Das Racist on their new album Sit Down, Man, The New Yorker Duel, and more

Das Racist, the Brooklyn based hip-hop trio known for embracing their varied ethnicities in smart, comedic songs is comprised of: Queens own Himanshu Suri, Victor Vazquez, and Ashok Kondabolu a.k.a. Dap.  The group made a name for themselves with tracks like 2008’s “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” which went viral, prompting a number of fan videos and when New Yorker cartoonist Farley Katz drew a cartoon mocking it in 2009, Vazquez responded with a “cartoon-off” which he ultimately won.   Their newest mixtape , Sit Down, Man, was released in September and features guests such as El-P and Chairlift and production credits from Diplo.

How did your family feel when you decided to become a full-time weed edge/Hare Krishna hard core/art rap/freak folk music trio?  Did you focus on music totally when you graduated or did you work any other jobs?

Himanshu Suri (H): I had a job that required me to wear the finest tailored suits of the freshest fabrics on a daily basis. I did that for 2 years before I left to pursue art full-time.

Victor Vazquez (V): After I graduated college I worked briefly with kids with severe autism in Berkeley, then on a farm in northern CA, then as a TA for a computer literacy class for kids Oakland, then as an after school tutor for middle to high schoolers in Brooklyn, then as a PR manager for a film distribution company in Jersey, then at a raw vegan kitchen in Brooklyn, then at an alcohol PR firm, then data entry for a technology/education non-profit, then I lived off the advance for my blue-eyed soul band for a year, then I was broke/in debt/couch surfing, now I do a couple things. Don’t watch me, watch Ian Cohen.

Ashok Kondabolu (Dap): I focused completely on my many musical endeavors!

I love the 8 bit video game that you guys launched on your website for the song “Who’s That Brown.” Where did the idea come from and how hard was it to put together?

H: Our director Thomas De Napoli proposed it and besides interjecting with a few dialogue bits for authenticity’s sake it was mostly him and the awesome team of people he put together.

V: We asked that they change “American Apparel” to “Born Jamerican Apparel” I never double-checked to see if they actually did that.

Dap: The dudes at Enter The Fancy Productions put that together. SICK JOB PEOPLE!!

I know you guys first met at Wesleyan University, what were you majoring in at the time? I know the guys from MGMT also went there, did you happen to know them then?

H: I majored in “pretending I too have a history of wealth in this country.” I was in the same weird, art society cult type co-ed frat thing as those dudes: THE ECLECTIC SOCIETY.

V: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I went to Harvard.

Dap: English Major.

The “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” track really made you guys well known a few years back but I was surprised to hear that you guys no longer like to play it live, why? It certainly has a bit of minimalist genius to it and it’s a song that gets stuck in your head after hearing it. Have you been approached by either Pizza Hut or Taco Bell about using it?

H: You’re mistaken, we never liked playing it live. The only time we were into playing it live was probably the night we came up with it on stage performing to Eclectic students on a trip back to Wesleyan after graduating. After that we recorded the song and since then have performed it less than 5 times.

V: I would say we’ve done it live more like 20 or 30 times.  But yeah the general idea is, y’all know the song, why would you need us to do it for you?

Dap: Spaghetti’s my favorite, followed by hamburgers.

Dapwell posted some video up on YouTube of his grandmother’s house in India, have you had a chance to perform there yet? What has the reaction to your music and style been outside the States?

H: We get a good amount of love from Romania and England. We may go to India in December, whether or not we have the love.

V: We’re also in the process of confirming dates in China, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK, Denmark, and some other spots….

Dap: My brother just came back from Andhra Pradesh and has some videos of my grandmother arguing with a bicycle rickshaw driver. My grandmother is awesome!

I applaud your response to The New Yorker cartoon by Farley Katz and as a cartoonist myself I thought the comic duel was genius. Are people more cautious about you now that it’s known that you are up for potentially calling them on it? (BTW: I also challenge you to a cartoonist duel)

H: Sorry, we’re more selective about who we duel with now.

V: Naw fuck it I’ll battle anybody.

Dap: Battle your own conscience, Vazquez..

Hip hop is not known for its sense of humor or its PhD’s. As rappers with a comedic edge and a college education, do you find yourselves treated as outcasts or accepted by the hip hop community?

H: I’d say We Are Hip-Hop.

V: Aside from just Kanye; Ice Cube, Diddy, Wayne, Gucci Mane, Wale, Ludacris, Talib Kweli, David Banner, Plies, Paul Wall, E-40, Chuck D. Flavor Flav, Dead Prez, Young MC, Rah Diggah, Common and Roxanne Shante all went to college to name a few. And most of them graduated. Also most of the best rappers are funny.

Dap: Rap is intentionally and unintentionally the funniest music ever created actually? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT BREH?

Okay touché, we’ll just have to draw it out I guess, so in addition to your music, you also started a company, Greedhead Entertainment and signed a few acts to your stable. Was your decision to start it up based on the crumbling of the music industry? Have you been approached by other record labels?

H: Greedhead isn’t exactly a record label. It’s a vehicle to put out our mixtapes although mostly it is a music management and press company I run on the side.

V: We’re also going to start stockpiling weapons and administering combat training courses but that’s further down the line.

Dap: They approached my mother and they threatened her! Please stop bothering my family!

On your new mixtape, Sit Down, Man, you collaborated with fellow Brooklynites Chairlift. How did you guys end up getting together with them? Also can you be a musician that’s labeled hot these days and not live in Brooklyn?

H: They’re good friends. Patrick from Chairlift recorded and mixed the following songs on our last 2 records: “Pizza Hut Taco Bell,” “Coochie Dip City,” “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Ek Shaneesh,” “Fashion Party,” “Irresponsible,” and “Commercial.”

V: We also wrote that song that was in the iPod commercial for them.

Dap: You can live anywhere you want!

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About Tim Needles

Tim Needles is an artist, photographer, humorist, and writer from Long Island, NY. His writing and art work has been seen in multiple exhibitions and publications around New York as well as the Photographer’s Forum, French Photo, the New York Times, and LI Pulse magazine. He is also an educator and currently teaches art and film at Smithtown, NY and as an Education Leader for Adobe. He was recently the recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Award in Washington DC and serves as the director of Strictly Students, a non-for-profit group for media and education. His work can be seen on his website: www.timneedles.com
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