I actually planned to do this when the album was soon to come out as like a hype sort of thing, but the singles and stuff keep making me think about changing the list so bun better do this before I have to overlook anything else. “Michael Jackson” doesn't appear, not sure where it would go, it is just too next level for my brain to comprehend.
15. hahahaha jk?
I was sort of surprised when this emerged as one of the most popular songs on Sit Down, Man, but I don't really know why in retrospect. This is Das Racist on some overt parody/reference nonsense, which is okay in these doses. The beat is really legitimately heavy and they manage to capture the extinction level event sort of dramatics that they were trying to parody better than most of the parodees. But did anyone actually do that sort of stuff seriously? Thus the crux of the song. Is trying to show hipsters that a lot of mainstream hip hop is supposed to be silly fun by showing them the sort of silly fun that they understand? Going too deep on this one maybe. Mayday. The flow is absurd and the references pinball you around. Hipsters get it for all the wrong reasons but geez I have certainly written enough about that by now. I won't pretend to know exactly who is on DR's hitlist on this one but I do know that they have all been thoroughly crossed off. Some of the traded lines near the end are almost painfully clever.
I was really hyped up for this one. The beat comes in nice and slow and smooth and you just can't wait to hear how they're going to rap over it. Probably one of their boastiest songs, but they've earned it. But then it switches you up with “We used to play basketball, then we started drinkin'/Used to be thinkin', like a young Abe Lincoln” and you gotta rethink everything. Again. But “I'm Don King, I gets mah promote on”, like, who is able to come up with that and just know how good it'll sound? And Kool AD goes so hard on his verse that you'll want to listen to it in slo-mo. Lakutis is all over Sit Down, Man but I really can't complain, on here his endearingly awkward nostalgic intro transitions so amazingly into one of the most densely clever verses I can think of that it's stunning. Sure maybe he's a bit too knowing about it but “Are you able to give up the flesh like Able do? Not Able? Cain'll do” and “OG commander of the starship, Pike before Kirk”, I mean, someone get this man a trophy for something.
13. You Oughta Know
I still remember really, really well when this beat came on the first time I ever heard it and I was like wow amazing this is actually legitimately amazing, like, before that I was still sorta skeptical and maybe even a little begrudging when I acknowledged that “Who's that Brown?” was great but I figured maybe that was a fluke and c'mon I don't need to start taking this too seriously, besides which This Is Happening just came out and ahhh but it didn't matter because this beat was too good, too addictive. At that point I didn't realize it was bitten but I gotta say it belongs to them now. The affinity with this beat is stronger than almost any other rapper/beat connection I can think of. The lyrics aren't their golden standard but hold up very nicely. I cannot get over how well they flow with this beat, though. Maybe that should be expected when they abandon the idea of real words to accomplish said flow, but even then, it is amazing.
12. Chicken and Meat
In many ways the first real debut into the tier three submarine depth that is music I think to listen to, where before DR's only presence was “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”. This is still one of the most essential Das Racist songs, both rappers spitting with a frenzy that very few can match on some of the most wonderfully absurd subjects you can't imagine. This really catches you off guard on a number of occasions, causing you to constantly rethink what the group is capable and what you might hear next. Eventually you just give up and go with it, satisfied that you will likely be happily struck with surprise every other line and realizing that keeping a handle on these guys is pointless to even attempt. Trying to keep up is an unwinnable arms race of understanding and subversion that leads to the ends of the universe. And that's space racist.
11. Hugo Chavez
Am I wrong in thinking this is actually one of the heaviest beats I can think of? It starts heavy and just starts guzzling lead. And speaking of which, is this not one of the most swagged out legitimately imposing flows ever? Just because there's jokes doesn't mean you can laugh it off. These lines fall down like mudslides. Some really novel ideas for repetition in verses, some really clever wordplays, some jarring references way out of left field, overall excellence.
10. Shut Up, Dude
This is one of their first beats where I thought, okay, this isn't just like, novel. Not just like a clever idea anyone could have. This is one of those beats where you see the next level. I mean, the hook alone! It sounds like it shouldn't work, maybe, sounds almost like it's about to come apart at the seams, and unaccompanied it might seem just too disjointed to ever be that memorable, to seem whole. But here! They challenged themselves with this beat, I assume, but it never really sounds like they're challenged by anything. Heems and Kool AD take two completely different approaches but succeed basically equally. Miraculous supervictory. Like when a robot turns into a bigger robot and punches through an even bigger robot with a drill.
9. Back in Town
So yeah Das Racist is a very rapidly evolving group, and I'm happy for it, because they're honestly en-route to being some of the best rappers I have ever heard ever. At the same time, though, there's a flavor to some of their old stuff that started to get lost in the evolution. Wait scratch that “Michael Jackson” brought it back twentyfold. Uh. Anyways these old songs are great too. For awhile “Astro Brown” seemed like it was the legendary holy grail, but I think this, from around the same era, is even better. The extended food mixups (“Ham and cheese rap? I don't even eat that.” or “Please, crackers with cheese”) combinated with their not yet refined but really nicely succinct irony (“Pitchfork dot com? I don't even read that” or “The best rapper is Eminem/I'm not joking, the best rapper is Eminem/I'm just joking, the best rapper is me and him”) and did I mention all of those lines take place in one tiny verse? It's absolutely bananas. As is the beat. As is Heem's rapidfire second verse that I just now can barely get my head around. As is the autotune gargled rendition of the same-titled Guess Who classic. As is the suddenly and weirdly poignant outro? Or even better the extended counting intro, the highest number counted I can think of in a song since uh BoC's “Aquaris”. The whole song is bananas in the most excellent way.
8. Rapping 2 U
Nujabes beat, may he rest in peace knowing well that his wonderful music will fuel other wonderful music for years to come. I was almost worried this level of production was too good for them, like, they would realize how much you can slack off when you have a really, really well put together beat like this. But no. Everyone, including Lakutis, is going pure rap skillz here. Great lines all over the place, I can't even begin to keep track of them. “We're rapping to you, my friend, and only you. So don't ever say we never did nothing for you.” I appreciate it.
7. Free Jazzmataz
Okay if you want to talk about impossible beats, here's a good one. This barely sounds like an actual beat, it sounds like people hammering blindly on some keyboards with other junk thrown on it, and that's maybe even how most of it was made. Somehow it all comes together, though, through like an air-thin miracle so fragile I can't even describe it for fear of ruining it. The rapping helps a lot, and I really think they have some of their most interesting ideas contained in this song. Between some of the most like, dada-baroque references they've done there's a strange narrative about wanting a nice life that really resonates with me. The way these almost secret digressions on the simplicity of human needs motivate and are motivated by such a large range of references is quite remarkable. It is really the best song ever. Better than all but six of their other songs.
This is another big prototype song, this one not from the primordial era but more the primeval era. In the big Das Racist evolutionary tree, this leads into super-high level repetition, computer jokes, absolutely insane flows of words that have no business even being attempted in rapping, Brendan Fraiser, and completely mind-conquering anthemic hooks (“Coca-Cola! Pepsi-Cola! Ringtone, ringtone, Motorola!”. A lot of their very best songs owe some genes to this, but it holds up not just as a respected old grandfather rap but something that still sounds fresh and innovative. As they became more experienced, elements of this song became more refined and also often restrained. Nowadays they're too good to need to repeat computer that many times. Or they know they can condense the cleverness down to “I'm five out of eight computers on the scale of computers, I'm complex”. They know now that they don't have to scream the hook to get you to scream the hook. They've come so far but what they've evolved from is still so far beyond what most others could ever do.
5. Sit Down, Man
This is everything you need to know about Das Racist being pure level 256 rappers condensed as much as possible into a very accessible but unfathomably deep package. Scoop Deville's beat is simple genius, really heavy and dark while still being pretty quick and smooth. All three verses in here are just packed with good lines and serve as perfect rap-resumes that anyone could understand. The number of slight flow adjustments is immense, but each is so smooth and subtle that there's never any jarring change. The intensity goes up and down but there's this sense that it's all building to something – and it is. El-P, man. Victor and Heems are some of the best rappers I have ever heard of but El-P still has a world all his own and the climatic, juggernaut of a verse that he deploys here crushes everything with the power of a longtime vet that is not a new-trick-unlearnable old dog. Huge.
4. Rainbow in the Dark
If “Sit Down, Man” has everything you could need to sell Das Racist to a hip hop fan, here's everything you need to sell them to a hipster. The popularity of this song created yet another high watermark for DR, and I mean that not just as far as “this was their best song at the time” but “this got pretty dang close to the surface”, like, probably the closest since “C: PH/TB: WPRMX”. This created another layer of common knowledge of Das Racist, but unlike their previous one, this is definitely something to stake your reputation on. This song is so smooth, so classic, that when you listen to it it seems weird that it's actually so recent. It sounds classic, it sounds like the sort of thing that ought to be a foundation of a genre. And it sort of is, I mean, it's not a huge thing but when you see people try to do postdeconstructionalist-diswagard-referencecore rap, they're aiming for this song, because that is what they understand this song to be. And it isn't I mean I went over that before but again this song ain't irony fodder for hipsters. This is really, really solid rap. I feel like I'm still finding new cool things in it. I remember the days when I was stunned at the brilliancy of “Catch me solving mysteries like Wikipedia Brown” or “Playing Donkey Kong Country at his cousin's house”. They're still brilliant, but that's just the impressive door, the literal entry level stuff. This thing goes unknowably deep. Like a rainbow in the dark (ooooh).
Okay now we're in the super tier. This is where we get into the stuff too good for the mixtapes, the stuff the album's gonna be starting off from. What can I say about “Swate”? It's swate. It's the first thing to ever be swate and everything that will ever be swate in the future will just be some small fraction of the swateness of this. Lakutis' verse seems like it would have the absolute least chance of being swagger of anything anyone has ever said and surprise, it isn't swagged out at all. It's so much more, it's swate. Heems spits so lazy it wraps right back around to zen-like focus. Overarching conflicts over haircuts bridge verses and Victor seems to do everything in his power for you not to take him seriously, but it doesn't work. Unlike the ever changing sea of “Sit Down, Man”'s flow, swate rap jumps around like a schizophrenic in Kuribo's shoe. This has some of the most and least serious lines they've ever spat, and they're delivered with polar opposite severity. This is the contrary genius of swate, the combination of grimy hood rich swag and creepy suburban sweet. The beat breathes it. “This rap shit is nothing to me”, says Heems, and I believe him. Just like I no not of my power over ants. Maybe I'm going a bit far on this one but whatever, gotta step it up and out for these really really good tracks.
2. Jungle Fever
Okay so “Jungle Fever”. The number of absolutely amazing lines in this one is actually pretty silly. Like, don't you worry sometimes that they'll run out of lines? Like, you probably don't have a good estimate of the actual total amount of oil in the world, right? But, when the BP oil spill happened, you prolly said, “hey, that isn't good”. And you were probably thinking more pollution than running out of oil but at the same time, hey, we're at peak oil, oil is dang expensive, and even though you don't really know how much of it is left you know a lot of oil getting wasted when you see it. And maybe you worry somewhere after you worry about dolphins and birds and the folk that lost their lives in the blast, maybe you worry that when we eventually run dry of oil, if we haven't gotten off our desperate need for it, that this sort of thing will be seen as a waste. Even if it was somehow fueling those gulf critters' frolic instead of just drowning them in fuel it might still look like a waste when we have none left. And this is where the car that is this analogy starts to break down because it has no oil. OK so: maybe eventually on some tragic day Das Racist will bow out of the rap game. Maybe, and this is unlikely, but conceivable, they'll bow out because they can't come up with any more good songs. And on that day, I think I'll be looking back on “Jungle Fever” and thinking, there's like a dozen songs in here! There's probably a whole decent album's worth of stuff that could be made from padding out these 5 minutes and 26 seconds even a little bit! The number of themes! The number of subjects! The number of flows, of techniques! The number of evolutions in the beat! The multitude of hooks, semi-hooks, advanced hooks and transcendental hooks! Any chunk of any verse could be the hook for like many songs. Le1f is so what he is, so confident, so powerful, so concentrated, that you could drip his sweat on other tracks and he'd have the presence of a whole guest verse. Why'd they do the race confusion card on the same song that they'd already played the Ace of Gay? They didn't need to! There was no need to bust out their best repetition loop (“Rapping rapping rapping rapping... etc” - you can't top that!) or some of their best reference chains! So why'd they do it? Well, this song seems to me to be basically a love letter to hip hop. Unlike other takes on this concept, they didn't talk about what they love about hip hop, they demonstrated why hip hop ought to be loved. Like, uh, when you love the idea of painting, you don't show it off by displaying jars of paint. Or photographs of paintings. You paint, right? That way you instill in others not the idea of “hey this guy loves painting” but “hey I love painting”. So it is that by the end of “Jungle Fever”, we have jungle fever. We all have jungle fever. We're in love.
1. And The White Man Get Paid Off All Of That
If “Jungle Fever” contains many songs that could be, “ATWMGPOAOT” (And This Will Manage Greatness Pretty Obviously Above Optimal Tryhards) contains many songs that were. I talked about this song before so I'll try to talk about how good it is without repeating myself. That will not be difficult. Perhaps you are familiar with the idea of a combo video or highlight reel or whatever. Usually, if you're a really big fan of whatever the video's of, you'll recognize the original source of most the highlights. This is true for me for like, Melee combo videos and such, at least. The effect is that even though there's just a small clip, I get the emotional rush of remembering the whole stock or match or set or even tournament or year of my life. Such is the power of strongly tied nostalgia! Kool AD (Awesome Dude) makes an attempt to capture this magic in a verse and succeeds brilliantly. I don't know how he did it. I don't know how he even conceived of it. It seems like sorta egotistical? But at the same time there's this familiarity with it that seems more like old friends sharing a joke than pretentious or even presumptuous. For him to go so deep with it means he must have been pretty confident that the idea would succeed. I've been talking to my friend about the Heems (Himanshu) and Victor (Victory!) parallel to Big Boi and Andre 3000 and I think this is the best example of it. Like Big Boi, Heems is 100% pure rapper. Well no he's also a great businessman and promoter and all that. But on the track he is a professional beat murderer. Thing though is a lot of people are always like “hey man Andre > BB mirite?” and here's the thing: I don't think Andre is as good at rapping as Big Boi on average. He gambles on crazy ideas too often and it doesn't always work, and even when it does work, sometimes it isn't even rap anymore. It's this dynamic of core next level rap fundamentals providing the gravitational base for wildly spinning satellites that created basically the best rap duo in history (I'll argue with people about this if you want. It's a legit argument with some real contenders. But Outkast will win) and it's this same sort of dynamic, flavored differently but still present, that is lining up Das Racist for a shot at that throne. Let's go ham with this analogy, hamalogy. As the new moon of Victor does some gravity sling nonsense around the back, the infinite tides of planet Heems churn and produce land, a continent, a civilization, and the first inhabitants of that civilization look in awe as the moon hurdles forward towards the sun until it is too bright for them to look any further. They may not understand at first. They may mourn the moon in error. But behold a great and powerful radiance emerging from the unknowable solar being. Behold the ancient volcanoes bursting anew! Behold the destruction of the Great Architect of the Illuminati! Behold the swate sounds of a new religion! Behold as the barriers of race and gender are torn down in the great resummation of fallen giant Albion! Behold, as the white man gets paid off of all of it! And it shall be as it is written! But wait, I don't even think that that's true.
Well that's the list
That was pretty fun. I should do more lists in the future maybe. It's fun to write in hyperbole mode for things you really like after you build up to them. Also no one agrees with lists and it's good to get people thinking, so long as you aren't just blatantly trolling them.
I was going to put some other stuff I'd written in this blog post but I might as well save it for later. This is plenty long.