Billed as the first in a spate of solo mixtapes from the members of hip-hop group Das Racist — three of them, which means we should also anticipate records from hype man Dapwell and frontman Heems — The Palm Wine Drinkard might actually be cause for concern. Does this mean they're breaking up? Heems alluded to an impending death on his Twitter feed, and if that's really the case, it doesn't augur well for the genre at large.
But it might be a salutary experience for the individual members of Das Racist. East Bay native Kool A.D., aka Victor Vazquez, apparently recorded this piece during his Christmas sojourn in Cuba. And fittingly, it starts with a tropical, reggae-influenced instrumental, the kind that would sound utterly sincere on a dubplate 45. On this tape, it's anomalous. The rest of Palm Wine hews to that sluggish, stream-of-consciousness, murkily-produced, Autotune-filigreed, completely opaque, slang-laden, too-smart-for-the-room style of downtempo rap that six months ago would have been called "swag." It's quite a departure from the political hip-hop that's characterized Das Racist.
Vazquez sings a lot more than he raps on this album, in the kind of waxy, lazy tenor that shows he could have a viable side career in balladry, perhaps if abetted by ProTools. Most of his songs are geared for the dance floor (one, called "Booty in the Air," sounds like an homage to 2 Live Crew), but some err on the side of slow trance, with one lyric repeated over and over (e.g., Love is a love is a love is a necessary thing, in "Girls and Women"). It's a fascinating experiment, albeit inferior to the stuff Das Racist produced as a trio. So let's hope this "solo project" thing is an artistic whim rather than a definitive career move. (self-released)