Himanshu Suri—better known as Heems—is a bright guy with a big mouth, as adept at popping off on Twitter rants as he is crafting verses as one-third of the literate, absurdist rap group Das Racist. Suri’s brain doesn’t have an “off” switch, and he tends to work best with a big, messy canvas. This is one of the great things about Internet mix-tape culture: rappers can test new ideas with periodic data dumps shaped into rough album form with the sort of unfettered sprawl previously associated with prog rock. Nehru Jackets, Suri’s first “solo” tape, is just that: a messy, occasionally brilliant online opus that attempts to compress the entirety of Queens, and Suri’s life there as the son of Indian immigrants, into 74 minutes.
It’s a lofty goal, but he arguably reaches it. With able producer Mike Finito, Nehru features New York-style genre pieces like the guest-laden “You Have To Ride The Wave” and “Yo What’s Good New York,” nods toward the hip white kids by sampling Brooklyn dream-disco group Twin Sister and naming a song “Kate Boosh,” and offers the post-grad License To Ill deconstructions “Womyn” and “Computers.” Yet Suri’s commentary on being an Indian-American in the 21st century drives his art, and tracks like “Chakklo,” “Alien Gonzales,” and especially “NYC Cops” are the real reasons to pay attention to him. It’s clear that if New York’s long-delayed underground-rap renaissance is going to happen anytime soon, it has to involve this guy.