Heems’ Nehru Jackets

by Tariq Weaver

Hip hop undoubtedly has become an international force and it comes with no surprise that one of hip hop’s wittiest artists, “Das Racist”, is an alternative hip hop group based in Brooklyn, New York. They are composed of MCs Himanshu Suri (aka Heems), and Victor Vazquez (aka Kool A.D.) and hype man Ashok Kondabolu (aka Dap).  Known for their use of humor, academic references, foreign allusions, and unconventional style, Das Racist has been both dismissed as joke rap and hailed as an urgent new voice in rap.

Earlier this month Heems, one half of Das Racist, dropped his first solo mixtape, Nehru Jackets. It’s a gamut of emotions, ideas, projections, rants, and abstractions in which Heems stays true to his Southeast Asian roots by sampling many classic Indian commercials and Bollywood songs as the stage for his 24 track mix tape. A perfect example of this flavorful exchange of creativity is found on the song called “Alien Gonzalez” where Heems raps over a noticeably heavy Indian sample and begins the track by painting a picture of an inebriated all grown up Elian Gonzalez at a party searching for a girl to acquiesce for the night.

Get the play on words?

The titles of the songs alone give brief insight about the variety of sarcasm highlighted in this album. Heems playfully juggles between seriousness and a nonchalant tone that compel listeners to develop an opinion of the subject matter he proposes without the music being so overt in illustrating his own belief. In short, Heems lets the music speak for itself. “Juveniles At Gitmo” is a tribute to all the alleged terrorists being indefinitely held at Guantanamo prison. For 30 seconds he lists the many Muhammads, Yusefs, and Abdullahs and their respective prison numbers. From there the album takes a more lighthearted turn and introduces the track entitled “Womyn”, a ballad dedicated to the greatness of women where he geekily admits that women are better than high stakes and dinner steaks since. He’s got a song dedicated to Jason Bourne where he spastically retells a nonlinear recollection of the Jason Bourne in which he praises him for his ability to fight all night while drinking white Russians, how he could not kill the African spy with the baby in his lap in the Bourne Identity, and the unfinished business of Operation Black Briar during the Bourne Ultimatum film. A personal favorite from the album is “Computers” where Heems rants about the consequences the internet has created concerning public information, espionage on behalf of the NSA, and most importantly how it has complicated human communication.

The majority of these songs are less than 3 minutes, which some critics find Heems to lack focus when rapping solo since his track record insinuates that he performs at his best when competing with fellow brainiacs or quirky MCs. It’s evident that Das Racist brashly and unapologetically creates music mainly because critical acclaim and success is not determinative of a project’s importance. The majority of the songs on this album are pretty facetious, and they were meant to be produced in that fashion. What would Das Racist be without constant jabs at popular culture and society? Better yet, what would hip hop be without honesty and authenticity? It’s hard to identify with dropping thousands at the club but everyone knows that late night fast food sprees in college lead to love handles. Those extra plush hips you acquired over your four years of college deserve more respect. Embrace your inner Notorious B.I.G and call them “thug handles”. It’s worthwhile. That’s what Heems would suggest.