Until recently, there were two kinds of bands in New York. On the one hand there were the proper indie ones, think Vampire Weekend and The Rapture, walking up and down Bedford Avenue. On the other, artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z - who belong to that new wave of producers who took hip-hop to the middle class. Now, thanks to Das Racist, we can talk about a hybrid. We find ourselves before a group of people who adore hip-hop and know how to rap, but have the indie audience as their main target. And don't be fooled by the racist bit: they have Indian, Afro-Cuban and Italian roots between them.
Their story started with “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell”, a tribute to junk food telling the story of two friends finding it difficult to meet - as one is at a Pizza Hut and the other, if anyone's in doubt, at a Taco Bell. Now, finally, the bizarre and hilarious hip-hop of Das Racist has materialised on “Relax”, the first studio effort after two mix tapes: “Shut Up Dude” and “Sit Down Man”. The trio took their task seriously: they called upon some big guns from the Big Apple and surrounding areas to produce the album. The fact that Rostman Batmanglij (keyboardist of Vampire Weekend), Diplo and Anand Winder (Yeasayer) are the ones at the helm perfectly fits the indie-rapper hybrid theory. The record is a declaration of intent: they make humorous hip-hop, a rare thing in a genre that is ill-tempered by nature, with a bit of arrogance on the side.
To review this album we should start by talking about “Rainbow In The Dark”, number 12 on a track list of 14. It is when the record is in its final stages then, that we find a hit - driven by a light bass line that, along with the trademark raps, sticks in your head for a long time. Catchy to say the least. The rest of the album has a bit of everything, but it works well as a whole. The title track, a rap with a lot of flow and harmony, gives way to another hit; “Michael Jackson”, on which they sound like they've filtered the Bollywood sound through an 8-bit machine. In fact, it could be the “Prince Of Persia” soundtrack, had they invented the game in 2011. The Indian influence returns on “Punjabi Song” (“Mundian To Bach Ke”, anyone?), again with a Bollywood loop, albeit more synthesised this time. The New Yorkers, however, are versatile; “Relax”, as said, has a bit of everything. Hence the mix of raps and tracks like “Girl”, a song that could even get them a spot next to bands like Hot Chip. And they would pull it off, too.