Live: Das Racist Writes A New Punchline

dasracist_september12.jpg

Das Racist
Bowery Ballroom
Monday, September 12

Better than: Making .gifs of Novak Djokovic collapsing in joy after winning the U.S. Open.

In the past year I've attended more than my fair share of Das Racist shows, and I would inevitably wind up disappointed that they weren't able to translate their on-record magnetism to their performance. The sets were treated like a joke—especially if their collaborator Lakutis was around. But last night's show, which coincided with the release of their first proper album Relax, was a sign that things have changed. The entrepreneurial rap crew maintained their mugging-for-the-crowd manic energy while tightening up their delivery enough to cast the "joke rap" tag aside.

DJ White Privilege kicked off the night with a set that helped gauge how wide Das Racist's fanbase has grown; the crowd could finish every other bar of "I'm A Boss," but few recognized current rap-blog darling ASAP Rocky's "Peso." Lotta dudes, lotta flannel, not a whole lotta chicks, unless they were grinding up on their man and making me feel uncomfortable (despite what the Times says about grinding, it's not something you want to involve third parties in).

From the start of Das Racist's set it became clear that although Victor Vazquez is still the tentpole, Hima "Heems" Suri is starting to take this whole rapping thing seriously. Playing the Abbott to Vasquez's Costello, Heems took to his bars with a newfound ferocity. "Power," off Relax, was without Danny Brown—he was supposed to open, but was replaced by Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire at the last minute—but Victor's energy made up for his absence. (Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire's new mixtape Lost In Translation, by the way, has a few really good tracks, which he performed last night with an impressive stamina and interspersed with quality banter. Example: "I'm going home to watch Netflix. Who fuck with Netflix? Where Netflix at?")

Camaraderie ruled the night; Heems pointed out his family—his "mom, dad, sister, cousin, other cousin, and brother-in-law"—standing in the balcony and had the entire crowd sing "Happy Birthday" to his younger sister. A few buddies came out to help them, too: the impressive, pint-sized Despot; El-P, who guested on Relax's "Shut Up Man"; and the group's "Caucasian rapper friend" (their words, not mine) Lakutis, an enigma who I once saw put a whole microphone in his mouth and who last night sounded vastly better than he had in previous performances.

By the time the set reached "Michael Jackson," things had hit their stride. It helps that it's an incredible single; the bass tickles your spine, and the hook is hilarious and easy to remember. The "white demons" (again, their words, not mine) in the crowd shouted each line. "MJ" was followed by the Billy Joel-sampling "You Oughta Know," and although things were getting silly onstage, with everybody hugging and Victor mugging and Hima headbanging only to fix his hair for the thousandth time, they were still hitting every bar.

Critical bias: If you had told me a year ago that I'd one day be Craigslist-hunting for tickets to a sold-out Das Racist show at Bowery Ballroom, I'd have laughed in your face.

Overheard: "We don't want No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3; let's just get it to No. 4."—Heems, trying to triangulate Relax's iTunes Store position.

Random notebook dump: Totally obsessed with the videos playing in the background; during "Power" they ran the clip of Kanye ganking Taylor Swift's award at the VMAs.

UPDATE: The videos were done by Justin Hantz, it seems. Justin, keep up the good work, and by good work, we mean long cuts of Beyoncé looking startled by 'Ye's outbursts.

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