The first time I met the Brooklyn rap duo known as Das Racist, we planned to go to a bar in Williamsburg—until Himanshu Suri, the jollier, more debauched half of the group, remembered he’d been barred from the premises for undisclosed drunken antics. A week later, we met again, at the same verboten bar: “It’s cool,” Suri said. “I worked it out.” We were inside for maybe 30 seconds before the bartender spotted him. “You’re the Das Racist guy, right? Get out.” Apparently he’d been back and misbehaved again. Which is what Das Racist does best. At a recent show, Suri and bandmate Victor Vazquez dressed in Cosby sweaters, got wasted on vodka-and-grapefruits and whiskey-and-cokes, and performed a faithful rendition of the Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper.” The Bushwick crowd ate it up.
Suri, 24, grew up in an Indian neighborhood in Queens called Glen Oaks; his mother sold insurance, his dad once drove a cab. He attended Stuyvesant High School, and was there the day the Twin Towers fell. Vazquez, 25, was raised in the Bay Area by a black Cuban father and an Italian mother. The pair met at Wesleyan (where they were buddies with the guys from MGMT) and bonded over a love of freestyling and their shared minority-outsider status. “Hima and I are two weird, socially awkward brown dudes,” says Vazquez, “and we deal with that awkwardness by taking drugs and telling jokes.”
Suri calls their approach “deconstructionalist”: sawing the legs out from under hip-hop as they celebrate it. The apotheosis of their sound is this summer’s underground hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” Two minutes and 59 seconds long, it consists almost entirely of this refrain: “I’m at the Pizza Hut / I’m at the Taco Bell / I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.”
The single has been celebrated as “Harold and Kumar existentialism” and denigrated as “probably the worst song in the world”; either way, it’s smarter than it first sounds. “We could have written a structured treatise attacking corporate proliferation,” says Vazquez. “Or we could just say ‘Pizza Hut Taco Bell’ over and over. That shit’s way funnier.”
Das Racist hope to record an album this fall; in the meantime, they’re staying busy getting high and dreaming up new ways to subvert themselves. For their next show, they’re contemplating a 45-minute jam session with no rapping. “And if it sucks,” says Suri, “hey, we still get free drink tickets.”