On his 3rd release since the break of Das Racist, Heems, a.k.a. Himanshu Suri, balances the MC roles of hype and enlightenment more than he ever has before. On Eat Pray Thug, it seems as if Heems is just stabbing for what works, with most of the socially conscious political bits getting drowned out by the pop/dance or merely braggadocio rap tracks. Heems’ style of “weed rap,” as he discussed in Das Racist, is still prevalent, but more focused. Eat Pray Thug is primarily about Heems dealing with his dual identity and the struggles of living in a post-9/11 America, being of Punjabi-Indian descent, and growing up in Flushing, Queens, New York. He even said of the record, (poking fun at Kanye West) that it was his, “9/11 & Heartbreak.”

Speaking of New York and the record, Himanshu had said in his interview with Stereogum:

“I kinda just got burned-out in New York. I’ve lived there my whole life. I’m born and raised there. It’s a pretty depressing idea to me that I’ve gotten sick of a place that I’ve been so proud of being from. But I’ll always end up back in New York. That’s where my family is that’s where my sister and my niece and my mom are. It’ll always be home — it’s just that right now it hasn’t been working for me. I was going through a lot of issues with depression and anxiety, so I needed to get away. But it’s something that I’ll have to work on here or there either way. I’m not really running away. I realize that no matter where I go I’ll still be with myself. But it’s been nice to come out here and speak my native tongue and just like be in a place where I’m much less anxious, and where I don’t really have to battle with depression every day. It’s probably the most honest work I’ve ever made. I feel like maybe with Das Racist I kind of hid behind humor. My solo mixtapes, I kind of hid behind my Indian identity and my New York identity. With this project, there’s some humor there and definitely racial commentary, but also break-up songs and songs about some of the things that I’ve struggled with, life, anxiety, and depression, and other things.”

When the Twin Towers fell in 2001, Himanshu was vice president of his student government at Stuyvesant High School, two blocks away from where the attacks happened. On Eat Pray Thug, amidst the pop and humor and girls and stereotypes of rap music, hit or miss, the last track, “Patriot Act,” is the farthest we’ve gotten to the real Heems, and what I wished the whole album would have been like. He details the story below:

“The towers fell in front of my eyes, and I remembered the principal said they wouldn’t. For a month they used my high school as a triage, so we went to school in Brooklyn. The city’s Board of Ed. hired shrinks for the students, and maybe I should have seen one. And from then on they called us all Osama, the old man on the bus was Osama, I was Osama, We were Osama. Are you Osama? So we rushed to buy flags for our doors, bright American flags that read, ‘I am not Osama.’ And we ironed our polo shirts and we combed our hair, and proudly payed our taxes. And we immediately donated to a local white politician and we yelled, I’m just like you as quietly and calmly as we could, so as to not raise too much attention and be labeled a troublemaker and lose one’s job. Like when my name was too long to pronounce at work, and raised too much attention, and I was labeled a troublemaker, so I changed it. And we struck words like ‘bomb’ from our vocabulary, and airports changed for us forever; where another blue uniform came to represent oppression and undressing, and another blue uniform came to represent stops and frisks; depressing. And our parents began to fear for our lives whenever we walked out the door, because they read the news and another cab driver was beaten to death, and yesterday, almost 10 years later, another man was deported. I went to expensive white-people school with his daughter. For four years we read books and together we yelled, ‘I’m just like you.’ But she won’t get to correct her father’s English at dinner anymore. And the FBI harassed one of my dad’s friends so much he packed up his stuff and took his family and moved back to Pakistan. They would come at night and make a mess and the mess upset his wife. Those giant metal birds in the sky brought my parents here, and made things confusing, and then crashed into those buildings, and made things confusing. But I guess it’s okay because my dad wasn’t deported, and I still get to correct his English at dinner, so that he doesn’t raise too much attention, and be labeled a troublemaker.”

Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.