Sit Down, Man
Label: Mad Decent
Early on Sit Down, Man, Das Racist describe themselves as “rap noise pop” which isn’t exactly accurate, though there’s some truth to it nonetheless. This presents itself most clearly in the way the duo brings up legitimate issues about race in America (“noise”), but hides it behind a carefully calculated veneer of irreverence (“pop”). The formula works, on critics at least, as evidenced by the internet dominance of “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” the stellar track that preceded debut mix-tape Shut Up, Dude and follow-up “Who’s That? Brooown!” which now has its own video game. No, seriously.
So, Sit Down, Man’s primary job is to both prove that the formula wasn’t just beginner’s luck and to find the group a role in hip-hop outside of their current image of informed jesters who happen to verbally spar with Sasha Frere-Jones in their free time. Does the album succeed? Well, that really depends on how you quantify your successes. The formula has certainly been proven sustainable but the likelihood of Das Racist ever shaking their jester appeal is slim to none and that’s probably for the best, no matter what resistance to “funny” rap you may or may not have. To put in other words, there are moments on the mix-tape where Das Racist seem to be committed to shedding the image but then there’s also “Hahahaha jk?”
Produced by Boi-1da, “jk” is on its surface more straightforwardly hip-hop than the majority of Das Racist’s catalog, with a sample that channels MF Doom and a beat that miraculously finds a way to breathe some life into the overly digitized hi-hats almost every mainstream hip-hop track has utilized for the past five years. But the chorus explicitly calls out Das Racist’s relationship with the hip-hop community in a way that makes Blur’s “Boys and Girls” seem simple: “We’re not joking/ Just joking/ We are joking/ Just joking/ We’re not joking.” You could read “jk” in a few different ways but two major options present themselves; either Das Racist are not sure themselves where the idea of Das Racist ends and the reality begins or they’ve clued in on the fact that mystery and confusion sell.
Questions of identity aside, Sit Down, Man’s greatest success is in the way it focuses the ambition of Shut Up, Dude, making it a much clearer work. Sit Down, Man isn’t as fun as Shut Up, Dude but it isn’t as exhausting either and with less clutter in the way, it’s easier to focus on the unparalleled lyrical cleverness and lackadaisical flows of Kool A.D. and Heems. Seattle ex-pat Sabzi, who produced “Who’s that? Brooown!,” opens up Man with the buzzy, percussion -happy “All Tan Everything.” “All Tan Everything,” with its aping of Chuck English’s low pitch-shifted vocal tricks and chilled humor, is the song most likely to recall Dude, the rest of Man falling along the lines of the Teengirl Fantasy-produced electro hop of “Commercial” or sample-focused numbers like the standout “Amazing.”
“Amazing” in particular offers a glimpse of what a more serious Das Racist would be like, its mellow keyboard sample an irresistible hook and the jokes mostly confined to the likes of imagining “Sage Francis on the cover of Beyond Race.” Even more common mix-tape fodder like the Doors revisit “People Are Strange” sound fresh and exciting in the newly confident hands of A.D. and Heems. You’d be hard-pressed to find a moment on Sit Down, Man that doesn’t show Das Racist really coming into their own and expanding on their debut’s promise. As for that earlier question about whether Das Racist have clued in on the commercial potential of their personas? Let’s just say there’s a reason the track Diplo produces is called “You Can Sell Anything.”
by Nick Hanover