45. Heems, Nehru Jackets
Released: January 17th
Last fall, Das Racist's debut, Relax, established the eccentric trio as hip-hop's silliest savants. And while they've reveled in being wildly unpredictable, the group's main tag team, Heems and Kool A.D., chose to kick off 2012 with a pretty predictable rap group move, releasing a pair of solo mixtapes designed to show off their individual aesthetics.
Heems, the man who famously rapped about being “The worst rapper on the track, third coolest” re-introduces himself with Nehru Jackets, the strongest and most cohesive solo release from the crew. Produced entirely by childhood friend Mike Finito, the tape bursts with rugged drums, sweet vocal samples, and lo-fi mixing, reflecting Bollywood and indie-rock influences along the way.
Heems is at his most memorable when he keeps it simple, rapping about women (“Womyn”), computers (“Computers”), and badass spy movies (“Jason Bourne”). But it's his ability to touch on hot-button political issues in accessible ways—like his document of police brutality, “NYC Cops”—that gives his voice more weight. On the standout “SWATE,” Heems reveals the science behind his self-aware silliness: “They like, 'Heems, you should rap in earnest.'/But honestly, I'd rather burn cess and watch Ernest.” Know what I mean, Vern?