n the first promotional single for Watch the Throne, Kanye West coined the term “H.A.M.” In Das Racist’s first commercial album, Relax, the rap duo simply does that — they “go H.A.M.” with an eclectic blend of electrofunk, throwback-Brooklyn flow and parody. The album title is certainly misleading, because Das Racist immerses themselves into all 14 songs. The product is fresh.
Lyricism aside, the production of the album is superb. The title song opens the album with a beat reminiscent of early-day Neptunes. This same flavor carries on to the album’s car bumper, “Michael Jackson.” Here, however, the familiar rhythms of synths and snares are fused with a Bollywood-like melody in the background. The album really takes off from here, with Heems and Kool A.D. adding a bit of their own traditional spice with lyrics in Spanish or samples of Punjabi bhangra. “Middle of the Cake” wraps clever bars around a slow, psychedelic, snake charmer-like beat. The fusion is not always laid back though; “Punjabi Song” juxtaposes samples of Bikram Singh with massive synth transitions and booming base drums.
That’s not to say that all songs have a more traditional sound. Dash Speaks guest produces on “Power.” The beat is hip-hop-ified dubstep, a concept few in the rap game have picked up since the product always sounds so funky.
At the same time, Relax continues to embrace Das Racist’s intelligent stupidity. Their self-parodying style of hip-hop shrouds almost every track. They sound like a pair of nerds in “Booty In the Air” and start “Happy Rappy” by rapping from one to 20. At the same time, the flow evokes old-school Brooklyn vibes, and one can’t help but appreciate their education: “They write down my Agatha Christie mysteries/Officer Rick Ross, gold chain, Mr. T’s.” Has anyone referenced her in any song before?
Later in the album, Heems rhymes “wonderful” with “Tumblr full.” It’s random and kind of dumb, but it’s clever — and it works.
It’s unfortunate that Das Racist does not have a huge following, otherwise this album could have been big. It’s production and humorous social criticism help it to stand its own ground during a summer of albums like Watch the Throne and Tha Carter IV. It has beats to ignite a dance party, blow up your car stereo, and mellow you out. Relax just doesn’t have star power — but maybe in a few years, Das Racist won’t need any.