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Archive for February, 2012

Spin: Heems – Nehru Jackets


Reviewed Heems’ ridiculously great, Queens rap-indebted mixtape for SPIN. It was given the “essential” tag, which it totally deserves. There are a few words about Kool A.D.’s The Palm Wine Drinkard in there as well. Dunno, I feel like people are really underrating Nehru Jackets. Go back to it if you thought it was “too long” or whatever…

If you discovered hip-hop during the so-called Golden Age of the late-’80s/early-’90s, Queens still holds an almost mythic quality to this day. Which applies to both the rappers — bigger-than-life rogues like Nas, Mobb Deep, Kool G. Rap, Pharoahe Monch, and Capone-N-Noreaga — and the locale itself, which, if judged by the rhymes about stick-up kids and videos full of dudes standing around fire-belching trash cans, always seemed idyllic in its awful-ness.

The general definition of “Queens rap” came from that sort of thing, which means Nehru Jackets, an eccentric boom-bap mixtape from Queens residents Heems (a.k.a., Himanshu Suri of Das Racist) and producer Mike Finito, probably fails to qualify under such a strict rubric. But that’s a good thing. The off-the-cuff confidence of this free offering — presented by Queens-based nonprofit SEVA NY in support of their campaign against gerrymandering and redistricting — feels like a bleary-eyed character actor strolling through a big-budget crime flick, mucking up all that once-poignant, now-rote “authenticity.” It’s a reminder of what was actually charming about classic Queens rap: Behind the rugged-and-raw signifying, there were weird personalities and a palpable sense of community…

Written by Brandon

February 3rd, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Spin

January Picks.

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  • Heems, Nehru Jackets: Dusted, busted, boom-bap soundtracks our seemingly forever-fucked post-9/11 nervousness. Mike Finito makes 90s producer worship thrilling. Heems has Resurrection-era Common’s “I may not get there with you” spirit.
  • Evan Voytas, Feel Me: FlyLo live guitarist and jazzy-wazzy insider channels chillwave, brings his compositional chops, and sings his annoying little heart out. One song sounds like Polow’s “Glamourous” beat. A plucky headphone record cool with being uncool.
  • Homeboy Sandman, Subject: Matter: Quirky Queens word nerd joins Stones Throw, gets mad lyrical, violates GZA’s “half short, twice strong” aphorism, but doesn’t forget to have fun. Outsider art-rap. Even at 6 songs this is overwhelming (that’s a compliment).
  • G-Mane, Mark Of The Beast: A harsh, soulful slab of fire and brimstone-invoking, intelligent hoodlum-esque political rap. Resists cynicism thanks to an uplifting final act of Pimp C real talk and a William DeVaughn update. Album cover of the year.
  • Zack Browning, Secret Pulse: Fancy pants modern classical pick. Imagine the sunny, unpretentious American avant-garde laced with art-damaged Atari blips. One or two more sounds and this would scan as “cool,” one or two less and it’d score a Fincher flick.

Written by Brandon

February 2nd, 2012 at 5:52 am

Posted in 2012