The words “Das Racist,” devoid of any connotations created by the band, are just perplexing. “Das” is lighthearted slang. The term “racist” is serious. Those things shouldn’t go to together. So what’s racist and why is it being treated so jauntily?
Brooklyn rap group Das Racist is postmodern in that regard, as is a lot of their work, but the rap trio, made up of emcees Heems, Kool A.D. and hype man Dap, aren’t really deconstructionist, ironist or any other postmodern term. In Heem’s own words off their newest album, they’re “really great at rapping.” Emblematic of rap’s movement into the DIY, actively apathetic punk mentality, Das Racist is on the fringe of hip-hop. They’re dong something rare and amazing. Notorious for their tendencies to mess with media, The Daily Texan preempted their absurdity with ridiculous questions of its own.
The Daily Texan: In the first five minutes of Relax you tell the listener to relax 48 times, and then you only say it once after that for the entirety of the album. What do you want us to be doing the rest of the time? Stressing out? You’re very vague about this.
Heems: Nah, the command to relax doesn’t necessarily mean to relax. Often times it’s the same as calm down or something like that. It’s probably more aggressive than actually relaxing. If someone tells you to relax, you get pretty upset.
DT: So you’re trying to piss people off?
Heems: No I didn’t say that, you said that.
DT: What would you say then?
Heems: For the rest of the album, just hang on for the ride. You know?
DT: You guys have said that you’re deconstructionalist in nature. Would you describe yourselves as more Derridean or Heideggerian?
Heems: Uh, somebody else wrote that, and people kept on saying “We said it,” and we just went along with it. To answer your question, we don’t care too much. Someone said it and we were like, “Eh, that sounds good enough.”
DT: How would you say going to Wesleyan shaped your music? You guys have talked about how different it was being minorities at a small liberal arts college.
Heems: I don’t know. For me it was just a weird place that opened me up to the idea of art. Before then I thought it was stupid shit for rich kids. [At Wesleyan] I was like, “Maybe it’s fun, and stupid shit for rich kids.” I had a good time, but at the same time I realize it made me think of things in a not-so practical way, that I’m not afforded the luxury to think about, that other people are. Like most of the kids that went to that school. I mean in retrospect I would have gone to St. John’s, like my cousin.
DT: Why did you end up going to Wesleyan then?
Heems: I don’t know. I got into Dartmouth, Wesleyan and Binghamton. Wesleyan seemed the most interesting to me, and Dartmouth didn’t give me that much money. Wesleyan gave me more money, and it was the cheapest. I would have learned more at Wesleyan, and I was better suited to make money coming out of college at a school like that. Mostly I went so that I could get a job and make money.
DT: Did you lose that desire to make money and make art instead at some point at Wesleyan?
Heems: No, I didn’t. I was a headhunter on Wall Street until like 2009.
DT: If you had to take five objects out of a burning building, why is the building on fire?
Dap: Oh. If I had to take five objects out of my burning building before it caught on fire what would they be?
DT: No. Why is the building on fire?
Dap: [Laughter] Why is the building on fire? What’s the question? The building is on fire because the idiot neighbor from downstairs, who’s from Ohio, put some stupid book on top of the old radiator from the 1920s not realizing you’re not supposed to do that because there’s no sign not telling him to do that. He’s probably used to some shitty McMansion that his father got in the late ‘90s where they don’t have old radiators, and then it caught on fire, and then my girlfriend died.
DT: Wow. This one’s for Heems if he’s around. In an interview he cited one of his favorite rappers as Korea, the physical geography. I was wondering if you could tell me and any fans who were interested where we could find Korea, the Landmass’ mixtapes because they seem to be pretty underground based off my research.
Dap: They’re on NahRight.com. Check the archives from like 2003.
Listen to Das Racist's latest album on Spotify.
Printed on Friday, October 28, 2011 as: Das Racist works weird with our words