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"Like Riding a Bike": Heems Returns to Rap

Nina Interviews

Himanshu Suri goes deep on his newfound outlook on life, his next musical chapter, and his love of chopping vegetables.

By Drew Millard


When I catch up with Heems over Zoom last month, he’s in the middle of a multi-day marathon of responding to random people’s Tweets alerting him to the fact his former group Das Racist’s 2008 meme-rap smash “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” is currently being used in an Instacart commercial. If you’ve been watching the NFL at all over the past month, you’ve definitely seen it—it’s the one where various football fans marvel that they’re at the “Combination football game and grocery store”—and you may have been one of the dozens of people wondering if he got paid for its use.

“I love that they’re, like, concerned,” he says. “But yeah, I got a bag,” he adds , almost sheepishly. Now in his late 30s, salt-and-pepper tones dominating his hair and beard, Himanshu Suri is far removed from the heady days of the late 2000s and early 2010s, when Das Racist was the hottest, and at times most discourse-provoking, group in indie hip-hop. In retrospect, the fact that the group—a crew of hyper-brainy rappers from Wesleyan University who wove high-culture references and laser-focused political commentary into raps reveling in trash culture and intentional stupidity, took Danny Brown and Fat Tony on tour, and managed to pump out a major label album before almost immediately imploding—existed at all feels so of its era that I sometimes wonder if they were simply a hallucination brought on by a pair of skin-tight MSHKA jeans cutting off the circulation to my brain. And yet, this fucking happened:

During our conversation, Heems shifts around on a black leather couch, occasionally petting his small dog. He’s been living with his mother, Veena, on Long Island, he tells me, “Pretty much since the start of COVID,” when his father died from complications from the virus, in order to keep her company. Even at the height of Das Racist, there was always a tension at play between the public’s frequent perception of Heems as hipster-rap personified and his personal identity as an Indian kid from Queens, who grew up with a father who drove a taxi, loved Lost Boyz and Def Jux, and witnessed the fall of the World Trade Center while he was still in high school.

In the past few years, though, he’s quietly reinvented himself both personally and professionally. He’s embraced sobriety, spirituality, and service, making them central to his worldview. “I definitely understand nihilism and irony and sarcasm and these things,” he says, “But they don’t help me function and live the way that I want to live anymore.” During his time out of the musical spotlight, meanwhile, he built a solid career for himself as a marketer for streaming services, specializing in spotlighting music from regions like Asia and Africa. Most recently, he signed as an artist with Nas’s Mass Appeal Records, where he’s also consulting. “I like getting a steady check,” he says, especially one that comes with the added benefit of “get[ting] to sign artists that I enjoy and make sure that it's a deal that's beneficial to everyone involved.”

I’d initially wanted to speak with Heems simply to see what he’d been up to. Though he’d been out of the public eye for a while, it seemed like he was in a good place, and I’d begun to notice a smattering of new music from him—a random sample drill banger with Josen here; a knockout freestyle for On the Radar Radio there—and as someone who’s been friendly with him for over a decade and has always enjoyed his work, I wanted to see what else might have been brewing. The answer, it turns out, is a lot. This year, he plans on releasing two new albums. The first, due out on February 16, is LAFANDAR, a full-length collaboration with the producer Lapghan and features guest spots from the likes of Fatboi Sharif, Quelle Chris, and the O.G. of weirdo-rap himself, Kool Keith. The second is Veena, which doesn’t have a release date yet but, from the details that Heems disclosed to me under the condition of secrecy, sounds extremely rad. 

LAFANDAR and the aforementioned ambitious Veena album are part of an overarching ambitious project that Heems has embarked upon that’s also called Veena, and comprises a record label, wellness and fashion brand, and a digital magazine. The publication’s first issue is themed around motherhood—quick reminder, Veena is his mother’s name—and features contributions from Mayukh Sen, Sarah Thankam Mathews, Kaveh Akbar, and Tanaïs, among others. Right now, the Veena shop features coconut oil Heems sourced from India, a pair of t-shirts that he designed with Peter Chung, a designer who’s worked with Supreme and Polo and is otherwise known as the rapper Cool Calm Pete. Oh, and he’s also selling a limited-edition bundle of the first-ever vinyl pressings of Das Racist’s first two mixtapes, Shut Up, Dude, and Sit Down, Man.

In case you didn’t get the subtext here: Heems is, without a doubt, back. What follows is the text of the interview I conducted with him, where we get into the circumstances that led to this burst of activity, his refreshed outlook on life, what he learned from his time working in the online streaming industry, how he’s made his peace with being the “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” guy, and the joy he derives from finding a great parking spot. Before you read that, do me a favor and check out “Accent,” LAFANDAR’s first single featuring Saul Williams, below:

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The last time I saw you in person, we were on the roof of the VICE office in Williamsburg. I feel like the block that building’s on, which used to house the venues Glasslands, Death by Audio, and 285 Kent, has come to be really symbolic of the corporatization of DIY culture in the 2010s.

Glasslands was a really big part of my journey as a musician, and the sense of community I felt kind of emerging as a talent in Brooklyn at that time. Seeing that same kind of ethos, though, carried into [a venue like] Elsewhere is something that I’m appreciative of. I feel like a lot of my formation as an artist, as a member of the music community, and as a performer was on that block. And yeah, Williamsburg, I don’t really recognize it anymore. That’s a big part of why I spent more time living in Queens afterwards and why I’m on Long Island. It just feels more akin to what I grew up around, including my early 20s in Brooklyn.

As someone who grew up in New York What did you make of the influx of people to that North Brooklyn area? Do you see it as something that’s like, a continuation of historical trends of like, artists moving to New York and doing their thing? Or was it something different?

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s interesting. When I think about the first time I realized that a lot of “New Yorkers” didn’t grow up in New York, I would think about, like, going to Stuyvesant High School and being around the Financial District. There was a certain realization that like, oh, all those people in those buildings weren’t raised here the way all of us students were, but they felt like such a part of the fabric of my adolescence that it was hard to separate. I think that was my first realization, pre-Brooklyn gentrification.

I really think often of EB White’s Here Is New York, and his breakdown of the “commuters” and the “transplants.” I’ve been comfortable with the notion of being a commuter and a native. Growing up in Queens, we would go into the city, and that would be like, a big thing, almost. Even living on Long Island, I like the feel of being out here and then going into the city, and the city for me will have a lot of people that aren’t from New York, and that’s normal. And that’s just the ever-changing fabric of a city as almost, like a molecular being in itself that changes and transforms. I’d say compared to my 20s, there’s a lot less anger about it. It’s more just a given at this point. But, you know, I like the notion of being a commuter. I like the image of Joseph Cornell, living in Queens with his mom in the basement and then going into the city and being around Dali, Man Ray, and all these other artists, and going to his galleries and doing his shit. And then just going back to Queens.


When you go into the city, do you take the train or do you drive?

A little bit of both. I’ll take the train if I’m going somewhere where parking is a pain, but typically, if I’m going downtown, or to Brooklyn or Queens, then I’ll drive. I’m a New Yorker who grew up driving. We’d go from Queens to halal carts before there was one on every corner, and we’d have to go to 53rd and Sixth and there’d be a line up the block. That’s where, like, all the Indians would go after club nights and get into little fights, like, “Why’d you look at my girl like this?” and shit. 

Having a car makes the city a completely different experience.

I don’t actually care about how a show will be or how a meeting will go or how a dinner will go if I get a good parking spot. I call it “good car-ma.” 

I saw on your Twitter that you were at the DMV earlier today. 

Yeah, it was sick. 

You’re putting out two albums this year as well as launching this whole brand. What sparked this creative period?

So my last releases were as part of Swet Shop Boyz with Riz MC, which was an awesome experience. And then I took a lot of time to just kind of focus on my mentals. I worked at Spotify, I was a content lead on the launch of Spotify India. So I was still very much focused on putting out South Asian art in my own way from behind the scenes. And then I was at AudioMack where I was focused again on Punjabi music, and then I grew into this kind of global markets role, you know, doing Europe, the UK, Canada, and then working on go-to-market strategy for Middle Eastern and North African music. And after the advertising budgets went away in tech, I felt like I was in a place to just kind of put myself out there again.

Oddly enough, what really opened it up was that I did the Throwing Fits  podcast and just felt okay with the notion of me being out there and being visible. It wasn’t like I was not visible, I was still on social media and stuff. I don’t know, I felt like I was in a really good place and that I had more to say again after I’d taken the time to heal and address a lot of my trauma. In September, I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. I knew PTSD from 9/11 and I knew I struggled with anxiety and depression, and body dysmorphia, but that diagnosis kind of helped me put in more work on my mental health. I felt like I was kind of in a prison of my own making and I realized I didn’t really need to be in that place anymore and that it was time.

You know, [what] I was initially curious about was, is rapping like riding a bike? Could I just pick it up where I left off? Then I started going into the studio—I met my engineer at a family party. He has a home setup in his garage, he lives with his parents, and drives Uber. He’s a Punjabi guy. And it just felt comfortable to be in the neighborhood around like my people, and I slowly started working. And I realized that I had like a newfound focus to really write songs and not just piece together a couple of funny thoughts and nonsequiturs. That was really exciting. Once I started, I just kept going. It’s been great.

I always find that when I’m doing writing as my job and I need to pump out a thousand words or whatever, it’s like, “Fine, I can do it.” But then if I access writing as an outlet for expression, that’s when I become passionate about it.

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think the way I listen to music changed [when I was] a playlist curator and a content person at DSPs because it wasn’t necessarily like, “I’m living off of this.” When I was in Das Racist, I said, “I could get a real job, only rap weekly.” Then I got that real job and I didn’t really need to rap anymore. And when I came back to it and it wasn’t really for, you know, food, shelter, and putting clothes on my back, it became fun again.

What was your writing process like for the LAFANDAR? To me, the record feels very driven by a sort of “bars-forward” approach in a way that’s really fun and sticks to the listener's ribs.

I mean my process has always been to write like there’s a gun to my head and then see what I come up with. On average, it takes me 15-20 minutes to write a verse. On the Veena album it was similar but the verses are more focused and they’re real songs because I went into the  booth with a topic in mind.

I appreciate you did the whole thing with a single producer, Lapgan, whose beats are all fantastic. 

Lapgan’s nuts. There’s a small, niche canon of rap music with South Asian samples that includes Madlib’s Beat Konducta and Dan the Automator’s Bombay the Hard Way. The fact that Lapgan’s beats here stand toe to toe with two of the greatest producers to ever live says something. In a way, knowing my work influenced him, I didn’t really have to explain or ask for shit. Also as a human, he’s great and we became good friends pretty quickly just on some life and spirituality shit. 

Can you tell me a bit about your curation of guests on the record? Is there anyone on the album you felt like you had a particular chemistry with?

Honestly I enjoyed working with everyone and was surprised how many people were down to contribute. I haven’t made music in six years and was real down on myself and got tired of [people saying,] “Ayo, we should work together.” I asked a bunch of people I respect, some I know better than others, and almost every one of them sent me something back. The few that didn’t had scheduling commitments. For me it was very exciting, as I felt like a part of the community when often I felt like an outsider. 

My favorite song on the album is “Obi Toppin,” which features you and Kool Keith rapping about the Knicks [Editor’s Note for non-NBA fans: Obi Toppin is a player from Brooklyn who spent the first two years of his professional career on the Knicks before being traded to the Pacers in the summer of 2023]. What led y’all to go with that for a theme?

Keith mentioned Obi Toppin, then I tried to do a verse where I mentioned as many Knicks players as possible—Julius [Randle], [Jalen] Brunson, Q[uentin Grimes], Miles [McBride], Josh Hart, [Derrick] Rose, etc. That one was fun, and us both being New Yorkers, it made sense. Most importantly it’s surreal hearing Kool Keith say my name [in a song], though.

To kind of speak to the greater cultural context around why it feels like a ripe time to try new things, it feels like there’s a realignment happening, culturally. I’m really trying to avoid the phrase “vibe shift.”

You feel a vibe shift in, like, the zeitgeist?

Yeah, in a good way. Like that the canonical “vibe shift” is over.

A big reason why I’m starting Veena as a magazine and shop was to start seeing a change in the media landscape. I don’t really give a shit about clicks and I’m paying writers that I like per piece and paying them quickly. I want to root it in the New York that I grew up in, and root it in BIPOC, LGBTQ, and other marginalized voices. Like, the media landscape is not what I would want it to be. And so I’m taking the initiative to create something in the mold of what I want it to be that’s distinctly not [made by] twenty-something transplant cokeheads.

I feel like previously things were somewhat reactive and withdrawing, and now things are becoming more proactive and creative.

I think that it took me a while to get to a place where I could actually be earnest, and I think I am now. I function on love, kindness, service, humility, and gratitude. And I haven’t always been that way. I definitely understand nihilism and irony and sarcasm and these things, but they don’t help me function and live the way that I want to live anymore. And so I don’t know if there’s a shift in the larger world, but I can say that for me, there’s definitely been a shift in how I look at the world and what I want to share with the world and how I’m able to put my head down at night and sleep comfortably. Mind you, I still enjoy things like high thread count sheets and Prada and whatnot. But I still am rooted in a place of faith and equality and service. They’re not mutually exclusive.

I love that [“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”] connects with people. I’ve had periods of time where I hated the song and in the last year or two have come to just appreciate it for what it is. I actually performed it Friday night at my account-ant’s holiday party.

Was this a sudden shift, or something more gradual? 

I grew up in the Hindu faith and often also the Sikh faith. I grew up during service in the Hindu temple and when we were little kids, we would pour water at the end of the communal food line and the grownups would serve the food. My cousins and I would vacuum the temple in Flushing at the end of the night. Over the last ten years, I had an interest in spirituality, but I’d say in the last year it really connected in a different way where I’ve really kind of handed myself over to faith and it’s really been good. I started going to the Sikh temple, the Gurdwara, every Sunday, and working in the kitchen. So, you know, yesterday, I cut a bunch of lettuce and onions and tomatoes and cucumber and made a whole lot of salad for the community. There’s free food available for anyone that wants it every day in the Gurdwara. I swept the floor and the fire alarm kept going off. So when the fire guy came over, I helped translate between the folks in the temple and him. 

But yeah, it’s really nice. I love chopping vegetables, it’s really meditative for me to just keep my mind off other things, and then spend some time with the aunties in there. I listen to the prayer and the live music, and eat this food made with love. I’ve prayed for others historically more so than I’ve prayed for myself, but I pray that I be sound of mind and body so I can give back to my family and the community, it’s a good place to be. 

It’s like, over the past ten years I kept calling God, or, you know, whatever the magic white guy in the sky is, and eventually, a year ago or so, they finally picked up. There have been times where I’ve haven’t felt it as much. But there were other times where it’s been there with me, and it’s been really good for healing and dealing with trauma and anxiety, and really just surrendering and going along with the ride. It’s pretty chill. It’s not too hardcore or anything. It’s kind of vibey.

I think I picked up on that when you were really highlighting the chopping of vegetables. There’s like a lot of technique involved, especially with something like an onion. You have to chop it a certain way to keep yourself from crying.

10,000 hours? I’m putting it in. 

You worked at Spotify for a while, so I’m interested in hearing about your time there, especially as someone who’s a musician. How sustainable is the DSP model? How do you think it could be better? Should we shift to something else?

I’m teaching a course at the Clive Davis institute at NYU next semester on DSPs as an emerging market. From the artist’s perspective… there are definitely issues with Spotify. But I myself, even without being put on Spotify’s editorial playlists, I feel like I’ve benefited from it more than, say, the Pirate Bay model. I own my own masters, so I’m not giving up like 80 percent [of revenue] to someone else, and there’s money to be made. 

Having worked there, I can say that as far as how curation works, it was often up to each individual curator rather than some overarching strategy. For me, I was looking at things like, am I curating mostly males? Am I curating mostly Warner/Sony/Universal artists, or is there an equal share of independent labels that are on my playlists? Am I curating an equal spread of people with under 1,000 followers vs. under 10,000 followers vs. 100,000 followers? There was nothing that made me happier than seeing somebody go from [having] under 1,000 followers to the cover of a playlist—not as something I could take credit for, something that I enjoyed being a part of. 

My role at Spotify was in a short-lived group called Global Cultures where our mandate, if you will, was to take local genres—Punjabi music, Afrobeats, music from West Asia aka the Middle East—and bring that to global audiences, both [in terms of] the diaspora and Western audiences. We constantly heard this idea of, like, “We want a million people to live off their music,” and that might just be like lip service from the higher-ups, but it’s something that as a curator and a fan of music, I enjoyed contributing to. It’s complicated, because it’s not really a quantifiable goal. Because what does it mean to live off your music? But that is something I’m proud to have contributed my time and effort to. In 2019, they ended our group. I do think these DSPs are often more involved in or more committed to taking Western music and exporting it to local audiences. It should be a two-way street. 

Spotify was a great place to work on a personal level. Swedish people know how to do it—nine months’ paternity leave… I was trying to have a kid just so I could take off from work, bro. [laughs] I worked around a lot of intelligent people that were passionate about music. But at the same time, it was a tech company, and the amount you actually talked about music… you listened to a lot of music, you curated a lot of music, you were around a lot of music, but those conversations are not the same conversations you and I might have socially about music. It was definitely more about the other things. 

And then on the other side of that equation, how do you balance your instincts as a marketer with those you have as an artist? Is there a tension at all between showcasing your self-expression and passion vs. thinking about how to successfully get that same work in front of people?

One of the things that has always helped me is that I don’t actually think of them as two separate things. Often in the process of creating music, I am thinking about not necessarily whether the audience will like it, but how I would roll it out. And a lot of what benefits me in terms of marketing is this subconscious ability to think about it in the writing process. I think Michael Jordan said something about, like, when I’m playing, I’m playing for that one person in the audience who’s never seen me play before. And for me, if I’m putting together bars… I mean, rap music is hyper-referential, right, so you’re talking about a lot of different things at once. And I think that the average listener is not going to walk away with 25 reference points, but they’re going to walk away with, like, three that resonate with them. In the process of writing, I’m loosely tying together these reference points and also thinking about who that line might resonate with. And therein thinking about what the audience segment or demographic is—it’s not something that’s front of mind, but I think subconsciously, it’s all part of one one thing. I might say, “These are the songs for Das Racist fans, these are the songs for Heems fans that like underground rap, these are the songs for the diasporic fans who know me from Swet Shop Boyz, and these are more me experimenting and creating for myself.” 

But ultimately, you find that it does resonate with someone because you kind of create these songs alone, from almost an antisocial place, but then when you release them you realize that human nature is bigger than any personal uniqueness. That’s all part of it. I enjoy the rollout, I enjoy thinking about the album art, the videos, how to integrate all of this into one world—I think just dropping music can fall flat, but if you’re really creating a world around it and inviting like the listener into it, then that’s a much better place to come from. That’s also why the Veena album is a part of this world of the Veena brand. I think the average listener isn’t so much just a music fan now; they’re really a cultural consumer. And I’d like to meet my fans in flows, fashion, and food—those are the three things that Veena focuses on.  


I was talking to someone younger about your music, and I explained to them that at the time Das Racist came around, it felt like y’all filled a void in left-field rap. Def Jux wasn’t really the underground concern it once was, and through working with artists like El-P and Despot and turning around and touring with Danny Brown after he dropped XXX, you almost served as a bridge between those worlds. And on top of that, y’all captured an energy that was present at the time in Brooklyn and served as a focal point of it. 

That’s interesting. I would think that whatever New York punk was to the Beastie Boys, that was kind of like what the Williamsburg, Brooklyn scene was to us. The Beasties came out of the punk scene and played instruments and then did “Cooky Puss,” which was this entry point to them gaining an audience among rap and slowly pursuing that more. And I’d say Das Racist came out of Wesleyan University and Williamsburg scenes that weren’t necessarily punk but inclusive of punk, but largely this indie world where “indie” didn’t just mean college radio or independent labels, but “indie” as an ethos as an attitude in the same way that “punk” wasn’t like the Warped Tour but was an attitude. Television and the Ramones and New York Dolls—those bands didn’t sound like each other, but had this general kind of attitude. 

I like that perspective.

And the internet age, that’s the other piece of the pie. Das Racist was rooted in the internet as much as these touchpoints of Wesleyan or Williamsburg or indie. To go back to Def Jux, a lot of the Cool Calm Pete album Lost was about the relationship between a fear of the internet and society. Even if you listen to early MGMT and stuff, there is this notion of like, “What is the internet? It’s weird, it’s scary… is it killing us? Is it adding to society or taking away from it?” It was a similar touchpoint for Das Racist.

I once read an essay about Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao where the writer referred to it as an “internet novel” in that instead of footnotes, it almost assumed the reader was going to look shit up on Wikipedia. I think there’s a similar case to be made about Das Racist, where the songs were made not for the internet, but with an awareness of the listener’s increasingly ever-present relationship to it.

Yeah. It’s hyper-referential, really, like for an age where we’re flooded with so much information about so many things and with so much culture. I like novels that include words in another language and there’s no glossary to help you figure out what this Indian word is. [With Das Racist], I didn’t assume people were gonna go to Wikipedia, but I think that’s just, like, common procedure now. I think you make rap referencing your world. And in that, it’s very focused, right? Then the internet is this never ending glossary, and part of the fun of rap is that feeling you get when a line hits you, and it might be five years after having first listened to it, or it might be something that you go and Google. I probably appreciate people Googling things themselves more than them going to a Genius.com and having everything laid out for them. Like, that’s a different kind of thing and it kind of takes the fun out of things.

One thing I wanted to talk to you about is that I was watching an NFL game yesterday, and—


Okay, you know where this is going. There was an Instacart commercial that had a version of “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” in it, except the lyrics had been changed to “combination football game and grocery store.” 

A lot of people have been asking me if I got paid for that, and I love that they’re like, concerned. I’ve spent the last two days basically being like, “Yes, I did get paid,” but without wanting to draw, like, “evil eye” attention to myself, because it could be obnoxious. But yeah, I got a bag. And it’s cool that the song is a piece of meme history, and it’s for everybody. I’m glad that it’s out there in this new format, and surely will continue to be changed and played with and shared with people, whether it’s through Twitter posts, the TikTok trend from 2020, or this Instacart ad. It’s just kind of cool to make something that has its life of its own, you know?

I can’t imagine that when you made that song you had any notion of like, “Alright, this is ‘the one.’ It’s gonna be a hit and will end up in a TV commercial.”

No. It was a line that Victor [Vasquez] said in a song, and then I was kind of like, we should make this its own song. We kind of tested it out at a show at Wesleyan, and the call-and-response [from the audience] was great. Then I went and found a beat that I liked for it that actually is rooted in the world of voguing and ballroom music. We recorded it in the time it takes to listen to it, moving back and forth in front of one microphone. And then we were like, “Alright, let’s throw this up on MySpace.” 

I love that it connects with people. I’ve had periods of time where I hated the song and in the last year or two have come to just appreciate it for what it is. I actually performed it Friday night at my accountant’s holiday party.

What was the reception like?

I think one dude was like, “Oh, shit, that guy’s here.” The guy knew me from rap but eventually “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” came up, and he was like, “That’s you?” It’s always a fun little surprise that, like, I’m that guy. I don’t know, maybe they think that I’d be less unassuming or something. I’m just a normal dude and then I happen to have made this song that resonated with a lot of people. That would be a funny laurel to rest on, like, “Yeah, I’m the fucking ‘Pizza Hut/Taco Bell’ guy.” I don’t really walk around like that, you know? 

Let’s go back to Veena. You’re going to put out coconut oil?

A lot of South Indian dishes use coconut oil. So I’ve been learning about and exploring more South Asian South Indian cooking. This amazing author, Sarah Thankam Mathews, who was nominated for a National Book Award for fiction, she’s in the Veena magazine writing about all of these [coconut oil-heavy] dishes and shared her mother’s recipes. She wrote a book called All This Could Be Different that was really awesome. 

With the coconut oil, like I mentioned, my dad passed away and I moved in with my mom here in Long Island. Growing up a lot of like, Indian kids’ parents would put coconut oil in their hair and kind of massage their hair. And so I started spending time with my mom, her putting coconut oil in my hair. And there’s just a certain warmth to it that I felt like would be fun to share with the world. It’s something you can use for cooking, haircare, skincare. There’s like “mouth pulling”—the Gwyneth Paltrow/GOOP set like gargle fucking coconut oil. And then it’s like, good for baths. And, you know, I suppose it’s good for the bedroom. I feel like you should buy my coconut oil—one for the bedroom, one for the kitchen, one for the bathroom.

I went to India, went to the farms, met farmers and talked to them about it, and found a partner to work with. I went to the factories where it’s cold-pressed. The idea of doing it in the world of Veena is something that came to me like a year and a half ago, but I’m actually pretty surprised that I pulled it all together. That’ll be out along with reissues of the first two Das Racist mixtapes on vinyl and t-shirts.

And you’re also doing a magazine? 

We might press issues, but it’s digital editorial that’ll appear when the shop is launched. The first issue is about motherhood, because the brand Veena is named after my mom. So every four months, we’re gonna drop a different issue and then feature different products on the site as well. And the idea is that the shop sustains the funding for the magazine.

What inspired you to reissue the Das Racist mixtapes on vinyl now?

There’s a good vinyl scene right now. Maybe it’s people reacting to digital [culture] and wanting something tangible that they can hold, and maybe it’s also the price of record players being more affordable now. I know that the mixtapes were really important to a lot of people, and I thought that it’d be a nice gesture for my audience to finally put these out on vinyl. We’re pressing 500 copies of each mixtape and I think, and that’s it. I don’t see myself pressing any more of them. But I want to press [my 2012 mixtape] Nehru Jackets as well. 

It’s more just like, I don’t know, looking back at everything I did and wanting to own it and be proud of it, and then almost move on to this next part of my career. Not necessarily closing the book on it, but just celebrating it as a part of everything I’ve done and everything I’m doing and everything I will do—just kind of owning up who I am and what I’ve done, and you know, I guess I’m proud of it.

How do you feel about being someone who has had an influence on culture and like, even like people individually?

It’s pretty cool, man. I’m pretty grateful for it. Like I said, I don’t walk around thinking about it. But when I’m reminded of it, or when I get a message from like a South Asian kid saying they felt like they could do weird fucking art after they saw me do it, that’s a really good feeling.

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