A Chat with Das Racist, the Geniuses Behind "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell"

Scenes from a fast-food restaurant (on Jamaica Avenue!)

V: Please don't use "If we're the best fast-food rappers out there, I'd be content with that label" as a pullquote.

H: Oh, yeah. Not a good look.

This song, along with the oeuvre thus far of Boy Crisis, seems to be polarizing to people: Some love it; some really, really hate it. Though that's not uncommon on the Internet, the severity, in your case, is pretty pronounced. . . . Is any reaction a good reaction? Are you striking a nerve?

Das Racist, not thinking Arby’s
Ben Rowland
Das Racist, not thinking Arby’s

H: All I wanted to do was make some jokes—mostly about race, though not necessarily consciously—over dance music that would serve to undermine it so Talib Kweli fans wouldn't like it. Also, "oeuvre."

Your PR materials insist that you "have a great deal of street cred." I am frankly skeptical. Can you elaborate?

H: My dude, we can take a walk around the corner right now. Pause.

V: Rick Ross was a corrections officer, Ice Cube was the son of two college professors, Tupac was a theater kid in high school, Drake was on Degrassi, De La Soul are from the suburbs. The Clipse, Andre 3000, and Kanye have written and spoken openly about not having street cred, etc. I just mentioned like a dozen people with one biographical note about each of them that goes against the archetypal understanding of them, but I still didn't actually describe who they were. These were all real people with long and complex lives who made/make real and effective art that has had an impact on black people and white people, rich people and poor people, Americans and the rest of the world. Bob Dylan was a college-educated Jewish man singing like a dustbowl sharecropper, and he got booed offstage when he went electric for sullying his folk purity, as if he had any to begin with. Do people get mad at Martin Scorsese for making gangster movies even though he hasn't "lived the lifestyle"? I'm not arguing that context is useless for understanding art—on the contrary, there is no way to understand anything without context. My argument is for a less static and qualified idea of what "purity" is.

H: Yeah, Officer Ricky opened a lot of doors for us. I wonder how much street cred Ludacris has also. Didn't he co-sign Ashy Rothz? That's, like, one street-cred-less dude co-signing another one. Twice-removed street-cred-less-ness, and 150,000 RAP records sold. It's 2009, man. But yeah, still, I'm saying, though, we could walk around the corner and handle this. Pause. I've been in three fights, man. THREE!

Is one of you the Hipster Runoff guy? Just checking.

H: The fuck is a Hipster Runoff? Is that a YouTube?

V: It's a blog. I just Googled it.

Are you seized with instant revulsion upon hearing the word "blipster"? Is there any other acceptable reaction?

H: I think it's dumb, but it doesn't offend me personally. Luckily, "hipster" begins with "H," and so I don't have to deal with some Hindu hipster hybrid word. "Indie-an" could work, though, if any of you aspiring journalists feel like writing a piece about all those Indie-ans in Jackson Heights wearing tight pants and bright clothes that are sold in American stores, but are created in the countries those same Indians used to live in and rock tight pants and bright clothes in on a daily basis anyway.

V: Yeah, I wouldn't say "revulsion," either, but I agree it's a pretty limited word for trying to figure out the significance of race in American culture.

I haven't yet had the pleasure . . . what's your live show like? I've heard tell of gags like call-and-response chants of "When I say 'call,' you say 'response' " and so forth. Is this performance art? Is "joke rap" a pejorative? 

H: Our live show is a lot like the film Juice starring Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur. Or House Party 1 or 3—not 2.

V: All art is performative, and all performance is art. Existence is performance art. Everything is funny, and all jokes are serious. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? I would argue that our live show is also like House Party 2.

Playboy.com offered "Pizza Hut" as a free download a while back and said a few nice things. The post got one comment, which reads as follows: "Is this supposed to be some sort of groundbreaking song? What is so great about this group and this song?" Care to answer?

V: I think a lot of people dig "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" in large part due to the fact that Yum! Brand combination franchises themselves are pretty ubiquitous but still absurd and almost terrifyingly prophetic—it's like singing about trains back when they were some new shit. You don't have to like it. This song is no more or less groundbreaking than anything else. What are you doing commenting on the Playboy.com message boards? Who are you?

H: Yeah, that guy was probably salty because he was trying to look at Internet porn and had to look at our faces instead. As for the joint, it's the best song ever made. It's a real problem in the rap game right now. I hope we're known solely for this song and none of the others.

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