By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
Brooklyn rap duo Das Racist really need no introduction, not because you already know everything about them, but because, at the moment, there's only one really important thing to know: They are responsible for the song "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," which deftly locates the fine line between stupid and clever, and snorts it. It consists, essentially, of two guys repeating the line "I'm at the Pizza Hut/I'm at the Taco Bell/I'm at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" until it passes from grating to absurd to hilarious to poignant to transcendent. It is either very, very meaningful or completely meaningless. Put it on repeat while you think it over.
Having listened to several of them—in some cases, multiple times—I can confirm that Das Racist have other songs ("Fake Patois" is pretty funny), but let's not complicate the issue here. Now available as a horn-blaring, exhilaratingly garish chase-scene remix by similarly sardonic Oakland pranksters Wallpaper., "Pizza Hut" is either the track we, as a culture, need right now, or the track we, as a culture, deserve—or both. Recently, I chatted with Das Racist over e-mail about it. Here is the vast majority of that conversation.
Who the hell are you guys? Names, ages, countries of origin, current residences, astrological signs . . . anything else you'd care to share in that vein would be lovely.
Himanshu: My name is Himanshu. I am 24 years of age. I hail from the borough of Queens, New York. Queens is America's most diverse county. My parents flew to Queens from India in 1980 on an Air India Boeing 727. I now reside in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Williamsburg, Brooklyn is not very diverse. I am a Cancer, Pisces rising. I like watching television, listening to television, listening to the radio, listening to television on the radio, watching television on the Internet, and watching the Internet on a television. I also very much enjoy listening to Hot 97 on the radio. I like reading books that brown people write. My top five favorite poetic devices of all time are repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and repetition.
Victor: My rap name is Kool A.D., but my slave name is Victor Vazquez. Hima doesn't want to use his last name 'cause he has a real job and doesn't want his spot blown up. I don't have a real job anymore because my other band, Boy Crisis, got signed. I'm 25. I was born in San Francisco, California, and moved to Alameda, California, around my pubescent years. My dad was born in Cuba, and my mom was born in Italy. He's black and my mom's white, but I have what's known as "that good hair." Williamsburg is diverse, just highly segregated. I'm a Scorpio; I don't know what my rising sign is. I like all of the media that Hima mentioned. I like the joke he made about TV on the Radio. I like TV on the Radio. I like books by brown people, too. And books by white people. My top five favorite poetic devices of all time are repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and plagiarism.
So tell me about the genesis behind "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." What thought process, and what substances, were involved?
V: The line actually comes from an older song of mine called "I Zimbra" (it's on myspace.com/ladieslovekoolad), and at one of our first shows, we were doing that song and then just started repeating that line over and over, and people seemed to like it, because people seem to like dumb shit. I know I like dumb shit. We did it in one take on the same mic in our friend's basement like a week later. There are always a number of substances involved.
Did you immediately conceive of it as having a sociopolitical context? Are you commenting on American over-consumerism and corporate proliferation? Is this a joke that everyone thinks is a graduate thesis, or vice versa?
H: EVERYTHING WE DO HAS A SOCIOPOLITICAL CONTEXT. THIS IS THE BURDEN OF THE MINORITY MAN. DID YOU KNOW THAT 1/3 OF ALL THREE-YEAR-OLDS IN URBAN AREAS ARE OBESE? I'M ALMOST POSITIVE I READ THAT ON THE INTERNET.
V: WHY ARE YOU VALIDATING THE FALSE DICHOTOMY OF JOKES VS. SERIOUS SHIT? WHY ARE WE TYPING IN CAPITAL LETTERS?
A newer track of yours, "Rainbow in the Dark," starts out with a riff on White Castle and mentions Big Mac Attacks, etc. Are you concerned about being pigeonholed as a fast-food group? Are there other niches/motifs you're considering?
H: Fast food isn't always bad. I like vada and gol gappas, halal street meat, tacos, and shit. If we're the best fast-food rappers out there, I'd be content with that label. Right now, the only competition we have are McDonald's commercials—both the ones with "urban youth" freestyling and that awesome Filet-O-Fish song—and that Taco Bell ad with the freestyling drive-through dudes that get sonned by the girl taking their orders. That one's dope. Nah, though, I'd like to think people listen to more than those two or three songs and get a feel for the three other things we talk about. There are at least three other things we talk about.