Free the Music: Das Racist

Free the Music is a guide to new albums, EPs and songs that are available for free online. Today’s drop is: Das Racist – Shut Up, Dude.

In today’s everyones-a-blogger, link economy online community, many an Internet scribe would be content with where Brooklyn’s Das Racist was at the end of 2009. A “year as a meme” via a brilliant tongue-in-cheek banger by the name of “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” It’s the kind of so-smart-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ditty that one could hear a thousand tumblrs smacking their head in defeat, thinking: There goes another book deal… Back to posting pictures of stains that look like hipsters.

And then Das Racist had to go and drop Shut Up, Dude. They brought it like they’ve got something to prove. And yes, there’s a wave of expectations stacked up against them, with people who were probably waiting for a Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell: The Mixtape, filled with plenty of tunes of other late night fast food adventures. Yet, that would’ve ruined the mystique of the original tune and it really would have made Das Racist a gimmick.

So, Das Racist did the smart thing and produced a mixtape as deft and effective as any other that’s hit the ‘net this year. Take “Who’s That? Brooown!,” the mixtape’s intro track. One part funky electro beat, one part intelligent critique of race in modern America, “Who’s That? Brooown!” does what any good mixtape track should do: it provides a forum for the MCs – Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez – to display their talent. And Suri and Vazquez drop witty bits of wordplay with a brilliant flow throughout the track, referencing pop culture bits and mixing in critiques of, say, consumerism along the way.

The song hits a peak at the chorus, a smartly-phrased re-working of the UPS slogan as an existential racial observation:

What can brown do for you?/What can brown do for me?

It’s one of countless pop cultural callbacks and rebrandings that fill the mixtape, intelligent lyrical twists that pack every song it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. Fortunately, Suri and Vazquez remain at the foreground to a majority of the mixtape, allowing their words to be the focus of a majority of the album. It’s a great strength and weakness of the album. Suri and Vazquez are talents, no doubt. But when the mixtape opens with instrumentals as strong as “Who’s That? Brooown!” and “You Oughta Know,” an immensely catchy tune based on a sample of Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out” that’s been used for a couple other hip-hop tunes that aren’t nearly as effective, it’s easy to get worn out by the end of the 17-track mixtape when not all the songs offer the same in beat-matching immediacy.

Still, Shut Up, Dude is sure to please and surprise any and all who expected nothing, or something great, from Das Racist. Be it the pointed hip-hop in-joke humor of “Fake Patios” or the old school flavor of “Deep Ass Shit,” Shut Up, Dude has the kind of exuberance that ought to fill every album on your best-of-the-year list.

You can grab a copy of Shut Up, Dude here.

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