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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | Last updated: 11:07am

Das Racist's Heems delivers again on "Wild Water Kingdom"



Anyone who focuses only on the humorous side of self-described Dadaist rap group Das Racist is missing the point. Sure, MCs Kool A.D. and Heems are a hoot, having constantly refined their brand of acerbic wit and parodic lampooning of hip-hop tropes since their mixtapes in 2010.

Yet much as Das Racist’s members are funny, they are also adoring of rap and its long, often troubled history. Wild Water Kingdom, the latest offering from the Das Racist camp and Heems’ second full-length mixtape of the year (following February’s Nehru Jackets), is no exception.

It’s true that Wild Water Kingdom features very little surprise or innovation in terms of subject. Instead Heems proves himself simply by making it clear that he has no end of things to rap about, be it his boredom on the Echo and the Bunnymen-sampling “Killing Time” or the impressive number of nicknames he has given himself (the best from Water World Kingdom: “Hang ten Heems, the most waviest creature”). The wonderful nexus between the academic and the inane that has always marked Das Racist’s best material is on full display here.

Wild Water Kingdom has producers of all shapes and sizes giving their best shot at matching a beat to Heems’ style. Unsurprisingly, the goofier, more progressive outings on the album work best for him, such as the title track that mixes Eastern-sounding synthesizers with a loping groove to outstanding results.

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Press Photo

Similarly, LE1F’s odd beat for “Deepak Choppa” simmers along an arcade-sounding electropop beat before dropping out halfway through and re-emerging as a terrifying Odd Future-styled sound that’s more dissonant than anything.

Unlike the star-studded Nehru Jackets, Wild Water Kingdom’s seventeen tracks feature Heems alone. Late track “Tell Me” features an unfortunate guest turn by Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, solidifying the poor match that Glover’s declining skills make for Heems’ inimitable cleverness.

As it turns out, though, Heems is just as capable by himself, pumping out amazing lines like “I swear my friends are trying to kill me / I’m online watching old interviews of Biggie” from “Cowabunga Gnarly.”

The first single from the tape, “Cowabunga Gnarly,” succinctly summarizes everything that is great about the songs here: literary references, the Bollywood-with-808s beatmaking and Heems’ workmanlike flow.

While songs like “Himanshu Freestyles” and “Killing Time” highlight just how fast he can rap when he’s actually trying to, fans of Heems know that with him it’s never really about technical perfection. Heems is the rare MC who can carry a song simply because his lyrics are so good that his often bumbling way of saying them hardly matters, and his go-for-broke vocal style just enhances the surreality of it all. As he and his cohorts prove time and time again, smart guys are often the best rappers.

Rating: 4/5

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