Das Racist at Crescent Ballroom, 11/1/2011

Das Racist Crescent Ballroom Tuesday, November 1, 2011

From the outside, last night's Das Racist show seemed like a typical hip-hop show. The trappings were the same: a bunch of MCs on stage, a hypeman/woman, and a DJ -- but on closer inspection, there was something unusually eccentric about Das Racist's performance last night.

Aided by performances by Despot and Danny Brown, the show was stranger, weirder, and more baffling than your average rap gig. Sure, people were there to party, but there was something stranger, more subversive, going on.

Despot kicked of the show about 30 minutes behind schedule -- I'm always irritated by shows that don't start on time. Despot's performance didn't blow me away. His crowd skills were impressive, but other than his mid-show asides, his performance was forgettable.

Danny Brown followed fairly shortly after with little-to-no fanfare - - well, except for the tiger-inspired tuxedo jacket. It was a perfect sign of what was to come. I was completely ignorant of Danny Brown's material before last night show, so I came in to the show with an empty palette But at his set's conclusion, and had to hand it to him. It wasn't incredible, nor was it groundbreaking, but it was an impressive onslaught of unpolished, unfiltered rap stories that seemed to flow completely out of this guy's head. Even more impressive is the fanbase he's generated in such a relatively short time. As Brown walked off the stage, it was clear that he had garnered some new fans, myself included.

In contrast to Danny Brown's zero fanfare, Das Racist hopped on stage with their characteristic enthusiasm, shaking everyone's hands, dancing around. DR (the Internet-age encourages abbreviations) are incredibly witty, and the persona they portray on record is comparable to what they bring live. The minimal set-up was intense, and it was difficult to make out exactly what those witty lyrics were about as they were shouted through the mics.

I've always seen Das Racist as serious rappers whose clever word play and witty sayings tend to hide their socially and politically charged lyrics. To a certain extent, their over-the-top stage antics seem to be a complete contrast of that statement. They don't come off as rappers who actually care about displaying the true meaning of their songs and properly conveying it to their incredibly diverse crowd. There was a point during their set were one of the MCs rapped while laying on the floor and taking his shoes. It was amusing, but it further detracted from what could have been a pretty great set.

If there's one thing to be said about their set, they may have the best hypeman in the business. His incredibly energy, should have been sufficient enough for the band to lay some rhymes without trying to compensate by being, distracted by unnecessary antics. It might be fair to mention the DJ who happens to rap as well (without a doubt, he was completely plastered, nearly knocking over the laptop table). Nevertheless, he managed to coherently put down a few rhymes for the crowd with random bursts throughout Das Racist's set.

I've been to a fair amount of rap shows, and this was nothing like what I've experienced. It wasn't Das Racist at their artistic best, but when the joke is so pervasive, you have to wonder exactly what they are going for. The trio's breakthrough single,"Combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell," was a meditation (or, something) on the absurdity of modern pop culture. When the joke is so inane, where do you draw the line between performance and actual performance?

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: Das Racist, Despot, and Danny Brown

The Crowd: Rap fans and Tuesday night hipsters.

Better Than: The food at a combination fast food joint.

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