The Bushwick-based hip-hop trio Das Racist blends nimble rhyme skills with racially charged humor: Between the group’s Afro-Cuban-Italian MC Kool A.D. (non-rap name: Victor Vazquez) and two Indian-American members, co-front man Heems (a.k.a. Himanshu Suri) and hype man Dap (born Ashok Kondabolu), they find something to offend everyone. “We have a biracial dude from Southern California, and then an Indian dude from Queens rapping about a whole other set of experiences,” explains Suri. “There are complicated moments for both of us in the discussion of race.” Suri and Vazquez met not in the Brooklyn streets, but in the leafy Connecticut town that houses Wesleyan University, where they read books by Chinua Achebe and bro’d out with MGMT. As such, they’re more likely to beef with, say, a New Yorker critic’s article on the death of hip-hop than with their rival rap peers. The threesome first connected in 2008 and blew up initially via the viral hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” before releasing two acclaimed mix tapes, Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man, last year. “We made it into the Hindustan Times, and my parents thought that was cool,” says Suri, who until two years ago was working essentially as a financial-services headhunter “hiring evil people for trading jobs.”
Das Racist’s soon-to-be unleashed new album, Relax (Greedhead), will be the group’s first effort not to be released free on the Internet. The record also seems to signal a move toward courting a wider audience, featuring production work and appearances by Diplo, Anand Wilder of Yeasayer, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Drake protégé Francis Starlite, Patrick Wimberly of Chairlift, and El-P. “It’s got a P.M. Dawn–meets–KRS-One kind of vibe,” says Vazquez. “People have different perceptions of us—the hipster thing, the comedy thing,” offers Suri. “But our third album is more about building a pop-rap aesthetic. We rap more about romance and love and lust.” He adds: “We also discuss the evolution of Harrison Ford’s torso throughout time. We recorded the whole thing without our shirts on.”
Photo: Das Racist in New York, June 2011. Top: On Vazquez: Jacket: Jeremy Scottxadidas. Jeans: Boss Orange. Glasses: artist’s own. On Suri:sweatshirt And T-shirt: T By Alexander Wang. Pants: Hugo By Hugo Boss. On Kondabolu: Vest: Boss By Hugo Boss. Sweater: Comme Des Garçons Shirt. Jeans: ksubi. Glasses: Artist’s Own. Hair Products: Bumble And Bumble, Including Texture Hair (un)dressing Crème. Grooming: David Von Cannon Using Dermalogica/Bryan Bantry. Makeup: Kaoru Okubo/Management Artists. Special Thanks: Fast Ashleys.