We Love Music: Das Racist @ Rock and Roll Hotel, 1/14/11

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Photo courtesy of Das Racist

Das Racist went viral last year with their track “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell“. It would be easy to write them off as a novelty act, but anyone who dug a little deeper would find a rap group spitting intelligent, unique, stream-of-consciousness verses that demand your full attention. Last year, they put out two mixtapes for free online, completely bypassing any sort of physical distribution. They’ve garnered praise from critics at Pitchfork and NYTimes. So, do they give away their music for free, just to promote their live show? I had this in mind when I went to Rock and Roll Hotel last Friday to check out their sold-out show. Unfortunately, their show didn’t impress me as much as their mixtapes have.

The opening groups, Fat Tony and Ardamus & The Metaphysical, were okay, but didn’t really get the crowd pumped. I felt like Ardamus put on a good show – he was enthusiastic, but the audience didn’t really connect with him. I actually enjoyed it more when DJ Metaphysical spun between the sets. After Fat Tony’s set, he played a pretty good set of dubstep – it was heavy on wobbly bass, and sounded great through Rock and Roll Hotel’s sound system. After Ardamus’ set, he played a mix of more popular tracks that were perfect for any dance party. He returned to Rock and Roll Hotel on Sunday to spin a full set upstairs.

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Photo courtesy of Das Racist

I went to check out Das Racist’s live show expecting some grade-A banter between songs, and they delivered. The entire show felt like we were just hanging out with these stoners at a college party, watching them tell inside jokes to each other. Well, inside jokes that you’d get if you’ve been around the internet for long enough. It was like we were eavesdropping on them in their natural environment.

This is fine, but I was kind of put off by their casual performances of their songs. They didn’t care so much about getting every line out; it felt like they were doing karaoke to their own songs, like the songs were going to finish themselves without too much effort from the group. The songs I enjoyed the most, like “Hugo Chavez” and their closer “Rainbow in the Sun”, were already my favorites; their performances didn’t really add anything new to the songs for me.

The big problem is that Das Racist’s talent lies in crafting one-liners unlike anything that’s already out there. Their mixtapes demand repeat listens, as each time there’s another line that catches you and makes you think, “Whoa!” During their show, you would just listen with anticipation for your favorite lines; they hit, and you nod your head, but they don’t have any more “oomph” than they did on the mixtape. Beyond that, I didn’t think the beats in their songs were interesting or exciting enough to keep my attention.

Das Racist wrapped up their set in under an hour. In the end, I felt like a group of stoners had played a joke on us; we paid Das Racist to party and be themselves for the night. Good for them! Still, I don’t think the show merited a sold-out crowd. If Das Racist are a “comedy rap” group, how about some longer-form sketches in addition to their banter? If they’re Youtube stars, how about adding some visual elements to the show? Das Racist became popular quickly – they’re new to touring so maybe I’m not being fair. Still, I hope they put as much effort into their live show in the future as they put into their mixtapes.

Martin Silbiger

Martin moved from Atlanta to DC in 2007. He works as a software developer for Soundexchange, a non-profit royalty administration organization. A self-proclaimed metal snob, Martin loves bands that push into unexplored territory. He also writes about pop culture here.

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