Flashback to September 20th, 2012 in Lexington, KY. I was a freshman in college and still adjusting to the new lifestyle. One new thing in my life was an appreciation for live music, so I checked out the University of Kentucky’s Boomslang Festival. Boomslang is sort of a double edged sword. It’s really cool to see multiple venues around Lexington come together, but honestly, the lineups I’ve seen have been a little too underground. Sometimes it just feels like it’s for the sake of being underground, which is really the problem. But in 2012 they hit with one group in particular that I was especially excited to see: Das Racist. Thursday night? At the time, it was even more reason to go; I wasn’t far from the days where school night plans were unheard of. But that’s a detail worth forgetting.
So Das Racist was performing after Apollo Brown at Lexington’s Cosmic Charlie’s that Thursday. I was on my way there from The Kentucky Theater where I had just seen Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel perform solo. Although it may sound like blasphemy, it was only the warmup that night for me. I was completely focused on the rap trio who I had become a pretty big fan of in the prior two years. I was a huge fan of the Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man mixtapes, and while I wasn’t as crazy for their album Relax, I still had plenty of reason to be excited.
I arrived outside about fifteen minutes early to Cosmic Charlie’s and hung outside for a few minutes before heading in. I was chilling beside the entrance when a real character walks out with long hair, thick rim glasses and an Oakland A’s baseball hat. Who else could it be? Kool A.D., of course. We caught a glance of one another for a second, but I didn’t think quickly enough to offer any “Good luck” comment. To be honest, he was macking on some girl walking with him so I wouldn’t blame him for not caring anyway. The glance holds a little bit of importance later, so keep this in mind. Charlie’s is a super small venue though so I was a little starstruck to see him walk out so carelessly. Honestly, in Lexington, KY, without even knowing Kool A.D. he’ll probably catch your eye for just looking so out of the ordinary in this area. Anyway, he walked off, my anticipation just got a lot higher so I decided to head in.
Apollo Brown played an enjoyable set of instrumentals, but the crowd was clearly there for Das Racist. Once Brown cleared out, the stage was set for their entrance and people crowded together near the front. Hype-man Dapwell brings the Mac laptop out, hooks up to the speakers, and starts warming up the crowd with a short DJ set before bringing out the rest of the team.
Eventually, Heems comes out followed by Kool A.D., back inside through the back side entrance. They come out and right away jump into loud, self-produced banger “Michael Jackson” to get the crowd moving. The venue brought a lot to the show for me; Cosmic Charlie’s, like I said, is a pretty small place. Not to mention, it’s kind of dirty and grimey honestly. The entire floor is sticky with spilled alcohol. The bathroom is cramped and covered in writing and graffiti. But Das Racist has a wild, dirty kind of attitude themselves so it was meant to be. It was a tight squeeze to file in and see the Brooklyn rap group.
The show was up and down for the crew, although I enjoyed it all myself. They ran through their singles and rapped the lyrics from a Shut Up, Dude track over “Xplosive” from Dr. Dre’s classic The Chronic 2001 (my personal favorite rap album), which kept the crowd dancing. You could see their eccentric personalities candidly in concert, trying out ideas on stage like passing the mic around the crowd hoping for each person to say a word and create a string of raps. Although it was a cool idea, the crowd just didn’t seem to know what the fuck was going on. People passed it around, some screaming nonsense and others just looking confused as to what to do with it. I specifically remember Heems telling the crowd, “That was the worst shit ever, dude.”
These days, I remember the night more for the later effects it had on the group rather than the show itself. Later in December, Das Racist officially broke up. Soon after that news broke, Rolling Stone published an interview with Kool A.D. revealing that the group decided to break up this night in Lexington.
That night was the first night of their tour, so it’s hard to blame Lexington and the crowd for the choice. It was more likely that they could see what kind of tour it was going to be with one another. That sounds silly anyway, but when you loved a group and they broke up after coming to your city..you wonder. A small nightmare sits in the back of my head imagining Kool A.D.’s thought process seeing me in front of Cosmic Charlie’s: “This is the kind of dumb fuck who wants to see us?.” I imagine. “Is this shit even worth it?” Of course, that’s pessimistic and silly. I don’t believe that. But it does suck that the decision came then, when before I was so surprised and excited they would visit a place like Lexington.
In retrospect, I remember the night pretty fondly. It was my first rap concert experience, and I got to see a group I really enjoy without knowing they would soon break up. On top of that, I can look back at it as if I was a part of some tiny moment in music history. The first night on the road for Das Racist, a weirdo Brooklyn rap outfit, is in Lexington, KY, where country music dominates and pop stations run through year old hot singles. The night where things probably started going to shit. But hey, it was a really fun show, and I don’t regret it.
R.I.P. Das Racist