March 12, 2015


19 Amazing Lyrics on 'Eat Pray Thug,' Heems' Post-Das Racist Solo LP

Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Taylor Hill/Getty Images

American rap is black and—sometimes—white. Seems like it, anyway, even surveying the game with a wide eye. But Heems is brown, and he's about that. And about being depressed, and on top of the world—feeling like Drake one second and dirt the next. He's a 29-year-old Wesleyan graduate born to Punjabi Indian parents in Queens, New York. He's been a hip hop player for seven years, first as one of the rapping halves of Das Racist (2008-2012, R.I.P.), then as the man behind the Nehru Jackets and Wild Water Kingdom mixtapes.

His solo label debut, the deliriously titled Eat Pray Thug, is out this week. It's a medium-size miracle for Himanshu Kumar Suri—the record's been hyped and delayed and endangered for more than a year. Recorded in three days in Bombay, part of a self-imposed exile from the U.S., the 11-song set contains multitudes on multitudes. It's a self-portrait with the Twin Towers burning in the background, a document about one of the most traumatizing and racially and religiously charged tragedies of our time. 

But Heems still knows how to make us laugh, hard, even when he's making us cry four times in 40 minutes. (Shoutout to "Home," with a deft assist from Blood Orange maestro Dev Hynes.) He swivels between feeling like his career's already over and like he's a king about to grab his crown. He straddles an identity divide where it's not even clear what's on each side, or how many sides there are. We could go on and on, but we'd rather throw to the poet, the prankster, the musician we can't afford not to pay attention to anymore. Eat Pray Thug is available on iTunes, on vinyl, and as a stream on NPR. Here are 19 of the sharpest lyrics.

From "Sometimes":
I can write, I do rap, I should care but won't
I'm too rock, I'm too rap, I won't change, I'm dope

From "Flag Shopping":
They want a shorter version, they want a nickname
They wanna Toby us, like we Kunta Kinte

From "Flag Shopping":
We're going flag shopping for American flags 
They're staring at our turbans, they're calling them rags
They're calling them towels, they're calling them diapers
They're more like crowns; let's strike them like vipers

From "So NY":
I'm so New York, yo, I live with my momma
Had to leave Williamsburg and all the white drama
Had to leave my home, they kept callin me Osama
Had to leave my home cuz of drones and Obama

From "Sometimes":
Sometimes I'm pacifist, sometimes I pass the fist
Sometimes I stay sober, sometimes it's "pass the fifth"

From "Flag Shopping":
We're going American flag shopping
Red, white, blue on our crib
The neighbors threw rocks at the house
They're making it harder to live

From "Jawn Cage" feat. Rhafiq Bhatia: 
They borrow, not from my borough 
I'm thorough like Henry David
I'm sayin, see something, spray it 
Got something, just fuckin say it

From "Home" feat. Dev Hynes: 
And company love misery
You with him while you telling me you wish it's me 
You addicted to the H-Man 
I'm addicted to the H, man

From "Sometimes": 
Sometimes I'm like this, sometimes I'm like that 
Sometimes I'm pretty thin, sometimes I'm pretty fat 
Sometimes I'm over here, sometimes I'm over there 
Sometimes I care a lot, usually I don't even care

Roger Kisby/Getty Images
Roger Kisby/Getty Images

From "Jawn Cage" feat. Rhafiq Bhatia: 
Bombay, "Bombs Over Baghdad" 
Baywatch, Baywatch 
Cray-watch, watch what the 'Ye cop 
Cop yay, Kanye 
Can he? Yes sir 
Sir yes, best-dressed
Cloth best, texture 
Best fur, for the niece 
Chinchilla, age two 
Say you, who say 
You say me, Jawn Cage, too

From "Flag Shopping":
And I was there, I saw the towers and the planes
And I'll never be the same, never ever be the same
I seen things that I never wanna see again 
I heard things that I never wanna hear again 
And now we're going flag shopping—yeahhhhh…

From "Patriot Act" (which you have to listen to the whole thing—and you can, above—especially its spoken-word back half, the album's devastating conclusion, but hey, screw it, here's a representative, gobstopping chunk):
Then the towers fell in front of my eyes
And I remember the principal said they wouldn't
And for a month they used my high school as a triage
And so we went to school in Brooklyn
And the city's Board of Ed hired shrinks for the students
And maybe I shoulda seen one
And from then on they called us all Osama:
This old Sikh man on the bus was Osama
I was Osama
We were Osama
Are you Osama?
And so we rushed to buy flags for our doors
Bright American flags that read "I AM NOT OSAMA"
And we ironed our Polo shirts and we combed our hair
And we proudly paid our taxes
And we immediately donated to a local white politician
And we yelled "I'm just like you" as quietly and calmly as we could
So as not to raise too much attention and be labeled a troublemaker and lose one's job

From "Sometimes": 
Mad about you when I'm on my Helen/Helen Hunt  
But I'm in the corner and smokin on this/on this blunt  

From "So NY":  
I move mountains for my brothers like I'm Hanuman  
They should build a monument, that's the type of shit I'm on

Noel Vasquez/Getty Images
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

From "Al Q8a":
You do work, you get work  
You do dirt, you get dirt  
You fuck around with these boys  
No question, you get murked 

From "Flag Shopping": 
They waking up my friend at night for no reason 
They promised him freedom 
Now he guilty for treason

From "Home" feat. Dev Hynes:
All I got is this sweater that you left
The letters that I kept
That spoke of how you like when I kiss you on the neck
And I held you as you wept

From "Sometimes":
Sometimes I got game, sometimes I'm mad shy
Sometimes I'm mad lame, sometimes I'm mad fly

From "Al Q8a":
USA! Uuuuuuuuuahhhhhwwwwwghhh...