Having released his debut album Eat, Pray, Thug less than a month ago, Heems took time out of his busy schedule to answer this 405 Q&A regarding his creative process, what's it like to feel trapped between two cultural identities, rap appropriation and much more.
How long were you working on the album for?
I did 'Home' and 'AL Q8A' in an hour or so each before India. Then I made most of the album over three days in Bombay. I returned to the US and did 'Flag Shopping' and 'Patriot Act' in an hour or so each in New York.
What process do you go through when you're writing?
I just listen to the beat and see what comes out on the page.
What was it like working with Dev Hynes on 'Home' and how did that collaboration come about?
Dev works quick so we had that in common. We knew each other from MySpace and then from hanging out in New York. So I bugged him until he did it! And I'm glad he did.
You've spoken about 'Sometimes' being about dualities and identity. Do you ever feel at times that one day you're Indian and the next, you may be American?
All the time. Although it's more like hour-to-hour.
You also said that dualities are normal, which to an extent is true but given that much of the spaces in which we live are white dominated, do you feel that 'normal' also means something we've come to accept?
Normal is subjective. I just meant no one feels one thing forever. We grow. We change. We feel different things.
Besides a rich Indian heritage, what else does the album cover represent?
New York City. Recovery. Women.
Where would you say you're at right now with your music?
I'm considering leaving the medium.
What would you want to leave behind?
To future generations? 'Flag Shopping' and 'Patriot Act'.
I read in your interview with The Village Voice that you felt as if you were appropriating black art. Your work addresses a number of social issues and has those core Hip Hop ‘principles, so why do you feel that’s the case?
Because Rap is a historically black art. The same way Rock and Roll was. And white people stole that. So I want to be cautious of stealing rap, because I know what it's like to have things stolen from me.
You borrow from the culture but in a way that is still respectful, right?
That said, has anyone shown any hostility towards you for your work?
No. Although I find it a better policy to not wait until that happens.