Eat Pray Thug
Reviewed by: Max Miller
Das Racist were always an intelligent hip-hop group playing things a little dumb, which is why they inevitably fell prey to Dave Chappelle Syndrome. Chappelle made sharp, funny commentary on race in America only to have white folks shout “I’m Rick James, bitch” at him during stand-up sets. Das Racist’s Heems and Kool A.D. rapped about racism and millennial malaise only to be best remembered for “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” In both cases, the audience could be faulted for ignoring the subtleties in favor of the obvious goofs — the catchphrases that could be divorced from all meaning and shouted for cheap laughs.
Heems (né Himanshu Suri) seeks to take another stab at incisive social commentary without sacrificing his sense of humor on Eat Pray Thug, his debut solo album, following a pair of mixtapes from 2012 and a pilgrimage through South Asia. “Flag Shopping” offers the best example of Heems’ strengths. The down-tempo, piano-driven rap skewers Islamophobic tendencies in America, including a chorus of “They want a shorter version/ They want a nickname/ They want to Toby us/ Like we’re Kunta Kinte,” a tongue-in-cheek nod to Heems’ own stage name. The closing trilogy of “Al Q8a”, “Suicide By Cop” and “Patriot Act” similarly tears into post-9/11 paranoia, drone warfare/surveillance and police brutality. Nods to these subjects can be found scattered across tunes like “So NY” and “Jawn Cage” (featuring intriguing licks from jazz guitarist Rafiq Bhatia), but rarely with such focus.
Eat Pray Thug suffers from lesser cuts like “Damn, Girl”, “Hubba Hubba” and “Pop Song (Games)”, which seem out-of-place when stacked against the album’s more politically-charged material or even a song like the Dev Hynes-featuring “Home”, which better exemplifies Heems’ heartbreak hip-hop. The album makes for an uneven listen, suggesting Heems still hasn’t settled on his voice as a solo artist. As harrowing as “Patriot Act” or “Flag Shopping” can be, some of the more light-hearted tracks come off as perfunctory — a service to the very fans who turned Das Racist into a meme instead of a serious group.