A joke band that isn’t really a joke band, Das Racist makes a serious impression on its debut full-length, Relax. The album—which follows a cheeky, viral single and two well-liked mix-tapes—is a culmination of everything that’s already known about the Brooklyn three-piece. Encyclopedic rhymes and referential material abound. The beats are wily, far too glitchy to be considered straight rap, yet much too grounded lyrically to be written off as just weird dance music. But this has always been the Das Racist modus operandi: to play all sides, and to do it as blithely as possible.
The act does have a conscience, though, a social awareness much more keen than its critics (and even some of its fans) would give it credit for. Take the middle verse from the track “Shut Up, Man”: “People act like they know me / They say I act white but sound black / Act black but sound white / But what is my sound bite supposed to sound like?” Race relations and social identity are definite thematic elements on Relax, though both are addressed mostly indirectly, buried in non sequiturs and clever pop-culture references. Das Racist is, after all, of the millennial generation; brown kids weaned on Yo! MTV Raps and the Cosbys, on the first Nintendo and the X-Men cartoon, on the emergence of new media and that thing called Twitter. A sarcastic embrace of social ills is in their blood.
But if that’s getting too deep, don’t worry. Relax still proffers spitfire rhymes about inconsequential stuff like White Castle and how “she got her booty in the air.” That’s the one thing about Das Racist that never fails to impress: its acutely modern sense of humor.