Album Reviews

Heems – Wild Water Kingdom Mixtape

on November 20, 2012, 7:57am
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The second free mixtape from Das Racist’ Heems of the year, Wild Water Kingdom was ironically delayed by the pounding that New York took from Hurricane Sandy. In a year that has seen both halves of Das Racist rise to the occasion with strong solo tapes, this new release reads like a victory lap, but one that vacillates from overly relaxed to brimming with deserved confidence.

The long intro to the tape exemplifies the potential breakdown in the Das Racist manifesto. When you try repeating nonsense until it becomes a totally logical catchphrase, you really need to sell it, and the submerged sleepiness on this track doesn’t. “Water, water, water, water / I like to go swimming / Hawaii,” he limps, later adding “I’m swimming, swimming/ backstroke, backstroke/ forward stroke.” He’s clearly immersed in the world, but perhaps too far away to reach. But he’s not interested in making sure you follow anymore. “Me, me, me, me / it’s all about me,” he drips on “Death is Not An Option”, before adding in that splash of humor: “me, me, me, me, me, me / that’s a vocal warm-up.”

Whether he’s talking social injustice or fast food, Nehru Jackets worked best in its intense playfulness, his machete-edged sense of humor dancing on the border of logic. That fire does show up on the Harry Fraud produced “Cowabunga Gnarly”. Standing out with its brash, down-pitched vocal loop and Bollywood sample, Heems unfurls his always cool narrative, dropping Junot Diaz as his favorite author to make sure you know “Heema smart as three SAT tests.”

In a world where half of rap depends on references to stacks and bands, the ability to twist mainstream tropes into something entirely personal is essential. So, when on the Mike Finito produced “WOYY”, Heems boasts that “my bread big like the Pakistani rotis” and that his goal is to “try to be Wisconsin and have the most cheese,” he differentiates himself from the pack brilliantly, without ignoring the fact that the pack exists. The differences don’t end there either, “Third Thing” insisting that “weed and booze alright,” but Heems needs something else to keep on.

A verse on the “Combat Jack Show Freestyle” returns to the visceral racial politics that provide the bleeding heart for cuts like “Bad, Bad, Bad”. “Yo, when the towers came down put the burden on the brown/ now they murderin’ these clowns eatin’ burgers in their towns,” he begins, before arguing how that sort of shit fuels his murdering tracks like this. The one verse in the midst of a myriad of other issues might not be as laser-focused as “Bad”, but it certainly burns as hot. “Soup Boys” drops some sidelong references to Islamophobia, but gives itself over instead to sex. That said, the track’s hypnotic blend of a Tamil tune sample and blaring horn beautifully suits Heems’ unique style.

Other than Lakutis, the typical Das Racist-affiliated guests are largely absent: no Danny Brown, no Despot, and no running-mate Kool A.D. The biggest name is clearly Donald Glover, the Childish Gambino stopping by to rip on Himanshu’s food stylings: “remember fruitopia, that shit was delicious / Snapple came back around and put ‘em out of business / that’s a snapple fact / used to eat apple jacks / that’s a Heems rhyme that I’m using for this battle rap.” Glover brings out the goofy in Suri too, provoking a hyper-meta, super-Das Racist “haha, rap” intro. This sort of pop culture surrealism continues on “Medium Green Eyes”, wrapping 24, recent rap developments, and race into a single line: “Indian chiefer / chief Kiefer Sutherland / from the motherland / brother man.”

All that said, the tape lags in places, Heems covering topics he’s done before, but without he memorable hooks and enthusiasm. He repeats that he’s bored to open “Killing Time”, and the romantically inclined “Adina Howard” doesn’t muster up a ton of energy. And though Greedhead signee LE1F’s glitchy, bubbly beat fits the tape’s themes perfectly, he himself notes on “Deepak Choppa” that he’ll be bumping “Who’s That? Brooown!” at the waterpark. While there are great tracks that merit a ton of listens on Wild Water Kingdom, I’d tend to agree with his choice for waterslide soundtracking.

Essential Tracks: “WOYY”, “Cowabunga Gnarly”, and “Soup Boys”

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