By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Hello! I'm Himanshu Kumar Suri, also known as Heems or Hima, from Das Racist. A couple of times, I have been called "one of those Taco Bell/Pizza Hut guys." We were asked by Rob Harvilla, who interviewed us this summer, to write a piece about "how 'Internet fame' looks from the inside." At one point, he typed the following and it appeared in our Gmail: "rough sort of timeline of your year." He summarized the piece as "Our Year as a Meme."
Our trajectory from Das Racist to "the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut guys" occurred as follows: We made a song called "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." With a beat from Aries Noise (myspace.com/ariesnoise), and vocals and effects recorded by Chairlift's Patrick Wimberly, the song took literally the time to record that it takes to play: one microphone, one take, one vocal track, and a lot of improvisation. We utilized repetition in the song. We utilized repetition in the song. We were happy with the song when it was done and used the best beat we had for it because we realized it had a lot of potential. Victor, Dap (our hype man), and I never really looked at each other and thought, "This is it," but I think Jason and Molly from Acrylics were hanging out as we recorded it, and they had a lot of nice stuff to say about it. We immediately put it up on MySpace along with the four other songs we recorded that night, and that was that.
Eventually, the song caught the attention of popular [insert genre] musician Dan Deacon. A more playful remix version was made. We were written about by "tastemakers" Pitchfork (as "Best New Music"), "tastemaker" Perez Hilton, and "tastemakers" MTV News. A girl who ignored me in high school reached out to me through the Internet. Print publications like The Village Voice, The New York Times, and New York magazine wrote about us as well. No one that ignored me in high school mailed me letters soon thereafter. Twitter became popular. At a Brooklyn Book Festival panel discussion, author Jonathan Lethem and author Mary Gaitskill discussed it; Mary, apparently, briefly "rapped" it. I mostly read South Asian authors, but I was told those people are "cool."
We did a lot of interviews. We were repeatedly asked whether the song was some kind of thesis or joke-rap. Not one interview failed to pose that question. Many of the interviews directly referenced the most immediate interview published before it. I thought most of the interviewers were "cool" until I'd read one or two things that irked me when the piece would run. I'd try to chalk it up to their editor so I wouldn't be a total dick when I'd see them at a bar or something the next week. One interview, for example, took about three hours of our time over two days: We really got into the crux of who we are and the music we make and why we make it. And then the piece came out. Most of the article discussed how I was (temporarily) banned from a bar for some drunken antics that took place the week before, and the title called us "smart stupid" guys or something. We played that venue a week later, and the Times wrote about it. My parents didn't read that one, I think. They've been pretty supportive as I've softened the "I'm not gonna be a doctor" blow over the years. We were also in a December issue of Rolling Stone India, and they dug that.
Several of these interviews led to publications asking us to write wordy things that would be sent out to the Internet or printed in magazines. We got to review records like Only Built 4 Cuban Linx . . . Pt. II. Victor had a cartoon-off with the New Yorker. We played local shows. We wrote a rebuttal to an article in the New Yorker about the alleged death of hip-hop, complete with several haiku. We played more local shows. Our rebuttal to the New Yorker was mentioned by the "death of hip-hop" guy on his New Yorker blog, and a show of ours was mentioned in a later issue. We headlined Bowery Ballroom without an album out and played a big CMJ show. The day we played that CMJ show, I was laid off from my job as a consultant. I was relieved, if anything.
Almost all of this was made possible because of the Internet! For every tree that grows in Brooklyn, a band grows on the Internet; there's typically a 43 percent chance that the band growing on the Internet also happens to grow in Brooklyn. We have been called "joke-rap," "comedy-rap," "novelty-rap," "parody-rap," "hipster-rap," "retard-rap," and a couple of other similar hyphenated words I can't recall. We have also been described as "stupid," "smart," "clowns," "geniuses," "dumb," "deconstructionalist," "children," "existential," "inane," "transcendental," "terrible," "brilliant," "charming," and "shambolic." Initially, being called "joke-rap" was frustrating, but eventually I learned to disregard it. We've since written some raps that address critics and have rapped them on our upcoming mixtape.