Das Racist Speak Out On Their Beastie Boys Mini-Scandal: "We Might Be A Little Dusted But We're Not Insane"
See how they bleed for you, America? Photo by Mackenzie Schmidt.
Some context here: last week, local rap group Das Racist announced plans to cover the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique at Williamsburg's Cameo Gallery. Chaos ensued as the trio took the stage and proceeded to, in the group's own words, play "the Paul's Boutique CD and fuck around on stage for its duration." People walked out; Brooklyn Vegan and the rest of Twitter were outraged. New York expressed bafflement; we personally expressed bafflement at their bafflement; some accused us of going easy on them due to the group's habit of occasionally writing entertaining critical essays for our print wing; to which we basically responded by saying that "So they were gonna get onstage and do what, exactly?" wasn't exactly a hearty endorsement. Anyway! Now the band has stolen a bunch of our proprietary photos and taken to Street Carnage, where Das Racist member Victor Vazquez wrote an entertaining critical essay, not unlike those they've been known to do for us!
It says, basically:
The way we've always interacted with Paul's Boutique (or any rap album) has been sitting around rapping along to the parts we know and talking over the parts we don't ("vibing" as the kids call it, or "building" as the Five Percent Nation calls it). It seemed only natural to attempt to convey that relationship by "vibing"/"building"/"fucking around" on stage, not so much performance art as "performance kicking it." If the idea of covering someone else's music is interpreting it and making it your own, then I can think of nothing that felt more natural then how we did what we did the other night. If a handful of kids in Williamsburg didn't like it, that's fine -- at least they donated five dollars to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps to go to Haiti.
Which is pretty much what we were arguing last week! Except for the part where Vasquez argues that the Village Voice and New York are in a mortal eternal struggle, A/K/A a "hilarious ongoing beef," over the legacy of Das Racist, which would be awesome if it were true, though to our knowledge it's not. Maybe we just like them better? And who wouldn't, given their trenchant analysis of the record they were sort of covering?
While it can be argued that on Paul's Boutique the Beastie Boys were defaming the multiple artists they sampled and referenced by co-opting their work and aesthetically vandalizing it with profanity and general irreverence, the people who see the album for the brilliant work that it is understand that the Beastie Boys (and the Dust Brothers) were celebrating that musical history and attempting to reconcile their experiences with that history and interact with those texts, while still having actual fun. They rap about smoking a cocaine-laced mentholated cigarette with Russell Simmons over a sample from Polish violinist Michal Urbaniak and his wife Urszula Dudziak's fusion project Funk Factory. They wrote an entire song on the subject of throwing eggs at people over a sample from a Curtis Mayfield song about a man selling cocaine to escape poverty. Part of the Beastie Boys' brilliance on this album (and on all of their albums) is -- in addition to a fierce dedication to juxtaposing disparate sources, references and themes -- a refusal to take themselves or anything else too seriously.
Sorry, but dudes capable of this type of insight into what they're doing deserve better consideration than the "LOL bad karaoke!"-type reactions they are often saddled with. Not that we would've necessarily wanted to be there, personally. Our photographer took that bullet. (And this is how you reward her, Das Racist? With jokes about "getting drunk and doing whip-its with that underage white girl at her parents' summer home upstate all weekend" juxtaposed with her lovingly taken digital camera shots? Who is the real victim here, anyway?)
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.