Moon-walking Michael Jackson impersonators don’t often close out live rap performances, but so it was as Das Racist took to the stage on last night’s Conan show to run through a song titled after the King of Pop. It was a bizarre production — and like most of Das Racist’s moves, it successfully irritated the ire of the Internet’s peanut gallery.
The details: Dap, the group’s hype man, held court behind the type of podium commonly seen at extremist political rallies; to his left two girls stood at attention with hands perched on hips, breaking their stony stance only to smash a couple of cymbals with drum-sticks. Heems then rapped a chunk of his verse while rotating on the spot at a rate of 24 revolutions per minute (we counted), while for his turn on the mic Viktor chose to sport a lavish wig (which he then threw off in order to run his head down the keys of a synth). And then came the dancing Jacko cameo.
The performance has kept Das Racist’s name in the mainstream spotlight — which is helpful as they have a recently-released album, Relax, to promote. But it also comes off the back of a fine year of rude rap shenanigans on late-night talk shows: Earlier this month the Roots serenaded Republican Presidential wannabe Michelle Bachmann with a rendition of Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch,” while Tyler, The Creator caused a ruckus on the Jimmy Fallon show by running amuck and jumping on the host’s back. But while Tyler’s antics were predictable, fitting in with Odd Future’s punkish image, and the Roots’ ruse was the sort of music nerd in-joke you’d expect from ?uestlove, Das Racist’s turn has inspired the type of polarizing reaction you suspect the group courts.
On his Twitter account, Dap retweeted comments anointing the performance as both brilliant and useless. Chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson was moved to tweet, “Honestly that was the most RIDICULOUS performance i have ever seen!!!!!!” But then you have Fleur Terry from Ohio calling it, “literally the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously. The worst.” It’s a range of reaction Das Racist excel at provoking. While some have written the group off as a comedy-rap act, we’re all still talking about them — so maybe the ultimate joke’s on us, not them.