Both hilarious, both odd, and both overweight, Heems and DOOM remain underrated in the hip-hop community. While DOOM has been in the game longer and has received a fair amount of accolades, his masterpiece Madvillainy may only be recognized by cool kids and critics. Who would ever mention it in the same sentence as Illmatic, The Blueprint, or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? Likewise, Heems and his collective Das Racist have been written off as schlock punchline devotees. To which I say who cares? If Eminem’s draw is his emotional side then I’m listening to The Marshall Mathers LP for the wrong reasons.
HIMANSHU – Nehru Jackets (free download): Das Racist’s Heems’s mixtape serves as humor showcase: “Womyn” doubles as odd awe (“and when they let you take showers with ‘em, it’s really awesome”) tinged with earnest disappointment. The refitted “SWATE” uses his wit to disarm criticisms against it. His endless line of references ranging from Prince to Chumbawamba to Johnny Nash—not to mention his eccentric across-the-board sampling of Kate Bush or some long-forgotten foreign advertisement for Coca-Cola—ultimately celebrates what in part makes hip-hop (or, you know, music) great. But lest you think he’s all clown and no honk, his version of “NYC Cops” is heartrending in a way the Strokes’ can never be, as Casablancas stops after calling them stupid. Heems illustrates how power in the hands of idiots can inflict destruction in broad daylight under cover of darkness. A MINUS
JJ DOOM – Key to the Kuffs (Lex Records): Featuring a Beth Gibbons-backed GMO PSA, mysophobic concerns of the guy who fingers the chick when he didn’t wash his hands after pissing, and a newswire soundbite of Goldman Sachs employees referring to clients as “muppets”—“Which is a British term for a stupid, ignorant person,” the reporter says—DOOM’s newfound paranoia is matched by producer Jneiro Jarel’s twitchy glitchtronica, a brand of beats opposite of the toke-worthy instrumentals DOOM lent Masta Ace or either of his previous big hitters. Sure, sure, not as funny or playful as The Mouse and the Mask or as free-flowing as Madvillainy. And okay, okay, cluttered conceptually by multifarious Limey references which no one can figure out are meant to signify. But 1) he hasn’t lost his affinity for the never-ending rhyme: “Cold and stiff,” “Hold the if,” “Need a facelift,” “Sold a gift,” “Fold the rift,” or “Defeats the purpose,” “slurp up the surplus,” “burnt puss,” “so nervous,” “must gush,” “hush, hush,” “Trust / Villain ‘til the Earth crust bust,” and 2) the British bombs could concern DOOM’s retreat to his birth isle after visa troubles shackled his return stateside, or they might reference JJ’s connection to the London alterna-underground scene from which two guest appearances spring. Yet with DOOM being the nefarious kook he is, beats me what the fish-n-chip-eatin’ villain is up to. My guess is the admixture of DOOM’s Illuminati nonsense talk and JJ’s industrial clatter is summed up in the masked man’s contrast of the white hills of Dover and the Gulf oil spill: “Depends on your status or your stature / Whether you benefit from the prior or the latter-er.” A MINUS