Toward the end of Das Racist's sold-out hometown gig at New York City's Bowery Ballroom, on the eve of the release of the group's first commercial LP, Relax, something truly strange happened. Kool A.D. reclined into the crowd, rapped a verse from his back while doing a lap in his fans' hands, and was propped back up onstage as three male dancers scantily clad in fur and feathers arrived and executed some sort of tribal ballet to the jittery Bollywood beat of the new single, "Michael Jackson."
It was goofy and impressive and more than a little awkward -- the latter part owing both to the suddenness of the act, and the fact that the men were black, dressed in aboriginal garb and dancing between Das Racist and a screen streaming footage of Blaxploitation archetype Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. But it was an example of what the group does best: Unravel through irreverence, erode expectation, and undermine themselves in ways that are at once brilliant, dumb, and entertaining.
Though scheduled opener Danny Brown, one of SPIN's favorite new rappers, dropped off the bill at the eleventh hour, the subbing in of (even newer) newcomer Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire proved wise, and a surprise cameo from alt-rap godhead El-P didn't hurt. The show's second-best moment came when eXquire returned during Das Racist's set to reprise his own "Huzzah!" -- the remix version, featuring Kool and Heems, plus El-P and Despot, a Queens emcee who may have been the evening's sleeper star (mostly on account of his being the most sober).
Perpetually at the other end of the inebriation spectrum was frequent DR collaborator Lakutis, introduced as "our Caucasian rapper friend," who wilded out with infectiously sloppy aplomb for the Sit Down, Man songs "Amazing" and "Rapping 2 U." Unlike the other guests, he seemed to encourage the group's worst habits -- Kool's insistence on replacing the ends of his verses with mush-mouthed nonsense, and the others' (Heems and hypeman Dapwell) overuse of the echo pedal and mic at the edge of the stage.
But perfection isn't the aim of a Das Racist show, or hardly any relevant rap these days. It's energy and iconoclasm, and this trio's got both in spades. From the moment they took the stage -- flexing, grinning, and slapping hands to Shut Up, Dude's "Who's That? Brooown!" -- to the big closer, "Rainbow in the Dark," DR kept the blood flowing (diluted as it was, onstage at least, by beer).
Was it loud? Definitely. Was it loose? Yeah. Did the crowd scratch their heads as often they bounced their palms in the air? It's possible. But being misunderstood is part of the Das Racist M.O., and they're confident we'll come around sooner than later, evidenced by a Heems' couplet on the eXquire track: "All of y'all pricks can suck my dick, I'm stupid as shit, but I'm about to be rich." Huzzah to that.
"Who's That? Brooown!"
"Brand New Dance"
"Amazing" (ft. Lakutis)
"Rapping 2 U" (ft. Lakutis)
"Middle of the Cake"
"Relax" (ft. Despot)
"Rooftop" (ft. Despot)
"Power" (ft. Despot)
"Shut Up, Man" (ft. El-P)
"Huzzah (Remix)" (Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire ft. Das Racist, Despot, El-P)
"You Oughta Know"
"Rainbow in the Dark"