Acts Tobacco, Skizzy Mars to open concert
From Miscellany News
By Adam Buchsbaum
The headliner for this year’s annual Vassar College Entertainment (ViCE) spring concert, co-sponsored by Hip Hop 101, is Das Racist. Up-and-coming hip-hop artist Skizzy Mars and electronic-influenced Tobacco will open at a concert that takes place at Noyes Circle on April 20 from 7 to 10 p.m. and is free to the public. In addition, South Asian Students Alliance (SASA) will host an informal panel entitled “Who’s That? Brooown!” in Taylor Hall 102 from 2 to 3:15 p.m. the same day with members of Das Racist.
Das Racist first rose to Internet prominence from their comedic song “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” in 2008. Das Racist gained credibility with the release of their two critically well-received, free mixtapes, Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man in 2010. In September 2011, Das Racist released their first album, Relax, which earned number 28 on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2011 list. Their music is characterized by its many references to pop culture, political edge, academic style and witty, satirical humor.
If that biography seems lacking, Das Racist has an official, albeit tongue-in-cheek, biography for the press. “Das Racist is a white guilt art project/science experiment/ponzi scheme piloted by heems, KOOL A.D. and The Honorable Prophet Dapwell. Their goal is to make a million American dollars,” reads the press material ViCE received from the ensemble composed of Himanshu Suri (a.k.a. Heems) and Victor Vazquez (a.k.a. KOOL A.D.) and hype man Ashok Kondabolu (a.k.a. Dapwell).
“They’re really fun. They have really good beats. They’re like the Beastie Boys in a lot of ways,” said ViCE Music Chair Andy Dymond ’12. “They talk about social issues in a more comical, self-conscious way…and they’re also supposed to be an incredible, really energetic live show.”
ViCE and Hip Hop 101 saw in Das Racist a fitting hybrid of the two group’s musical tastes and audiences. The organizations have collaborated closely since the start of their search for a spring concert. “The Hip Hop collaboration has been a long time coming, and we’re excited that’s finally going to happen,” ViCE Publicity Director Eli Schutze ’12 said. “We had a lot of meetings to get an act suitable for a Hip Hop 101, ViCE collaboration.”
Schutze thinks the concert’s outdoor location at Noyes Circles will go well with the springtime weather. Noyes Circle has not been a venue since 2009’s Deerhunter and Gang Gang Dance concert. “We wanted it to be outdoors, but we wanted it to be an intimate setting, which sometimes doesn’t go hand-in-hand,” explained Schutze. “[Noyes Circle] is intimate, and it is outdoors, which is what we wanted.”
The name of SASA’s panel “Who’s That? Brooown!” refers to Das Racist’s opening track to their first mixtape Shut Up, Dude. Associate Professor of English and co-Director of Africana Studies Kiese Laymon and Professor of English Amitava Kumar will conduct a conversation with Das Racist for the panel. “Das Racist, in addition to being great musicians, are really political,” explained President of SASA Noor Mir ’12. “They think critically when it comes to race in America, and it would be silly to not engage with them.”
Dymond approached SASA after confirming Das Racist for the spring concert. Das Racist member Heems and hype man Dapwell are both of South Asian descent. Mir then had the idea for a panel after speaking with Assistant Professor of Political Science Zachariah Mampilly. “He was telling me about how M.I.A. came [to Vassar in a ViCE concert] when the Tamil movement was going on in Sri Lanka,” Mir said. “And he was mentioning it was a shame they hadn’t addressed that when she came, and it instantly clicked.”
“I told Heems that I’d ask him about his past,” wrote Kumar in an emailed statement. “I think Kiese is going to talk more about their production aspect—their rhymes, their rhythm,” Mir said. Das Racist has done panels before, which Mir described as witty, fast and engaging. “It would be a shame for students not to come to the panel,” Mir said. “It adds so much more to the listening experience.”
Opening act Skizzy Mars is an alternative, lesser-known rap artist whose song “Douchebag” brought him to Internet attention. “Skizzy Mars is more underground hip hop,” explained co-President of Hip Hop 101 Eli Stein ’12. “He’s an up-and-comer…really clever lyrics, great beats. It’s the kind of act we try and bring here.”
If Skizzy Mars is decidedly a Hip Hop 101 act, Tobacco is more representative of a ViCE act. “Tobacco is dirty, electronic pop,” Dymond said. “Though that [description] doesn’t really do them justice.” Tobacco is the solo project of Thomas Fec, the frontman for the experimental band Black Moth Super Rainbow.
“We’re the two largest music and entertainment organizations on the campus,” said Stein. “And for us to come together on something like this—we hope to make it real special.”