Hi, I’m KOOL A.D. but my slave name is Victor Vazquez. I’m a rap artist in the group Das Racist. A while back, Das Racist’s Hype Man & Spiritual Adviser Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu was getting drunk with the UCH (Unexpectedly Cuban Homie; a person you kick it with for a while before you find out they’re Cuban, at which point you’re a little surprised but not that surprised) Jesse Domenech at a bar called The Lovin’ Cup.
All photos by Mackenzie Schmidt
Hi, I’m KOOL A.D. but my slave name is Victor Vazquez. I’m a rap artist in the group Das Racist. A while back, Das Racist’s Hype Man & Spiritual Adviser Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu was getting drunk with the UCH (Unexpectedly Cuban Homie; a person you kick it with for a while before you find out they’re Cuban, at which point you’re a little surprised but not that surprised) Jesse Domenech at a bar called The Lovin’ Cup. Jesse brought up the idea of a covers night in the venue behind Cameo Gallery. He asked Dap if Das Racist would be interested in participating. Dap said yeah, we could do Paul’s Boutique because it was one of his favorite albums and the first one that popped into his head. Dap brought it up with us and we were like, “Yeah, OK,” it being among our favorite albums as well. We set a date and posted the information on our internet website. Due to us being D-list internet celebrities (which is like L or M-list actual celebrities), the show was mentioned in a few publications and blogs and it became evident to us that people would actually show up to this thing.
Eventually we found ourselves on the day of the show listening to the album for the first time in a while, being like “Wow, huh…. What are we doing?”
We discussed what it might’ve been like if in the days prior, we had each picked a Beastie Boy and dedicated ourselves to practicing his specific lyrics over the instrumentals and concluded that that would’ve been boring and lame way of spending our time and that if we had to “do it all over again” we probably still would’ve been getting drunk and doing whip-its with that underage white girl at her parents’ summer home upstate all weekend. Naw, just playing. She was 19.
So yeah, we played the Paul’s Boutique CD and fucked around on stage for its duration. Understanding that this might rub some people the wrong way, we made sure to announce at the beginning of the show that we were donating the proceeds of the night to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps to go to Haiti. People steadily streamed out of the room until the venue was left with a handful of people who were either confused, intrigued, endeared, ecstatically drunk or some combination of those (ourselves included).
A few people made a point to tell us they dug it, others made it a point to tell us and / or the internet the opposite. New York Magazine expressed their disappointment. The Village Voice responded (continuing the hilarious ongoing beef between the two publications over us) by essentially saying “Well, what did you expect?”
Though not a commercial success at the time of its a release, Paul’s Boutique has been commonly understood by music critics and fans as a masterpiece. With over a hundred musical samples from Idris Muhammed to The Ramones to Kurtis Blow to Pato Banton to the Beatles and with probably hundreds of lyrical references [Note: Hundreds of Lyrical References is third studio album from Das Racist] from Bob Dylan to Creedence Clearwater to Jimi Hendrix to Jack Henry Abbott to Martin Scorsese, the album has been described as “a post-modern epic,” “sprawling,” “dense,” “reckless,” “rambunctious,” “confrontational.”
While it can be argued that on Paul’s Boutique the Beastie Boys were defaming the multiple artists they sampled and referenced by co-opting their work and aesthetically vandalizing it with profanity and general irreverence, the people who see the album for the brilliant work that it is understand that the Beastie Boys (and the Dust Brothers) were celebrating that musical history and attempting to reconcile their experiences with that history and interact with those texts, while still having actual fun. They rap about smoking a cocaine-laced mentholated cigarette with Russell Simmons over a sample from Polish violinist Michal Urbaniak and his wife Urszula Dudziak’s fusion project Funk Factory. They wrote an entire song on the subject of throwing eggs at people over a sample from a Curtis Mayfield song about a man selling cocaine to escape poverty. Part of the Beastie Boys’ brilliance on this album (and on all of their albums) is — in addition to a fierce dedication to juxtaposing disparate sources, references and themes — a refusal to take themselves or anything else too seriously.
If we had bothered to learn the album in its entirety and “nailed” what would basically have been a karaoke cover set of that album, it would’ve just felt like a novelty; impressive on a certain level but ultimately boring. The task of consciously memorizing that album (as much as we all love it and have much of it unconsciously ingrained in our heads from years of casual listening), seemed pointless to us.
The way we’ve always interacted with Paul’s Boutique (or any rap album) has been sitting around rapping along to the parts we know and talking over the parts we don’t (“vibing” as the kids call it, or “building” as the Five Percent Nation calls it). It seemed only natural to attempt to convey that relationship by “vibing”/”building”/”fucking around” on stage, not so much performance art as “performance kicking it.” If the idea of covering someone else’s music is interpreting it and making it your own, then I can think of nothing that felt more natural then how we did what we did the other night. If a handful of kids in Williamsburg didn’t like it, that’s fine — at least they donated five dollars to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps to go to Haiti.
Often times the glowing reverence for artworks popularly understood as great gels into a haze of cliche that obstructs an actual critical understanding of the artwork. There’s no shortage of works and acts that at one time enraged, confused or disappointed audiences and critics while being understood as somehow vital or at least interesting to an obscure cadre of contemporaries and later dubbed “seminal” and given a half-hearted nod of approval from snobs as those works and arts were assimilated into the dominant ideology of the day. We were attempting to, in our own way, interact with an album we love in a way that didn’t feel trite or overwrought.
The UCH Jesse Domenech sent us an email the following day saying, “If that would have been anything other then what it was, it would have been weird.”
So no, we don’t apologize for being lazy. Besides, “lazy” is such a negative term. How about “objecting to meaningless labor?” Sure, yeah.