It has been a minute since I thought about Das Racist or their legacy. After two mixtapes and a well received studio album, the team of Kool A.D. and Heems (and Das Racist hypeman Dap) seemed ready to make a big impact on the follow up. They had signed to Megaforce Records with distribution from Sony for an untitled second album, but unexpectedly broke up before it ever came out. It’s the old “creative differences” trope in a nutshell. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Kool A.D. seemed at peace with the whole thing.
“We’re more or less friends. I think he would agree that we just don’t want to be in a professional capacity. It just doesn’t make sense to have our money and our public image and our career tied up in each other, ’cause we’re trying to do slightly different things.”
I’m sure it could have been left at “more or less” and everybody would have been satisfied, but a tweet from Kool A.D. telling Heems to “keep my name out your mouth” suggests the break up wasn’t nearly so amiable. Heems admitted spending so much time together took a toll on their friendship, so for those pining for a Das Racist reunion I’d advise you to not get your hopes up. Before moving on to talk about “Word O.K.” though I have to bring up one thing though — some unsavory accusations of sexual assault directed Kool A.D.’s way in 2018.
This is not to say those accusations have anything to do with why Das Racist broke up, but they might just lead to them never working together again. If you’re a betting man I’d consider it a thousand to one shot — not completely impossible but so unlikely you’d be throwing your money away chasing that dragon. Both have been incredibly busy since the split, with so many projects that one could spend an entire year cataloguing and writing about them all. I chose “Word O.K.” somewhat at random, but it doesn’t hurt that he did a track with two top notch emcees in Boots Riley and Talib Kweli called “Hickory.” In the intro/hook he sings “Sometimes we do it for the kids, other times we gotta do it for us.” The funny part is that being this self-indulgent actually results in a track that stands the test of time, so maybe more rappers should do it for themselves.
The production from Amaze 88 is like a cool ocean breeze from the Pacific. He’s consistently got that Madlib feel on track after track: the slightly distorted but incredibly layered title track, the light and jazzy “Open Letter,” an epically long seven minute track called “Life & Time” featuring Sir Dzl & Santos Viera, and Amaze even ends up a featured artist on a track produced by someone else — a funky ass jam called “The Front” laced by Toro Y Moi. As the rap says “you can’t beat that with a bat” but A.D. also calls out people for insisting you have to nod your head to it. It’s that chill “do whatever you want” feel that made silly Das Racist tracks like “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” so much fun.
Toro Y Moi also put their stamp on the spooky sounding posse track “Tight” with Lakutis and Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire. The only song that doesn’t really fit the album is the Dame Grease laced “Special Forces.” I applaud Kool A.D. for branching out and trying something different, but I’m not sure even the late DMX could have made this one work. It’s not Dame’s best effort. It sounds like a throwaway beat he didn’t even intend to give anyone that somehow ended up in A.D.’s hands.
Putting all the bullshit that went down between Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez aside, I’m happy to see things turned out “okay” for Kool A.D. on “Word O.K.” When I covered Heems post break up I was disappointed he decided to sing instead of rap, while Vazquez stuck to his roots here and gave the fans exactly what they would expect. The only thing that might be missing here is some of that lighthearted energy that Das Racist brought to the table as a group. They were seriously good but you could never take them too seriously. Vazquez is definitely a serious emcee as a soloist. Personally after this many years apart I hope their differences are finally water under the bridge.