Last week, "Weird Al" Yankovic released his zillionth parody, "Craigslist," mashing up a sleazy Doors shtick with geeky references to the site's Missed Connections ads. The video was kinda sorta funny, but ol' Al got an ass-whupping in the game of viral wisecracks by a dark horse combo — Das Racist and Wallpaper. — armed with a supersized comedy routine ready-made for dancefloors.
That underdog single, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (Wallpaper.Remix)" put Brooklyn hip-hop duo Das Racist's original ditty about getting lost in a maze of Yum! Brands restaurant chains in the hands of up-and-coming Oakland electro-prankster Eric Frederic (aka Wallpaper.). The beat-driven remix was posted in April, but recently became a grand slam, making Pitchfork's Best New Music list, getting hyped as an official summer jam at MTV.com, and earning kudos from our sister paper to the east, Village Voice.
Give the song a spin, and it's easy to see why the kids are eating it up like so many Baja Chalupas. Das Racist's lyrics keep to the basics: MCs Himanshu Raps and Kool A.D. play a game of phone tag inside the cheese-and-carb–friendly conglomerate. Their earworm refrain ("I'm at the Pizza Hut. What? I'm at the Taco Bell. What? I'm at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell") is so dumbed down it has the nutritional value of Olestra. And yet its simplicity — calling out the absurdity of the obese-fast-food outlet — is immediately sticky. For proof, just check the cute a cappella version posted on YouTube by a couple of preteen sisters. Even stripped down, the call-and-response refrain is dangerously catchy.
The video-savvy siblings aren't the only ones parroting the tune. A YouTube search for the track reveals various fans lip-synching to the beat. The list of audio collagists doubles when it comes to remixes; small-fry producers have been quick to wrap the single with their signature packaging. But the leader in that race is undeniably Frederic, whose version was the one that made the blog rounds. I'm pretty certain it's also the only remix whose secret ingredient is a "gothic Miami Vice" vibe.
The Wallpaper. ditty conjures Depeche Mode (with flashes of New Romantic guitar) and men in pastel linen (très '80s sax samples). But the song is really boosted by rave-y air-raid horns and a beat that races like Crockett and Tubbs on the tail of the Colombians, with a driving low end that could help burn off Das Racist's "pizza butt" in no time.
Frederic says he first heard "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" while on tour in Vegas last December with electro-whizzes Dan Deacon and Girl Talk. After the show, Deacon whipped out his laptop and played the song, which he'd been gushing about all night. "We all lost our shit," Frederic says. From there, it was a matter of matching the original's 130 bpm pacing and its slapstick lyrical attitude: "I wanted something as fucked up as their original song concept."
This isn't the first time a single has blown up on a combo platter of eats 'n' beats. My favorite example: In the late '90s, Detroit Grand Pubahs released a pretty delicious hit, "Sandwiches" ("You can be the bun/And I can be the burger, girl/I know you want to do it/And we can make sandwiches"). Judging from the initial responses to Das Racist and Wallpaper., it seems this pairing could earn a similar place in club munchies history. It's also a fitting booster for a local artist keen on crafting electro spoofs on celebrities and "fine girlfriends," which he digs into on the full-length Wallpaper. debut, Doodoo Face, set for release in September.
For now, Frederic says his Web celeb status has caused only a small trickle of requests for his remixes, none of which come with offers of cash. "People are trying to not pay me for my work," he complains. "What gives?!"
So he's on to stoking new Internet memes — his latest stunt involves taking on Jay-Z. He responded to the rap titan's recent dig at pitch correcting technology, "D.O.A. Death of AutoTune," by posting "D.O.A./99 Problems (Wallpaper.Remix)." The remix of Jigga's two smashes hits the vocals with the same digital trickery the rapper has been calling out as of late. Pitchfork gave the song instant play on its site last week. Jokes Frederic of his musical Goliath, "He picked a fight with the wrong unknown bedroom producer."
With all the recent Das Racist fuss, though, the most pressing question I have for Mr. Wallpaper. is how he ranks Taco Bell and Pizza Hut against other fast-food outlets. Frederic claims to be a Carl's Jr. man himself. "Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/KFCs are weird because anything you order smells like all the other shit," he says. "Straight-Up Original Recipe Supreme Burrito Pizza. Gross, dog."