An Honest Debut
When Das Racist disbanded in 2012, hip-hop lost a unique act that balanced humor with politics. In many ways, Heems’ (one-third of Das Racist) debut, Eat Pray Thug, carries the torch on. The album is a collection of aggressive beats paired with biting critique and tongue-in-cheek jokes on race, class, and just surviving in New York.
As Heems transitions from pop anthems to chaotic raps, the album can feel disorienting and overwhelming. There’s a method to this madness. “Jawn Cage” and “Pop Song (Games)” best represent the two clashing sides of Eat Pray Thug. “Pop Song (Games)” has Heems singing of courtship. It takes the tongue-in-cheek humor that patterns the other tracks and concentrates it in an entire song. It’s a joyful break from the heavier topics, but it also shows how the joke can get old. The pop sections and longer choruses start to crumble under repeat listens, losing it’s initial appeal. The payoff can’t doesn’t match the lengthy buildup.
But then we are treated to tracks like “Jawn Cage” and “Al Q8a.” These songs find a happy balance between braggadocio rap and political commentary, snarky warnings and genuine lessons. They’re also backed by productions that fit these collision of ideas. Sirens accompany more traditional claps and hi-hats, while beat switches and flow changes are the convention instead of the exception.
Much of activism and academia is about getting on the level of the audience, whether it’s using a language that’s more understandable or sharing experiences that are more relatable. With Eat Pray Thug, Heems offers anecdotes and critique with a style that remains entertaining, yet uncompromising. Even if it stumbles with some of its more ambitious concepts, Eat Pray Thug is a brutally honest perspective on the unseen and unheard.