Review Summary: Listen Up, Dude
Dorm Room music is fast becoming a favorite way of young musicians to make it big. For example, Duke student Mike Posner parlayed his dorm room production “Cooler Than Me” into a recording contract and a spot on the Vans Warped Tour before headlining a tour of his own. Although Das Racist haven’t followed Posner’s meteoric rise to fame, they still maintain his basic pattern of write/record/generate hype/get slotted at festivals/get bigger. The song that started it all, stoner anthem “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” is only the tip of the iceberg on Das Racist’s freshman mixtape Shut Up, Dude; a tape that is characterized as much by over-indulgence as it is by its innovation.
The innovation is a result of the unofficial third member of the group: drugs. Drugs are at the forefront of most Das Racist tracks and obviously have an influence in the background of the record as well. This influence can be found both in the lyrics (“smoke that *** that come from POPPIES”) and also in the song structure (like the chant based “One Dollar Can”). While drugs obviously aren’t the only source of Das Racist’s inspiration, it’s rather obvious that the group is greatly indebted to their illicit products. Nonsensical lyrics and slurred chants abound through the record but this is as much an innovation as it is annoying. The group brings sharp wordplay (Half Choco Taco, quarter Chippewa Indian/Black Tintin, Jewish Mel Gibson/ Kool AD juice man stab it like Simpson) along with their out-there, free-associative lyrics. The group brings a sharper edge to the indie rap scene, combining creativity and laziness into a humorous sampling that only burnt-out liberal arts students could dream of producing.
But perhaps the strangest and most appealing part of Das Racist is their beat sampling and hooks. The hooks are extremely catchy but Das Racist at times completely disregards them. On “You Oughta Know,” Kool A.D. shouts over the hook with his own, slurred version of it. On others, like the A Tribe Called Quest sampling “Who’s That? Brooown!” They bring a new edge to the hook by yelling “What can brown do for you” over the hook playing in the background. One initially wonders why they mess around like this, but it eventually becomes the most alluring part of the songs. Instead of reveling in the catchiness of the hooks, the group flips the notion on its head: forgoing recognition of their choruses for innovation. This can also be seen on the chant-based tracks, where the chant is altered every 30 seconds or so. These shifts are quite alluring, although the group seems as if they haven’t perfected it yet, which eventually becomes the group’s biggest problem.
One problem that the album suffers from is excessive repetition. After a while, “Who’s That? Brooown!” becomes simply impossible to listen to. The repetition of the hook is tolerable for the first 10 times but after that, the call of “BROOOOWN” is truly grating. And, to be honest, I have no idea why “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” ever became popular. The first two minutes of the song are just the MC’s chanting variations of the title over the least inspired beat of the album. Not even the audio effects and variations in speed and timing can keep the song interesting for very long. “Fake Patois,” and ode to celebrities using Jamaican accents, features just about every line ending with the word “Patois.” This experiment doesn’t pay off in the end, although the song is certainly appealing for a while. Were the group to forgo some of the repetition, Shut Up, Dude would be a more successful venture because, quite frankly, they’re better when the songs aren’t weighed down by excessiveness.
Another issue with the mixtape is its length, which clocks in at around an hour. Of this hour, at least one-quarter of it could’ve been cut without much consequence. “Nutmeg,” “Ek Shaneesh,” and “One Dollar Can” are all obviously weaker tracks than the rest of the ilk, and their disappearance would actually be appreciated. Other tracks could just stand to be around 30 seconds shorter because of the aforementioned repetition problems that the band suffers from. This is also because the beats-which are usually excellent- get pretty annoying when they’re repeated to compensate for the group’s lack of original lyrics at times. And when the beats are bad, they’re really bad. “I Don’t Know Anybody ***” features the most egregious misuse of a drum machine ever and could also be reduced by a good margin due to its lack of originality and quality. You can tell that the group is trying to be ambitious by making a long record but, ultimately, it’s simply too long and loses some of its impact as a result.
The group, which calls itself “the new Kool G rap,” is certainly on to something. They bring a harder new edge to the softening indie rap scene through hard beats, sharp rhymes and an attitude problem. Pop culture references bounce off the walls and disses fly by so quickly that sometimes they’re hard to catch. Unfortunately, most of the positives get caught up in the cluster of isolated negatives that find a way to penetrate into- and detract from- the best parts of the mixtape. Das Racist has crafted an excellent mixtape with Shut Up, Dude, but it takes some digging to find.