Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Heems: Eat Pray Thug [Megaforce, 2015]
Heems has always been explicit about the unimaginable extra burden of racism borne by African-Americans in this country. But on the 9/11 rhyme "Flag Shopping" ("We're going flag shopping/For American flags/They're staring at our turbans/They're calling them rags") and the 9/11 recitation "Patriot Act" ("They would come at night and they would make a mess and the mess upset his wife"), he documents the racism Americans who look like him suffered after the towers fell--a disaster he watched horrified from Stuyvesant High School a few blocks away. Nothing else here can match those tracks. But I'm almost as down with "Sometimes," a "Personality Crisis" for outer boroughs kids of the immigrant generation, and assume it sums up who Heems is: not bipolar because his psyche is too multi, but moody and chronically confused. Note that two out of three love songs would be a feat for the most unconfused rapper, with the placeholding "Pop Song (Games)" obviously a sop to the label--the other two project emotions too smart for radio's confused-breakup norm. And beneath all this burble beats that suit a musicality worthy of the artist one song here spells "Jawn Cage." This is rapping that foregrounds the variegations of the ordinary speaking voice--its cracks, its rumbles, its anxious highs, its distracted lows, its deep-seated imperfections and insecurities. It's very American. A