"White devils like it." Those are the first words heard on Das Racist’s new album, perfectly capturing the contradictory, provocative appeal of this Brooklyn rap trio. On one hand, Das Racist co-frontman Heems rocks a Panda Bear shirt on the album’s cover and rhymes about “getting light to Jeff Mangum” over beats by Diplo and members of Vampire Weekend and Yeasayer; not surprisingly, the group’s “hipster hop” receives more airplay on Sirius XMU than Power 106. However, in the tradition of Aziz Ansari, Chris Rock and Harold and Kumar movies, Heems, partner Kool A.D. and hype man Dapwell simultaneously tweak ethnic stereotypes while dissing the dominant culture’s social mores (Heems and Dapwell are Indian American, and Kool A.D. is of Afro-Cuban and Italian descent).
“Relax” is Das Racist’s first commercial release, yet it shares the dense sprawl and uncomfortable laughs of the group’s previous Internet mixtapes. First single “Michael Jackson” proves an earworm equal to Das Racist’s breakthrough 2008 blog hit, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” — as catchy as anything by Lil Wayne, but its postmodern absurdity actually seems intentional. “Booty in the Air” suggests an R&B strip-club anthem via someone too nerdy to have ever actually gotten a lap dance, while on “Shut Up, Man,” Kool A.D. bisects a buckshot spray of surrealist wordplay evoking Ghostface and MF Doom with an insightfully pointed query: “They say I act white but sound black/ But act black but sound white/ But what’s my sound bite supposed to sound like?” He’s clearly being hypothetical: It sounds a lot like Das Racist.
Three and a half stars (out of four)