Lead in by the bewildering lunacy of Kool A.D.’s The Palm Wine Drinkard, released in the dark shadow of SOPA and briefly dying with the removal of Megaupload, those who found Das Racist’s second tape, Himanshu’s Nehru Jackets, were well rewarded for their efforts.
Less experimental than Drinkard, the intimidatingly massive tape plays like a Das Racist album, lacking only the polish and other members. The inane wordplay, bizarre beats and cutting humor are all here.
Heems’ rounded, glazed voice loops and dives like a giant drunken bumblebee, melodious and hilarious, capable of the most serious or silly content imaginable. The junk food porn of “Thug Handles” (appropriate for a tape with Action Bronson on it) and the politically charged “Juveniles Detained at Guantanamo Bay” could hardly be more disparate tracks to tackle; Heems’ flow delivers on both. Sometimes sounding half asleep, he can be bombarded into a harder tone with the right beat, such as the driving “Alien Gonzales”, while miraculously remaining unforced and as even as he ever is.
Like a full fledged Das Racist release, the vast array of beats are unified predominantly by feel; I cannot identify what makes them all sound similar, they simply are. Mike Finito’s maelstrom construction seems perfectly suited to the game Heems is playing, which finds itself over settings as varied as Jamaican reggae swagger (“Bad, Bad, Bad”) and syrupy, deranged melting soul samples (“Bangles”; the aforementioned Guantanamo cut). Such strange, harsh soundscapes require rappers with voice and presence, and Nehru Jackets manages to line up many. Danny Brown, Bronson, Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire and Despot all find themselves in Wackyland, and all deliver.
Brown and Exquire play high/low on “You Have to Ride the Wave.” Brown’s piercing voice and references to Street Fighter II and Louis CK are counterbalanced by Exquire’s deep-throated, hilarious attack on Finito, followed by a battering of his beat. Heems holds his own against the murder’s row, splitting the middle with easy confidence and name dropping the likes of Salman Rushdie. Action Bronson fits the hard edge of “Yo What’s Good New York” like a glove, a Wu lite flow on a Wu lite beat.
Heems moves into some more serious territory on Jackets, including “NYC Cops”, the most vicious screed against police since N.W.A. “Fuck the New York pricks and dicks/Who wanna be a cop but a power hungry idiot,” he raps. Rattling off a list of bloodstained dirty laundry, the song devolves into almost spoken word poetry by its finish.
As if to make up for A.D.’s punchline-less tape, the trademark humor is back on Jackets. None are perhaps funnier than “Womyn.” A candy coated utility blade, Heems provides a babbling love letter to all he adores about the fairer sex with the tongue in cheek caveat that he may not be an expert. “Mike says this should be a song about women,” he raps. “But then he said/He don’t know any women/I told him yo/I know like seven women.” The song is flipped and made slightly more menacing on the less endearing “Womyn 2.” The misstep is forgiven, since taking a good joke too far is sometimes simply the nature of the beast.
“Choorhay Lare” and “Chakklo” have what I can best describe as a bhangra influence, a distinctly exotic infusion that provides an intriguing sound which should find a more frequent use in Hip-Hop music. The hook on “Choorhay Lare” soars and dips hypnotically, a sound unmatched in the Western Canon except perhaps by yodeling, which is far more cringe inducing.
The most interesting cut is “Computers.” Upon first listen, this seems to be another simple joke, a wandering rumination about the eponymous devices and their prominence in our lives. Until one realizes that computers are the reason for his rise, the chariot that Heems, Das Racist and the entire New Guard have managed to run down, flog and than harness. His ilk has risen from the muck that occurs when most every thought, idea and whim can be dumped in one place, poking their heads above the swamp and gaining traction directly with the people. “I love them, I need them,” he raps, and truer words may have never been set to music.
Somewhat approachable, borderline narcissistic and indisputably Das Racist, Nehru Jackets succeeds in what Kool seemed afraid to try: giving us what we want, while remaining true to one third of the tripod. I would compare the noise, delicious stickiness and stream of consciousness found here to the Ganges. But that’s racist.
Prime Cuts: “Alien Gonzales”, “Choorhay Lare”, “You Got to Ride the Wave”, “Womyn”, “Computers”
Nehru Jackets receives a PARL
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