posted on: Thursday October 6, 2011
Tim Morris ’14/Asst. A&E Editor
How should an artist act on stage? Are there any set rules? If their recent performance at The Met was any indication, Das Racist seemed not to care. The rap collective—made up of Himanshu Suri, Victor Vazquez, and Ashok Kondabolu—arrived an hour before the concert was supposed to begin, walked through the same doors as its fans, and made a beeline for the venue’s adult watering hole. Here, they struck up conversation with a few concertgoers before slipping backstage; while Suri sipped on a mixed drink, a few “groupie”-looking girls gave their numbers to Vazquez.
Scheduled to start at 9:00 p.m., openers Despot and Danny Brown did not get to the stage until well after that time. No one complained. The members of Das Racist were going to run the show at their own pace, even if that meant keeping the audience in suspense for a little bit. Those who were old enough saw the delay as an opportunity to down a few more Narragansett Tall Boys. It was this spike in the audience’s overall BAC for which the rappers had been waiting.
First to rock the microphone was Despot. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Seth Green, the wit that Despot brought to his performance was just as good as that of the Austin Powers star. He sarcastically warned the audience that he had had too many drinks: “I’ve never thrown up on stage before.” He even made fun of his own obscurity: “I’m surprised that you’ve never heard of me. I’ve been rapping for hundreds and hundreds of years.” In between jokes, Despot glided through such songs as “Crap Artists,” a testament to his lyrical prowess: “Everyone clap for the crap artists. A pat on the back to whichever one sounds smartest. Capture the magic of blabbering half-hearted.”
Despot could have kept the crowd going for much longer, but special guest Danny Brown soon replaced him. Sporting a hairdo somewhere between afro and combover, Brown added a second layer of eccentricity to the concert. He promoted his most recent album, XXX, with such energy that beads of sweat could be seen running down his face. “Die Like a Rock Star” was his most well-received track that evening: “Brown bless the mic like gesundheit, bud ‘bout the size of a Bonsai, kick it like Muay Thai, flow like sci-fi.” His unique drawl—perhaps an effect of his Detroit upbringing—allows him to attack rhymes in ways that other rappers cannot.
An hour and a half later, the members of Das Racist stumbled onto the stage as if they had accidentally come across it. Suri looked as if he had just rolled out of bed: His outfit consisted of a tank top, a cardigan, athletic shorts, and high-tops. Kondabolu wore a navy blue jumpsuit, while Vazquez seemed to be the only one who received the memo. Cans of Corona Extra in hand, the three each took a microphone and kicked off their set list with “Brand New Dance,” a track off of their new album Relax. Throughout the night, the trio made it clear that they wanted to have a good time. Vazquez showered the audience with dollar bills from his wallet. Kondabolu threw out crackers. Later on, Suri picked up the microphone stand and lazily strummed it as if it were a guitar. A failed stage dive added even more to this hilarity.
When Das Racist left the stage, there was a noticeable sense that they had enjoyed themselves just as much as their audience had enjoyed watching their performance. Their carefree attitude—more of a dazed gusto than anything else—took them in whatever direction they chose. It is likely that they went into The Met without any set list at all; no one in attendance would have been surprised to learn this. After the concert, those fans lucky enough to get backstage hung out and chatted with the group. It was there that I learned their personalities were the same both in and out of the limelight. They made jokes, talked about life on the road, and expressed genuine interest in getting to know their listening audience.