For a cheeky Internet-famous rap act, Das Racist (a.k.a., the “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” guys) can get pretty irascible. A few weeks ago in the Village Voice, one half of the band, Himanshu Kumar Suri, made a reference to this New York Magazine article, saying: “One interview really got into the crux of who we are and the music we make and why we make it. And then the piece came out. Most of the article discussed how I was (temporarily) banned from a bar for some drunken antics that took place the week before.” Clearly, the “point” of their band is important to them, but as long as they keep saying stuff like “the space is transformed by a corporate language from one single physical space to a number of illusory spaces. These spaces serve to expand the illusion of choice” and “WHY ARE YOU VALIDATING THE FALSE DICHOTOMY OF JOKES VS. SERIOUS SHIT?” in Voice interviews, we’re going to be confused about what parts of the things they say we’re supposed to take seriously. But basically, we think, don’t call them joke-rap. To their faces, at least.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that when we heard Das Racist would be covering the Beastie Boys' classic Paul’s Boutique at Cameo last night, we had to check it out to know if they’d be doing it straight-up or not. But first, there was Spiderfang, a white guy who dressed like he was the bassist in Yeasayer and rapped about riding bikes and NPR. (“I’m my own Fresh Air Fund/Terry Gross kicks, yeah, fresh Air Ones.”) Is this sub-scene of non-joke joke-rap an actual trend now? We’re both intrigued and terrified.
When Das Racist came onstage, they set up chairs and sat down, and then explained they realized earlier that day that they don’t actually know all the words to Paul’s Boutique, and so would instead be playing the album off a laptop and “make it a vibe session, then give your money to other people” — Haiti relief efforts, specifically — “so you can’t get mad.” They ran through the tracks, intermittently screaming the words they did know, twisting their mike stands in the air, and banging on stuff. Victor Vasquez kept sticking his bare feet in the air. People started streaming out almost immediately, but we forced ourselves to stay put and see what happened. Nothing did. It was terrible. At one point, they grabbed a random dude who knew way more words to Paul’s Boutique and handed him a mike, then they all joyously leaped around the stage together in the manner of a particularly obnoxious drunk karaoke session. We left twenty minutes in ... but then something immediately drew us back: We realized we had forgotten our hat. We grabbed it and left again.