Kool AD hearkens to Das Rascist's roots on '19'
The newest mixtape from Kool A.D. aka Victor Vazquez, one third of the now-defunct rap group Das Racist, is funny as hell. If our review for Wild Water Kingdom, the November 2012 mixtape by Vazquez’s Das Racist cohort Heems, hadn’t made such a big deal about taking the Das Racist brand seriously, this review for 19 might just have ended with “funny as hell.”
There is something to be said for the wry intelligence with which Das Racist waged a love-hate campaign against rap, but looking back it is clear that their humor was just as equally important. Across these 17 tracks, Kool A.D. manages to create a fully-realized Dada-rap biosphere in which Justin Bieber and Madonna are proudly held up as royalty and the most complicated production comes courtesy of rusty schoolbells and some breathing.
In other words, 19 is less concerned with the meaningful credibility side of Vazquez’ personality than with the side of him that worships at the altar of hyphy and Lil B. There is nothing wrong with that in the slightest.
The first single from the tape, “Eroika,” sets the tone succinctly and memorably, simply letting Kool A.D. loose on a deliriously off-kilter beat with irreverent lines like “Girl, I’m Madonna, make a lot of art, girl” and “YouTube dot com? I don’t even read that.” Then as if gut-busting lines like those weren’t enough, the rapper proceeds to repeat every single line in order during the song’s second half.
By the second time Vazquez is confirming that “Girls love me because I act like Garfield,” it’s nearly impossible not to be charmed. Similarly, lyrics such as “best chicks are an investment, / pay me like I’m rent, I’m expensive” from highlight “New World”, work for simply being phonically clever.
Still, Kool A.D.‘s slacker-rock-rap personality is hardly for the uninitiated, with the MC so steeped in his own lexicon and sense of humor at this point that for some it might be difficult to swallow.
There is a lot to love about a rapper who pens a line like, “A lot of people say ‘Kool A.D., I’m a fan of you,’ / Well damn, that’s cool, thanks, really, really, thanks.” On the same tip, however, Vazquez has no problem lifting verses wholesale from Beck’s “Loser” and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme to fill up space on the Ad-Rock-produced “NPR.” In other words, it is easy to see how traditional hip hop fans could be annoyed by all the artsiness.
At its best, though, 19 just comes off as a winking love letter to Vazquez’s hometown of San Francisco, with Bay-area production quirks like deep voice-pitching and rave-ready synth lines providing the backdrop for Vazquez to get weird.
No track strikes the balance between humor and witty fascination better than “Beautiful Naked Psychedelic Gherkin Exploding Tomato Sauce All Over Your Face.” A transcript of “Beautiful Naked…”’s lyrics reads like a postmodern experiment in minimalism, namechecking musical celebrities and corporations to the point where the hilarity almost becomes transcendent, and the bare bones synth-and-808s of Bill Ding’s production is flat-out hypnotic.
The one major complaint to be made of 19 is that at times the Bay-hyphy production can be oppressive in its repetition, but somehow Kool A.D. always makes it worth the listen anyway. Although it seems increasingly unlikely that Kool A.D. will ever again make music as accessible as that of Das Racist, 19 is a perfectly acceptable substitute.