“Yeah, I’m fucking great at rapping” — it’s a statement so matter-of-fact and tell-don’t-show that it almost contradicts itself, wordplay and metaphor and code tossed aside for an obvious lyrical swat to the back of your head. But when Heems spits that line at the end of his first verse on “Michael Jackson,” it caps a barrage of Cam’ron-meter internal-rhyme craziness delivered with a vintage-Eminem snarl, so it’s really something of a QED. Relax is Das Racist’s first official album, though after the one-two mixtape head-smacks of Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man, it’s also a culmination of what they spent 2010 fighting for: a spot in the indie-rap pantheon, as the comedic, cultural studies-baiting agent provocateurs turned flat-out bar-spitting machines.
Heems and Kool AD garnered co-signs from top-notch underground icons like EL-P (“Shut Up, Man”), Danny Brown and Despot (“Power”) for a reason. They’ve tightened up enough that they’re exciting to listen to as MCs and not just lyricists, whether they’re feigning sleepily-mumbled apathy (“Brand New Dance”), coolly rolling their way through cocky deadpan (“Happy Rappy”), or just going off on some twerk-happy club jam (“Booty in the Air”). And with Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly providing much of the album’s punch behind the boards — the title track’s bass-heavy aluminum-echo minimalism and the burbly hiss of “Selena” are highlights — they finally have a sonic identity to match their wiseass virtuosity. Relax might not have the anarchic rush of their mixtapes, but it proves they’re serious about their rap game, even if their lyrics can still be unserious in the best way.