Heems – Eat Pray Thug
Himanshu Suri has been misunderstood throughout his career. When Das Racist released “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” he, Dapwell and Kool A.D. were quickly dismissed by some as “joke rappers” and never really shed that label while they were together. People would look only at the surface level of the group’s sharp wit, without really realizing some of the more serious social and political themes that laid underneath the messages. Even though Das Racist dissolved in 2012, Heems still hasn’t completely escaped the shadow of the group despite excellent solo mixtapes in Nehru Jackets and Wild Water Kingdom. Eat Pray Thug, his first solo retail album, is the most complete picture of Himanshu we’ve seen, and should hopefully finally put to rest any accusations of “joke rap”, as well as people referring to him as just; “one of the guys from Das Racist”.
Eat Pray Thug (which is easily one of the best album titles I’ve ever seen), starts with Heems as many know him. He rhymes through “Sometimes,” “Jawn Cage” and “So NY” with bravado as he shows his trademark wit and humor. Heems layers the songs with references and jokes while effortlessly switching up his rhyme schemes and flow. It’s the type of high-energy rapping that made fans fall in love with Suri early in his career.
Yet Eat Pray Thug is far from just fun and games; the record is also a deeply personal portrait of Himanshu Suri. This is where the strengths of the project truly lie. The Dev Hynes-assisted “Home” is a heartbreakingly beautiful track about the aftermath of a breakup. Heems has always rapped about the issues that have come from being a Punjabi-Indian man in America, but he really hits hard with some firsthand accounts of what he’s gone through. Heems was only a few blocks away from the Twin Towers on 9/11, and everything changed for him then. “Flag Shopping” addresses how others in New York treated Himanshu’s family in the aftermath of the attacks, the xenophobia, the verbal abuse, and even physical attacks thrown their way.
“Al Q8a” and “Suicide by Cop” are fueled by rage with society. The album’s finale, “Patriot Act” is by far the most poignant, affecting track on the album (and it may be the best track of Heems’ career). Suri takes a spoken-word approach and closes the album with tales of the post-9/11 beatings he saw, people he knew that were deported, and harassment from the authorities. Two of Heems’ closing lines are simple, but absolutely powerful: “Those giant metal birds in the sky brought my parents here and made things confusing/And then crashed into those buildings and made things confusing.” Heems may have been misunderstood as an artist throughout his career, but he has been treated worse than misunderstood throughout his life.
As a more complete picture of Heems, Eat Pray Thug also occasionally showcases the rapper’s weaknesses. He has always embraced some mainstream sensibilities, but pop-oriented tracks like “Damn, Girl” and “Pop Song (Games)” take away from the more powerful material on the rest of the album. The production on Eat Pray Thug is also a notable step down from some of the beats on Heems’ mixtapes. However, despite some of the weaker moments on this record, the power and conviction of Heems’ raps are strong enough to overlook those missteps, and for that Eat Pray Thug is a triumph.3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Heems’ Eat Pray Thug on iTunes.