Das Racist!: Smarter Than They Seem
Meet Das Racist, two self-proclaimed “weird, socially awkward brown dudes [who] deal with that awkwardness by taking drugs and telling jokes.” Their claim to fame is “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” a perversely infectious romp about—well, if you haven’t heard it, you’re clearly living under a rock, and that can’t be good for your complexion.
The Brooklyn duo graciously answered our questions via e-mail, shedding light on all—from the steep price of Odwalla Juice to Massachusetts’ ever elusive Bard Art College.
Argus: How did you guys decide on the name 'Das Racist’?
Victor Vazquez ’06: It was between that and Spanish Broads. We flipped a coin.
Himanshu Suri ’07: Maybe we'll change it to Spanish Broads later.
Argus: Of all food chains, why did you choose to write about Pizza Hut and Taco Bell? Does a combination PH–TB actually exist? Where can I find it?
VV: There's one on 14th and, like, 6th Avenue. There's one off the Flushing stop on the JMZ. Um, I can't think of any more off the top of my head, but they're everywhere. I grew up down the block from a combination KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell. There's combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/KFC/Nathan's, combination Baskin Robbins/Dunkin Donuts, combination FedEx/Kinkos. At the end of the day, there's like five dudes we buy everything from.
HS: There's one on Jamaica Avenue. But I never fucked with that one specifically. I used to go to the Crown Fried Chicken on Jamaica Avenue with my Indian friends after school, though.
Argus: The genre of music describing Das Racist on your MySpace is pretty in-depth. If you could invent a genre, what would it be and what would it combine?
VV: It would have a body like Arnold and a face like Denzel.
HS: A body like Cedric the Entertainer and a face like Gary Shandling.
Argus: Do you have any signature on-stage dance moves? If you had to pick one, what would it be?
VV: We've been talking about doing this one move from that dance-off scene in “House Party,” but we keep forgetting to do it every show.
HS: I used to do the Stanky Leg on stage, but that's old news now. I fuck with the Booty Dew heavy now. And on my New York Grind, I get Lite pretty often on stage, too. You can YouTube all these if you're not familiar.
Argus: If you could feature anyone—musician or non-musician—on one of your tracks, who would it be?
VV: Cornel West.
HS: Junot Diaz.
Argus: What do you miss about Wesleyan?
VV: Not having to pay rent or student loans every month, almost never having to pay for alcohol, buying steaks at Weshop thinking, “I'll be paying for this in a few years but I don't feel like thinking about that,” the pastoral vistas, the fact that everything was within walking distance, the various free/cheap entertainment, Miller's Pond, Upudi Bhavan, Pattie Palace, Pho Mai, O'Rourke's, Ford News Diner, Professor Gonzalez, Professor Punzalan-Isaac, Professor Karamcheti, Professor Slotkin, Professor Rushin. Also, I never took classes with Braxton or Lucier and I wish I had.
HS: In addition to not having to pay rent, I'd say I mostly miss having time on my hands. I liked not having to get up at 8 a.m. every day and having time to read. I liked waking up to a house of my closest friends and sitting around, talking. The level of discourse you have at college, especially a school like Wesleyan, decreases significantly afterwards. Also, fart jokes increase significantly. I liked sitting on steps of places. I don't get to sit on steps too often anymore. I liked walking past the hill. I liked anything Professor Karamcheti told me to read or Professor Wagoner told me to look at. Word to Victor and the pastoral vistas. I basically just hang out with most of the same people but without the pastoral vistas. I miss Eclectic Haus, too. Also, I can never buy an Oddwala ever again. They cost too much in the real world. It's not even worth it. I don't know if I miss that, though. I just feel it's worth noting.
Argus: What don’t you miss about Wesleyan?
VV: The institutional classism and racism, the relatively ineffectual attempts at discussing or changing said institutional classism and racism, the constant repeating of the phrase "institutional classism and racism," the constant repeating of academic buzz-words and phrases in general (although I use them a lot more now post-college), the Student Judicial Board and its terrible joke of an appeal system, the knee-jerk faux-liberalism, the smug contrarian retardo-conservatism, the condescending behavior of some of the faculty, the optimistic idealism (which I also kind of miss, too), the pessimistic idealism, the pervading white guilt (which I admit was fun at first), ResLife,
weird made-up words like ResLife, the fact that every time you leave the house you see nearly everyone you've ever had sex with.
HS: Being around people with mad money who front like they don't have mad money but you know they have mad money because they throw it around and when you grow up without mad money you can just tell who has mad money and who doesn't. I also don't miss those kids in your classes who looked down upon you and thought you were dumber than them because you chose not to be unnecessarily verbose because you specifically despise kids that rely on language as a crutch to convey otherwise insipid shit. The food on campus wasn't anything to write home about either. Who writes home these days anyway, though? The food isn't anything to e-mail home about either.
Argus: Death & Taxes magazine described “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” as "an existential meditation on consumer identity in corporate America.” Is that description onto something? Or just academic-sounding bullshit?
VV: It's time to come clean. We're a viral marketing team hired by Yum! Brands to "broaden and deepen the consumer demographics of the company" by "infiltrat[ing] the hipster/blipster community." We've hoodwinked the media into not only providing free advertising for Yum! but really fostering an emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual
connection with the brand across many demographics.
HS: Also though, I would describe it as kind of like an existential meditation on consumer identity in corporate America.
Argus: Your lovable back-and-forth banter in “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” reminds me quite a bit of Ween, another experimental music duo commonly mistaken for a novelty act. Is there any influence there?
VV: "Lovable Back-and Forth Banter" is actually the newest track we're working on and it's heavily influenced by Ween.
HS: What's a Ween? Is that like a Muse? Wait, they did that song “Ocean Man,” right? I love that song. So good.
Argus: Are there any plans in the works to give your debut album, “Shut Up, Dude,” a wider release? How does the record compare to the songs by which you’re most known—namely “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” and “Chicken and Meat”?
VV: We're planning on releasing the album (now tentatively entitled “Lovable Back-and-Forth Banter”) sometime early next year. It will be all new material, mostly in the Freak-Folk/Jitty Rock vein.
HS: Yes, “Lovable Back-And-Forth Banter” will include song titles that aren't searchable on YouTube.
Argus: Any more songs about food in the works?
VV: Since our conversion to Freeganism, we have decided to proactively promote that agenda in our music, so yes, “Lovable Back-and-Forth Banter” will deal largely with issues of food and resource management, in addition to our typical existential meditations on consumer identity in corporate America.
HS: We're working on a new song via Google Chat called "I like their food. I like their women. Nothing else.” Look out for that one. It's great.
Argus: Your MySpace tells us you guys met at “Bard Art College in Massachusetts.” What’s the deal with that?
VV: That was a mistake on the part of our PR team. I actually went to Sarah Lawrence.
HS: Yeah, I should change that in our press packet. Victor and I met at a support group for discontent minorities at liberal arts colleges that we both came across while perusing Craigslist's rants and raves section to see when the race war will start. I went to Oberlin at the time, though transferred to Bard after my freshman year when a professor called me a “dune coon” and I just couldn't take it anymore.
Argus: Your songs are produced by a wide range of underground hip hop producers, ranging from J-LA to TANLINES. Have you considered settling on one production style, or self-producing any of your music?
VV: The track “Ek Shaneesh” we did with Like Magic is the first track where we collaborated on production. We've been planning on collaborating with him a lot more but he's on tour with his band a lot.
HS: I wouldn't say a single one of our producers is describable as “underground hip-hop.” Initially we liked rapping over dance music as a tool to specifically undermine some of the more "underground hip-hop" elements of what we were saying, though I think over time we felt like people were focusing on what they call “novelty,” “comedy,” or “parody” elements of our music and so we felt like we should rap on more traditional-sounding rap beats and “prove ourselves,” I suppose. I definitely want to utilize more elements of Indian music, or “world” music in general (though what does that “genre” even mean?), so there could be some continuity between the lyrical and musical aspects of each song. After we put out our first set of songs, I also got really bored with dance/electronic music—though I recently started listening to a lot more dubstep, so I can see a return to that. We also have some beats (KIR)LEIF, Khalif Diouf, made for us and we'll work on those soon because they're too good to sit on. Also, shoutout to Harrison Schaaf.
Argus: Any closing words of advice to music-minded Wes students?
VV: Industry Rule #4,080 . . .