Song 301: Das Racist, “All Tan Everything” (2010)

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The great thing about mixtapes is that they often include things that the artist could never have gotten away with if the album was offered for purchase (not without paying a fortune, anyway). In the case of Das Racist’s track “All Tan Everything,” that means sampling Jay Z.

The fact that the song is credited to “Das Racist (feat. Jay-Z)” is a typical bit of humor from Das Racist, a trio so committed to taking their jokes seriously that the mixtape in question (the excellent Sit Down, Man) features a song on which they sing, “We’re joking, we’re not joking…” They’re not trying to confuse you with that lyric, they just don’t really care whether or not you think they’re joking.

That indifference gives Das Racist a commitment to their craft that many “serious” rappers could use. I first heard Das Racist by clicking on a link that was tucked in a PR e-mail I received. Because of my various writing interests, I get these e-mails all the time, and only sometimes do they contain anything interesting. When “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” started playing, I stopped whatever I was doing and looked around, as if someone was pranking me. It was part chaotic silliness, part social commentary, part indictment of corporate America. And it was amazing.

That Das Racist produced other work as silly and serious as “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” is equally amazing. The group broke up last year, but before they did, they left the Sit Down, Man mixtape as an insanely stupid and brilliant parting gift. My favorite thing about “All Tan Everything” isn’t that they somehow change Jay Z’s “all black everything” boast into a different phrase altogether (though I’d love to know how they did that), but that they rattle off a stream-of-consciousness list of references so inspired that it would make the Beastie Boys jealous. Among the touchstones making an appearance: Patty Duke, Mellie Mel, Mia Farrow, Yentl, Danny DeVito, Levar Burton, Peggy Noonan, Ann Coulter. Jay-Z’s repurposed line, interspersed between silly verses, makes clear that this is part of who Das Racist are, racially, culturally and otherwise. Silly references are everyone’s references.

America!

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