We Try To Talk Fashion With Brooklyn's Das Racist

Photo by Bek Anderson.
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Trying to get Brooklyn rap group Das Racist to talk about fashion isn’t exactly easy. Kool A.D. (Victor Vazquez), Heems (Himanshu Suri), and hypeman Dap (Ashok Kondabolu), already dropped two mixtapes of snarky, incisive hip-hop in 2010 (Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man), and the forthcoming full-length, Relax, is primed to launch the group into new levels mainstream success. What follows is an email exchange that touches on style, but quickly (and hilariously) veers off into a conversation about Japanese woodblock prints, Black Eyed Peas members, gentrification, and chicken blood. Don’t assume they’re joking, but don’t assume they’re not joking, either.
Kool A.D., how would describe Hima's style?
Kool A.D.: "Aspirational."
Dap, how would describe Kool A.D.’s style?
Dap: "Victor wears a lot black with a few colorful pieces thrown in. He finds them 'here and there.' He's got an A's shirt and a shirt with maybe Barry Sanders (we can never figure out for sure) on it I like a lot, and would kill him for in a second and just smell the underarms of the shirts as I wait for the cops to get me."
Heems, how would you describe Dap's style?
Heems: "Fun."
On your last record, the song you did with Chairlift—on "Fashion Party"—You guys poked fun at the fashion scene, but your first email to us asked for free clothes. What free clothes were you hoping for? (We still can’t give them to you).
Heems: "I asked for clothes. I did it because I want any free clothes I can get. Don't worry about what I do with them."
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Dap: "The nicest ones. I also make fun of food sometimes, but continue to want to eat food to live."
What’s a typical night look like for Das Racist when you’re not playing shows or recording?
Kool A.D.: "Transcendental meditation, dancing, push-ups, sit-ups."
Heems: "Lately, I've been ignoring most people and sitting at home. I've been watching a lot of TV and occasionally drawing."
Dap: "Imagining if the band THE PRODIGY came out NOW. Wouldn't that be UNSANE?"
Heems recently said in a New York Mag interview if the music thing doesn’t work out, you could always go back to grad school. What would you study?
Kool A.D.: "Grad school is a scam."
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Heems: "I said that. I can't speak on their behalf. My point was that I've been afforded a lot of luxuries that I don't take for granted and feel that, while I have an audience, I may as well say things others might not be able to because it might fuck with their paper."
What were your most recent day jobs?
Kool A.D.: "I was living off the record advance for my last band, Boy Crisis, and before that, I was working at a movie theater."
Heems: "I was a sex guru."
Dap: "I was maintaining the website of a law school."
What outfits do you think girls look hottest in?
Kool A.D.: "Sweatpants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on."
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Heems: "Oversized Mitchell and Ness throwback basketball jerseys."
Dap: "Chicken blood."
There’s a wide range of producers on Relax, from Blood Diamonds to Diplo. How did you choose who you worked with?
Kool A.D.: "Cool Hunters."
Heems: "A consulting agency our white manager works with suggested them for us."
Dap: "Whoever keeps the largest amount of frozen chicken blood in their basement, that's who we fuck with."
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How would you characterize the typical audience at a Das Racist show?
Kool A.D.: "Cool Hunters."
Heems: "White managers."
What’s the best thing you’ve ever found in a thrift store?
Kool A.D.: "A copy of Black Elk Speaks ."
Heems: "A woodblock horse print by Yoshijiro Urushibara."
Dap: "A stained glass chicken-shaped lamp."
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What’s the nicest thing a fan has ever done for you?
Kool A.D.: "[Das Racist superfan] Kimie Hayashi flew from Japan to New York to see us, and gave me a pair of shoes and a bag of candy."
Heems: "Kimie Hayashi flew from Japan to Seoul, Korea to see us and cried when she saw me walking down the street."
I recently saw this picture of Dr. Dre and he's probably thinking, “Man, I really wish I hadn’t worn a crocheted chef jacket back then.” In 25 years, do you think you’ll regret anything style-wise?
Kool A.D.: "That jacket is amazing."
Heems: "Everything."
Dap: "Everything that isn't all black or all white is goddamned waffling bullshit."
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There seems to be a big trend in rappers and R&B stars, from Drake and The Weeknd to Kanye West, who feel really bummed out by success and fame. Is success making you guys sad yet?
Kool A.D.: "I usually have no idea how I feel."
Heems: "I've always felt bummed out, but none of it has to do with success."
Dap: "WAH WAH! I'M GEORGE CLOONEY, THE PAPARAZZI IS BOTHERING ME, I GET PAID MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO DO NOTHING BUT ALSO WANT TO BE LEFT COMPLETELY ALONE WHILE I EAT SALAD AT THIS OUTDOOR CAFE!"
You once rapped “Underrated in the game like Mark Ruffalo.” I love Mark Ruffalo. Who else do you think is underrated?
Kool A.D.: "E-40, Mac Dre."
Heems: "Das Racist."
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Dap: "John Ventimiglia from The Sopranos is a cool guy. [Brooklyn rapper and Das Racist buddy] Lakutis hung out with him after they watched a play and said he was a nice guy."
You all live in Williamsburg or Bushwick. What's your take on the evolving culture in these neighborhoods?
Kool A.D.: "From what I've noticed, Williamsburg has a fair amount of relatively new bars and restaurants and condominiums that are culturally alien to and out of the price-range of many, if not most of the people that have spent their whole lives in that neighborhood. That 'cultural evolution' is also known as gentrification. Bushwick, since it's close to Williamsburg, is in the early stages of it.
"When my old band got signed, I moved from Crown Heights to Williamsburg because I was still under the impression at the time that it was 'cool.' Then I wasted all my money, my record got shelved, and I couch-surfed for a while until settling in Bushwick because it was cheap. My take on these and other 'Bohemian' neighborhoods is that they have been constructed over the years as places in which the aesthetics of various economic strata are paraded around, meditated upon, tried on for size, i.e.: Rich people can slum it, broke people can feel rich for a night, any number of other novel combinations along that hazy, middle-class/bourgeoisie gradient can manifest, but end of the day, no truly revolutionary changes really seem to occur.
"Can Bohemia be a psychic laboratory for anti-establishment thought (whatever that means), or is it too codified of a petri dish to be anything but ineffectual and masturbatory? (I fear it's the latter.) Maybe the fact that the term 'Bohemia' itself refers to an old European region is one marker of its impotence? (Almost certainly.) So, then what are we left to do? I don't know, ask Drake."
Heems: "Who cares? I'm from Queens."
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Dap: "Paninis aren't as popular as they used to be."
Whose wardrobe would you jack if you had the chance?
Kool A.D.: "Will.i.am."
Heems: "I don't know. I like my clothes."
Dap: "Taboo."
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