As a member of Das Racist, Heems hugely expanded the vocabulary of alternative hip hop.
Writing from a deeply individual standpoint, the rapper is continuing to do this via his solo career. New album 'Eat Pray Thug' is out now, matching dexterous, electronic-washed beats to his supple, devoutly New York flow.
Evidently literate, Heems peppered his rhymes with cultural references – drawing on the writing word and visuals, pop and art, East and West, the rapper truly has an open mind.
The perfect candidate for Their Library, then.
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What is your favourite book and why?
This is an insanely difficult question to answer. I'm going to have to say The Ramayana as it is an epic which is timeless enough that, as a Hindu, it will be forever be relevant to me and forever hold a place in my heart.
What other authors do you like?
Junot Diaz, Salman Rushdie, Teju Cole, Jhumpa Lahiri.
What draws you to certain books?
I am drawn to work I can relate to. Thus a majority of the books I read are from South Asian authors of the diaspora.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I don't know if I have discovered any lost classics but I appreciate the literary nature of a lot of lyrics from 1950s and 1960s Bollywood film songs. Particularly, the lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi for the films of Guru Dutt.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
In some ways the wide interest in the work of authors like Jhumpa Lahiri or Hanif Kureishi gave me confidence to create my own diasporic work.
What are you reading at the moment?
I'm trying not to read as much so I don't lose any of my voice as I approach writing my own novel.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
I definitely did. This is also about the time the internet wasn't in every home so as a youth you would have to go to the library to use the world wide web.
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?
I have difficulty finishing most books. Usually by the middle I feel like "I get it" and have difficulty justifying the time spent on reading the latter half. I'm not proud of this.
Do you read book reviews?
Would you ever re-read the same book?
I've read Please Kill Me: An Oral History of Punk maybe three or four times.
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
I suppose I related to Gogol Ganguly in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake or the main character in Cheeny Rao's In Hanuman's Hands or... I've identified with many characters in many books. I usually try to read books where I can identify with the main character.
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
Usually one. Although I don't read much.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
I'm proud to have collaborated with Teju Cole once or twice. I'm also proud to have collaborated with Salman Rushdie on a few whiskeys. We are currently planning to collaborate on a whiskey in London this May.
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'Eat Pray Thug' is out now.