Day 15: Das Racist, Danny Brown and Despot

I missed out on two sweet-arse gigs last week by finding out the day after they actually happened. First BlackStar played, then Mastodon supported by Dillinger Escape Plan. So when I read about this gig happening the morning of, there was no way I was willingly going to miss it.

Despot’s been around for a few years, without ever making a huge impact. This probably has a bit to do with the fact that he was on Def Jux until El-P closed down the label, while sounding a lot like a less vicious El-P and looking like a cross between El-P and that gay ranga from Modern Family. He apparently has a new record coming out produced by indie crossover darlings Ratatat though, which should distinguish him enough (as opposed to getting production from, erm, El-P. Not that I can blame him, El-P’s awesome).

Danny Brown doesn’t look like any other rapper alive. He wears skinny jeans and what looks like a dude with frizzy black hair attempting a circa-2005 emo fringe for… what sake? Idiosyncrasy, I’m guessing, though he hardly needs an image for that – his rapping sounds halfway between Pharaohe Monch and Jello Biafra. He’s also incredibly smart, a walking tome of hip-hop history with a great attitude toward the genre and making and enjoying music in general as evidenced in this recent interview. He’s also great on the live level, getting the audience roaring along to the hooks of a song they’d never heard before.

And the main act, Das Racist. Holy crap. Smarter and funnier than any other hip-hop act while also being better rappers than most (Heems’ brag of “worst rapper on this track/third coolest” notwithstanding, or rather balanced out by his other brag of “yeah, I’m fucking great at rapping!”), making fun of hip-hop because they love it, having an appreciation of rap’s history and paradigms just so they can bust them up. Dap, a superfluous non-presence on the records, comes into his own in the live arena, and Lakutis – sort of like their DJ, except it’s on Ableton on their netbook rather than a set of decks – seems to be making a career for himself as an MC, dropping some really good verses and further pushing DR out of hip-hop’s comfort zone by looking more like someone you’d see at a metal show – white guy, long hair, black t-shirt – than a hip-hop show, and also by stage-diving and never breaking flow while being carried around the crowd. And the core two rappers, Heems and Kool A.D., not to be outdone, take the show to higher levels, trading lines, talking shit, leaving the stage to deliver verses from the merch stand and basically acting like they were born to save hip-hop from taking itself too seriously and not seriously enough at the same time.

The fact that this will struggle to make the top five live sets I’ve seen this year just points to how much of an unprecedentedly good year I’ve had with live music.

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