Himanshu Kumar Suri, better known by his stage name Heems, is an American rapper from Queens in New York City. Best known for being part of the alternative hip hop group Das Racist, Suri is also the founder of Greedhead Music, an independent record label. In 2012, Suri released his first solo mixtape, Nehru Jackets, on his Greedhead imprint and in conjunction with SEVA NY, a community-based organization from Queens of which Suri is a board member. Suri has also written about music and all things South Asian for the Village Voice, Death and Taxes magazine, Fuse, Stereogum, and Alternet.
Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, New York, Suri graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 2003, where he was the vice president of the student council when the September 11 attacks happened two blocks away. Suri then attended Wesleyan University where he studied economics. After graduating from Wesleyan, Suri moved back to New York where he worked in the financial sector until finding success with Das Racist.
He is of Punjabi-Indian descent.
In 2008, Suri formed Das Racist with his college friend Victor Vazquez. Shortly thereafter, Suri's high school friend Ashok Kondabolu joined as their hype man. Das Racist first found success on the internet with their 2008 song "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell", and then quickly established themselves within the underground rap scene with their 2010 mixtapes Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man, both of which earned them critical acclaim, including Pitchfork's designation of "Best New Music" as well as spawning tours across North America, Europe, and Asia.
While still with Das Racist, Suri released his first two mixtapes - Nehru Jackets and Wild Water Kingdom. After the break up of Das Racist at the end of 2012, Suri moved to Bombay to work on his first official album. In April 2014, he recorded for a commercial for Vitamin Water in Japan.
In January 2012, Suri released his first solo mixtape, Nehru Jackets, on his own Greedhead imprint.Nehru Jackets was released in collaboration with SEVA NY. Guests on Nehru Jackets include Despot, Danny Brown, and Childish Gambino. The album has received positive reviews, including a score of 8/10 from Spin.
Heems's second mixtape, Wild Water Kingdom, was released on November 14, 2012, also on the Greedhead label. It features production from Harry Fraud, Keyboard Kid, Crookers, Beautiful Lou, Le1f, and Lushlife. Guests on Wild Water Kingdom include Childish Gambino and Lakutis.
His debut solo album, Eat Pray Thug, was released on March 10, 2015 on Greedhead/Megaforce. The album was recorded in Bombay and Brooklyn and includes collaborations with Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange), Rafiq Bhatia, Gordon Voidwell, Boody B and Harry Fraud. Heems has referred to Eat, Pray, Thug as "9/11 and Heartbreak." The first single, "Sometimes," was released on January 8, 2015.
To manage Das Racist, Suri founded his own record label, Greedhead Music, as a management and recording company in 2008. Greedhead's first releases were the group's 2010 mixtapes. Das Racist's first commercially-available album, Relax, was also the first commercial release on the Greedhead imprint. Greedhead has since released solo mixtapes by Kool A.D. (The Palm Wine Drinkard) and Heems (Nehru Jackets) as well as Keepaway's Black Flute, Lakutis's I'm in the Forest, Le1f's "Dark York", and Big Baby Gandhi's Big Fucking Baby, and NO1 2 LOOK UP 2.
Suri has been a vocal advocate of the South Asian community in New York. In January 2012, Suri joined the board of directors of the Queens-based community organization SEVA. Suri plans to work with SEVA to develop a community center with a recording studio for local youth. Suri has worked extensively with SEVA to push for more equitable redistricting in Queens. Suri has publicly supported Reshma Saujani's bid for New York City Public Advocate, saying, "We will probably have the highest South Asian voter turnout ever this year because of her on the ballot and the resources she will be putting in it. This is the most qualified and well resourced candidate from the South Asian community ever."
In addition to his musical career, Suri also maintains a longstanding relationship with the art scene, especially in New York City. In 2010, Das Racist performed as a part of the Whitney Museum of American Art's Biennial celebration, curated by California artist Martin Kersels. In April 2013, Suri returned to the Whitney as part of the Blues for Smoke exhibit, an interdisciplinary exhibition that explored "a wide range of contemporary art through the lens of the blues and blues aesthetics." He performed alongside former Das Racist member Ashok Kondabolu (Dapwell), Greedhead rapper Leif, and psych-dance band Prince Rama. In February 2015, Heems curated an art exhibition at the Aicon Gallery in anticipation of his new album, Eat Pray Thug. The exhibition contained a wide variety of South Asian artists as well as events and performances throughout its month long run, including artists such as The Kominas, Rizwan Ahmed (Riz MC), and Heems himself.
In 2012, Suri joined an all-star cast of New York musicians in Amrit Singh's documentary short, Dosa Hunt, on a quest to find the best South Indian crepe in town. In 2013, Heems made his acting debut along with R&B artist Kelis in "Brazzaville Teen-Ager," a short film which starred and was written and directed by Michael Cera. In 2015, he played a supporting role as rascally ad agency employee named Reny in Benjamin Dickinson's Creative Control, which premiered at SXSW 2015, where Heems also performed.
Suri has also received attention for his activity on Twitter. In the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, Suri collected and retweeted racist tweets, drawing attention to the prevalence of xenophobia and Islamophobia in the celebratory national mood. In January 2011, Rolling Stone magazine named Suri #11 on its list of "50 Top Tweeters in Music".
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