Hip-hop Trio Das Racist Take a Hazy Stroll Through Brooklyn

Does anyone have any volumizing product?” asks Himanshu Suri, a.k.a Heems (center), returning from a quick glance in his bedroom mirror and stepping out into the living room of the messy ground-floor apartment he rents in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. So I Married an Axe Murderer is playing on a flat screen. Clouds of smoke waft through the room. After running a dollop of mousse through his hair, the 25-year-old rapper decides on a gray snapback and lights a joint, offering it to his Das Racist bandmates Victor Vazquez (left) and Ashok Kondabolu.

Last month, Das Racist released their debut album, Relax, the official follow-up to their 2010 mixtapes Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man. “Calling it an album and not a mixtape and then selling it for money will probably make people think of it as something more ‘real,’” says Vazquez. “But it’s not all that different from the music we’ve made previously.” That music, which includes the 2008 viral hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” and more recent singles like “hahahaha jk?” are part of Das Racist’s catalog of seemingly puerile pothead raps, which, when actually given a serious listen, tell stories from the perspective of disaffected American minorities. (Suri and Kondabolu, who went to high school together, are both of Indian descent and were born in Queens; Vazquez, a San Francisco native, is of Afro-Cuban and Italian heritage.)
“There are a lot of inside jokes in the music, but I think people like that—they seem to like feeling a bit confused,” says Vazquez. The title of their new album is a perfect example: “Heems and Dapwell (Kondabolu’s stage name) used to sell T-shirts at Coney Island that showed a joint smoking a cigarette, with the word ‘relax’ on them,” he says. “There was another one with a hot dog eating a hamburger and it said ‘fresh.’” Says Kondabolu, “We made 60 of each shirt, but we only sold one to a high Mexican dude from a biker gang.” Still, the joke obviously stuck, and now the image features in their cover art. It’s also become a laid-back mantra of sorts—something Kondabolu, Suri, and Vazquez proved while languorously and happily stopping in at a few of their favorite Brooklyn hangouts.
Das Racist 2
Manhattan Inn, 632 Manhattan Avenue
Greenpoint, NYC – 718-383-0885
“Our friend Brooke Baxter co-owns Glasslands, where we used to play a lot of shows, but we’ve been coming here ever since she opened this venue. It’s basically the fancy version of Glasslands, plus a lot of our friends DJ here, and it’s in the neighborhood.” —HS
“We had mussels here with one of the dudes from the Lonely Island one time. The mezcal margaritas are very good here. I’ve been on acid in this place like four times.” —VV
Das Racist 3
Brooklyn Fire Proof, 119 Ingraham Street
Bushwick, NYC – 347-223-4211
“We filmed the video for our single ‘Michael Jackson’ across the street. We needed a warehouse area, and they had a big space, so we got a Michael Jackson impersonator and we reenacted the ‘Black or White’ video. We pretty much stole shamelessly from Jackson’s video, but anyway, we came here for lunch and had the lobster roll with bacon and avocado.” —VV
Das Racist 4
East River Ferry, Foot of India Street
Greenpoint, NYC
“You can come here at night and smoke, if that’s what you’re into, but I’m more of a get-in-trouble-for-open-containers kind of guy. I just come and sit here, and I’ve been meaning to bring my sketchbook. I once set a mouse free by the rocks, then I saw a cat a few seconds later. But when I got home there was a mouse in the apartment, so I think he followed us back.” —HS
Das Racist 5
New China Wok, 57 4th Avenue
Boerum Hill, NYC 718-638-1898
“North Brooklyn has terrible Chinese food, plus I don’t eat meat, so I can’t fuck with a lot of stuff people generally get at Chinese food places. I’m typically stuck eating eggplant or bean curd, but this family figured that they’re close enough to Park Slope that a lot of white people would be ordering non-meat food. They do tofu incredibly well—very crispy and not oily or fried, with lots of scallions and garlic sauce.” —AK
Das Racist 6
The Brooklyn Improvement Company, 360 Third Avenue
Gowanus, NYC 
“I like this building because it looks eerie. There was a dude named Edwin C. Litchfield who owned a lot of property in Brooklyn about 150 years ago, and the offices of his Brooklyn Improvement Company were in this building, surrounded by other very old, beautiful buildings that Whole Foods destroyed when they bought the lot next door. This is the only building left on the block. Across the street there’s half of the wall from a stadium that housed the Brooklyn Superbas baseball team. They’re called the Dodgers now.” —AK
Photography by Phil Knot
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