TBJ’s Favorite Records of 2012: Das Racist

Photo by Nayeli Rodriguez

Photo by Nayeli Rodriguez

On December 3, 2012, we learned that Das Racist broke up. A video of Heems surfaced from a stage in Germany claiming that Das Racist is “not a band anymore.” Kool AD confirmed the news by tweeting “quit das racist 2 months ago and was asked by our manager not to announce it yet.” Dapwell later explained to Spin that they “kind of checked out and it was all about the money.” They dropped two mixtapes in 2010 (Shut Up, Dude/ Sit Down, Man), an album in 2011 (Relax), and had a deal with their Sony imprint to release at least one more album and then disband, but in Dapwell’s words, “all of that has gone to shit.”

Consistently for three years Das Racist released a perfect slew of fun-loving, catchy, nonsensical, and somehow well-educated hip hop. They perfected their art. Deemed as “joke-rap” for much of their career, they self-consciously played into it. Das Racist proudly flaunted their multi-racial heritages. Growing up in an American culture way too akin to racial profiling, and a hip hop culture that looks at anybody not “hood” as an outlier, Das Racist used their rhymes to critique their world. Coming from Punjabi- Indian (Heems), Afro-Cuban (Kool AD) backgrounds, their heritage stays present in their music. Much of their beats are Bollywood reminiscent, and their rhymes, social critiques of being multi-racial rappers in American society. From the first track on their premier mixtape it was clear what they were getting themselves into: “Who’s That Broooown.” Playing off UPS’s “What can brown do for you?” With their rebuttal, “What has brown done for me, lately?” Das Racist continued to intrigue, confuse, and captivate listeners, eliciting a wide range of reviews. With ties back to the five burroughs, Das Racist is one of the only hip hop acts since the Beastie Boys to perfect the art of combining societal critique, deep pop cultural references, and impressive mic skills into a tight, multi-MC project.

The chemistry that Das Racist grew with since their dorm rooms at Wesleyan, to their apartment in Brooklyn slowly disintegrated as they blew up in acclaim, and their once-natural sound turned into very real means of making money. By 2011 Das Racist had blown up on blogs, magazines, etc., they got linked up with hip hop veterans like El-P, and were clustered into a group of up-and-coming alternative acts like Danny Brown, Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire, Blu, and more. But they didn’t fit into that, nor did they want to. Heems and Kool AD always did their own thing, they were free of hip hop stereotypes, they were outliers in the game, and they wanted to stay that way. They continued to fool around and frustrate interviewers, maintaining the image of smoked-out, smart, underachievers. Their art was casual. But that couldn’t be true, they were touring, recording, and creating projects that undoubtedly took time, energy, and unbelievable effort and dedication.

[youtube http://youtu.be/uaxCIhrvbfs]

Nobody but the trio truly knows what happened between them, but sometime within the last year their chemistry faded, their passion to create together diminished, and no longer was it fun-loving nonchalance, but a money-motivated job. As well, Heems and Kool AD were preoccupied with solo projects and independent endeavors. They slowly grew apart, but continued to create the music that their fans were attracted to. Their break up, imminent or not, was for the better.

In the past year, Heems founded his independent label, Greedhead. He’s creating a business around the music that gave him success. He was even featured in Forbes for his impressive small-business mentality to an independent hip hop label. As the Forbes article says, “Greedhead Music has reshaped the way indie rappers think about business, merging artist development with innovative distribution models.” Graduating as an economics major from Wesleyan, Heems finally found an outlet for his degree. He’s been busy signing new, ambitious artists like Le1f, Big Baby Ghandi, Lakutis, and Mayhem Lauren. And on top of that, he’s been recording—releasing two acclaimed solo mixtapes in the last year: Nehru Jacket and Wild Water Kingdom. While on tour in India he even teamed up with GQ India to release a dope little video for “Soup Boys” off of WWK. As if that’s not enough, Heems keeps busy as a contributing writer for VICE, Fuse, Village Voice, and assorted other music publications. He has become an unbelievable force in the music industry and created a unique, independent field for him to grow in. Heems undoubtedly will stay busy with whatever endeavors he chooses and continue to enthuse and attract an audience.

His former partner, Kool AD, has been in the lab as well. Retreating back to the West Coast to work with locally grown producers to release two mixtapes himself: Palm Wine Drinkard and 51, releasing a raw, farm-filmed video for his single, “Manny Pacquiao.” Kool AD also created Veehead, a music production and recording imprint of Greedhead. He’s finding his own voice and his own sound, representing with the natural gritty swagger that he sported with Das Racist.

The two former Das Racist rappers are doing impressive and ambitious things respectively. They honed their craft together, but they’ve grown apart. Undoubtedly Heems and Kool AD will continue to produce their signature sound. Das Racist had an exciting run, but the passion fizzled, and there is no use in stretching it. As for Dapwell, the most acclaimed pro hypeman in the music business, who knows what’s next. The end is bittersweet for Das Racist. They shocked and confused hip hop fans for the entirety of their career. They seemingly trolled the media, but continued to deliver politically and socially critical undertones. The trio will not fade away, but grow independently and become live and captivating artists in their own right. Their break up is a shame, but it’s not a surprise. I guarantee there’s more to come, you won’t be disappointed with what comes next. Stay tuned. Keep posted. Das Racist may be over, but Heems, Kool AD, and Dapwell are far from finished.

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dasracist.net
twitter.com/dasracist

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  1. […] and began to shape himself as a musical artist. He looked at aspiring artists like Mykki Blanco and Das Racist, friends from New York, for support and guidance in a competitive and judgmental culture of […]

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