Taking only the aimless, half-baked stumble that was his first solo mixtape, Palm Wine Drinkard, it would seem that Das Racist’s Kool A.D. (a.k.a. Victor Vazquez) didn’t have the chops that it took to thrive on his own. There was barely any rapping on Drinkard, and the futurist, wobbly R&B that dominated the tape didn’t have much punch. As difficult as it is in a two-person group (no offense to hype-man Dap), A.D.’s always been the underrated lyricist, despite his verses on Das Racist mixtape tracks frequently stealing the spotlight. So, it’s a big sigh of relief that his second mixtape, 51, is just as solid and full of rhymes as Himanshu’s solo outing, Nehru Jackets.
Where Heems’ Queens bravado brings out a line like “I’m fucking great at rapping,” Vazquez has always seemed more laid-back, perhaps (hello, stereotypes) due to his growing up in sunny California. 51 was recorded in Oakland and features Californian producers and guests, and Vazquez is at home in their midst. He sounds confident and comfortable, doling out that trademark weird. On highlight “La Pinata”, he works off of a Mr. Rogers sample (seriously) and slick beat from standout producer Amaze 88, the whole time “styling, a wild king, a lion.”
Tracks like “Donda” should remind listeners of Vazquez’ serious skills. The track stands as a one-minute testament to his ability, including brilliant lines like, “So Diddy with it/ looking for a check with like 50 digits.” When he wants to be, he’s just as “fucking great at rapping” as Heems, and here he clearly wants to be. Sure, there are plenty of recycled lines, but as A.D. says on “Arrested Development”, “That’s art, man.” The repetition here (and everywhere on Das Racist’s collective output) simultaneously pushes the Dada aesthetic and insists on a sort of brand identity, forcing catchphrases into your head while getting you to realize catchphrases are ridiculous. That said, the recycled lines found on 51 are recycled because they’re good, and the new lines are good enough to be recycled in the future.
Essential Tracks: “La Pinata”, “Arrested Development”, and “Donda”