremely bright future for the already successful young band.


Standout Tracks: “Too Dramatic”, “You And I Know”, “Shadowcasting”