By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The song that put Das Racist on the map was "Combination Taco Bell and Pizza Hut," which could not be simpler, and the generally accepted story is that the band made it up while performing it at a show. Yet the ensuing online analysis would have us believe that Das Racist had written a dissertation on capitalism.
Sure enough: This year's pair of excellent mixtapes from the act proved that it's more than capable of writing dissertations on all sorts of things, although the guys also proved that what they'd rather be doing is eating, sleeping or smoking weed. Victor Vazquez and hype man Ashok Kondabolu recently took some time away from those activities to tell us about their views on race, the Tea Party and Die Antwoord.
What do you make of the Tea Party's success in the midterm elections?
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Victor Vazquez: Midterm elections usually favor the party that's not in office, so it's not a big surprise that Democrats lost the House and lost seats in the Senate. And actually, the Tea Party is most likely the biggest reason GOP didn't win the majority in the Senate, so they're good for something. I wouldn't be surprised if Obama was their anonymous million-dollar donor, smell me? The election of Obama "changed the game" to an extent, and the rise of the Tea Party is evidence of that, but exactly how the game is changed and whether there's any sustainability to the Tea Party's current momentum remains to be seen. While its success does provide a tiny scrap of hope for third parties that wish to break up the current political duopoly, I think it's important to remember that politics is an industry. Populism remains a tricky issue when considering the millions and millions of dollars poured into political campaigns every year. The Tea Party's victories were less a triumph of populism by way of grassroots activism and more of a successful ad campaign.
Ashok Kondabolu: The only time the party in power has gained more seats during a midterm has been during the Depression and after 9/11. I am fairly upset, however—as upset as I can be about the transfer of power in these Illuminati circles.
Do you think genre labels are useful?
VV: Not as useful as something like, say, food.
AK: I'd say they are mildly useful. If somebody told me to check something out and told me it was "hardcore punk," I'd make sure to probably not check it out, saving me time I can use to sleep.
What do you think of Die Antwoord?
VV: They're very pale.
AK: Don't care much about Die Antwoord. Let's say "medium dislike."
How do you feel your race relates to your music?
VV: The culture cannot be separated from its means of dissemination. The history of culture in a capitalistic state is the history of selling culture. I'm half white, half Afro-Cuban, and I'm in a rap group with two Indians. Our producers are black, white, Latino, Asian, mixed, etc. Essentially, traditionally, historically, popularly, rap is black-people music. Race relates to what we do in a lot of ways. More than I know how to articulate right now.
How well do you think the public has interpreted the way your race relates to your music?
AK: I'm not sure, although being a South Indian-American dude from Queens, I'd say the nation knows next to nothing about, say, what my parents talk about before they go to sleep.