Das Racist, Danny Brown
Aural chaos characterized Das Racist's show last night. Also, “Tricks with Microphones.” The NYC trio of Himanshu Suri (Heems), Victor Vazquez (Kool A.D.) and Ashok Kondabolu (Dap) had a great earworm in 2008, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” their three-minute social commentary, disguised as a commentary on rap, disguised as a rap song.
Since then, the group has been toying with hip hop and its listeners, but they only poke fun at the music because they love it so much. They play this game well, and it's difficult to decipher what's planned, what's not, and what's deliberately unplanned. But last night the act was more like that hilarious dude in college who just started getting way too stoned.
Danny Brown's set had the focus that Das Racist's lacked. On his latest album, XXX, he has a song devoted to his drug of choice, “Adderall Admiral.” The Detroit rapper is one of hip hop's square pegs — his hairstyle mimics the vocalist from Flock of Seagulls, his skinny jeans kept 50 Cent from signing him, and his voice often sounds like a strangled Dave Chappelle shouting.
But last night he proved he's doing just fine, charismatic and strong enough even to carry his show sans a hypeman. His lyrics are so raw they almost hurt to hear, and last night, he enunciated so clearly you couldn't miss a word. As images of water running down into Beyonce's open mouth played out on the screen behind him, he rapped from “Monopoly”: “You ain't been what I been through/And if so, you would take a pencil through your temple/Cause I done served fiends on their menstrual/Ain't even had pads, stuffed they panties with tissue.”
Das Racist doesn't get so grimy. Blasts of the air-horn effect played near continuously for so long it almost set off that irrepressible giggling instinct. Promising start.
Moments like that dotted the first half of the show. Kool A.D. stage dove into the crowd and was passed around like an overturned turtle. Heebs led a singalong to Enrique Inglesias' “Bailamos” (go figure, a room of hip-hop heads knew the words to the entire chorus), and Dap managed a series of jump-kicks that were better than any I ever did in my cheerleading days. And of course, there were the microphone tricks: 1) How many mics do they rip on the daily? Two at a time, 2) Swing mic like it's a baseball bat, 3) Backbend while masturbating your “microphone.”
Heems seemed to be de facto leader of the crew, and last night he was either drunk, stoned, tired, or sick. (Before the encore, he announced he was going to drink some hot tea). Meanwhile, Dap was flinging his rubbery limbs about, doing funky dances. Despite performing early favorites like “You Oughta Know” as well songs from their latest album, Relax (the frantic, Middle Eastern-flavored “Michael Jackson” stands out), a new rapper on their label, Lakutis, stole the set with the silly, charming “Lakutis in Da Haus.”
As the show trudged on, the guys' usually funny gibberish just got old, even boring. And not even their remix with Danny Brown and Despot on Mr. Mothafuckin' eXquire's “Huzzah!” could get the experiment back on track.
The crowd: There were a lot of dudes drinking PBR, but enough girls (also drinking the Blue Ribbon of beers) to raise a unanimous squeal when Danny Brown began “I Will,” a proclamation of his love for licking lady parts.
Overheard in the crowd: “Can you understand what they're saying?” “No, but I'm the wrong person to ask. I've been listening to hip hop for years and not understanding what they're saying.”
Random notebook dump: Now I know what a roomful of PBR burps smells like.