Shut Up, Dude: An Interview with Das Racist

Das Racist have been making waves across the international hip-hop scene with their tongue-in-cheek lyricism and controversial antics. I was able to have a chat with Victor Vazquez (aka Kool A.D.) and Ashok Kondabolu (aka Dap) from Das Racist, and we talked about everything from the difference between a MixTape and an LP, to Odd Future, to identity crisis. While the two were sarcastic and generally ambiguous, it was a somewhat revealing look into the lives of two of today’s hottest hip-hop artists. Though they didn’t really answer any of my questions…

What is your reaction to having an international fanbase?

Dap: It’s interesting to see cities I’ve never seen before and the lands surrounding those cities. I am curious what they like about the band or the music, it seems fairly “American” to me.

It seems that people either “get” or “don’t get” your music. Do you intentionally create songs that have a niche target audience?

Dap: Many of our songs are incredibly high-pitched; only dogs can hear them. People can hear them only as silence, which is disheartening at best, downright dangerous in the worst case.


Two of my favorite releases of 2010 were your mixtapes, Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man. And obviously I wasn’t the only one who thought they were excellent. How do/did you feel about the critical acclaim you received with these releases? 

Dap: They’ve generated interested which has generated money for us to use to purchase goods and services and to marvel at the small amount of accumulation.

Kool A.D: I feel OK.

This year you released Relax, your debut album. Is there a different recording process for a full-length record versus a mixtape?

Kool A.D: We didn’t use unclearable samples so we could sell it for money.

One thing I really enjoyed about Relax was your collaborators – Rostam Batmanglij, Diplo and El-P, among others. What is your take on contemporary hip-hop and collaborations – your thoughts on the “feat” paradigm, if you will. Do you think that too many collabs can skew the artistic direction of a record? Sorry, that was a long question…

Kool A.D: Making music with friends and acquaintances is a fun thing.

A verse of yours that always stood out for me, from “Shut Up, Man” is:

“They say I act white but sound black/ But act black but sound white/ But what’s my sound bite supposed to sound like?” You’ve captured a very real sense of identity crisis that many multi-ethnic Americans face. How do you (being multi-ethnic Americans) deal with the inevitable struggle for identity?

Kool A.D: Identity politics are a bourgeoisie parlor game played in America and abroad to distract people from the harsh realities of capitalism. While they can occasionally be used, to varying degrees of success, as a rhetorical anti-capitalist tactic, often enough they can obscure as much as they can illuminate.

With any form of art criticism, in-depth analysis can often trivialize artistic intent; or can lend meaning to the meaningless. I have to ask, what is the meaning behind the track “hahahaha jk?” This is a song that Rolling Stone included on their ‘Best Songs of 2010’ list, and one that many critics have been calling an existential critique of contemporary society. Do you ever find that sometimes people give too much meaning to your material? Or do all of your songs have deep philosophical messages? 

Kool A.D: Everything is everything my nigga.

I now have to ask a question about “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” – I apologize for my predictability. First, how did you come up with this song? Second, did you ever expect it to be a pop culture phenomenon? And finally, please answer the oft-debated question: Is the song a subtle social commentary on the consumerist state of America? Or is it about two guys getting high? 

Kool A.D: Everything is everything my nigga.

How do you feel about being called “hipsters” – or that you have spawned the term ‘hip(ster) – hop’?

Dap: We didn’t spawn that term. “Hipsters” have existed for probably 150 years at least, it will be a phenonenom as long as there is enough wealth for large groups of people to have leisure time. I’m a “regular guy” who doesn’t watch football, call me whatever you want.

Kool A.D: I think Spank Rock, Plastic Little, Kidz in the Hall did the whole “hipster” rap thing before us.

In 10 words or less, describe the state of contemporary hip-hop.

Dap: Touch 2 Feel.

Kool A.D: Listen to the intro to Black on Both Sides again.

You recently shared a New Yorker article with Odd Future. How do you feel being compared with the young hip-hop collective, and what do you think of their meteoric rise to popularity?

Dap: Happy for them, it’s a way to make money and travel the world.

Kool A.D: Yeah, they’re doing their thing.

Now on the topic of OFWGKTA – In a profile with Interview Magazine, Odd Future member Syd The Kid said: 

“We’re not trying to offend or intrigue people. It’s more of a social experiment. We make fun of society on a daily basis, and people take it so seriously. They’re proving us right.” I feel like this statement can be aptly applied to Das Racist. Can you comment on your own social experiments…

Dap: I’m planting IEDs throughout the five boroughs. Let’s see what happens.

Kool A.D: Yes, I was responsible for the 1995 Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system if that’s what you’re referring to.

Now I would like to finish up with some easy questions:
Favorite albums of 2011?

Dap: Danny Brown “XXX”

Kool A.D: Danny Brown: XXX, Dopehead: Plaid Palm Trees, Trash Talk: Awake, Spaceghost Purp: BLVCKLVND RVDX 66.6, The Weeknd: House of Balloons, Main Attrakionz: 808s and Dark Grapes, Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire: Lost in Translation, Asap Rocky: LiveLoveA$AP, Big Baby Gandhi: Big Fuckin’ Baby, Lakutis: I’m in the Forest, Soulja Boy: Juice

Favorite albums of all time? 

Kool A.D: Prince: Sign O The Times, Stevie Wonder: Talking Book, Sly and the Family Stone: Fresh, The Stooges: The Stooges, Outkast: ATLiens, Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Big Pun: Capital Punishment, A Tribe Called Quest: Low End Theory, Sade: Diamond Life

Dream collaboration?

Dap: Dream Hampton writing my autobiography with my mom.

Kool A.D: Guillermo Gomez-Peña

What can the world expect from Das Racist in the coming months? Is there a new album on the horizon?

Dap: Many beautiful, bouncing baby boys and girls.

Any last words?

Dap: What do you want on your tombstone?


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About Vinyl Record Face

Vinyl Record Face is the online presence of music critic Lukas Clark-Memler. Lukas' musings have found themselves into a wide range of international magazines and a variety of credible websites. He currently serves as Music Editor of Get Frank Magazine in New Zealand, and Bunker Hill Magazine in Los Angeles. He tends to err on the side of the quixotic and has an insatiable thirst for good music.

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