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Stereogum: Stroked

20 Aug

So we’re posting this late- this Stereogum cover comp celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Strokes’ huge full-length debut Is This It dropped at the end of last month and if you haven’t had a chance to get it, do so. It’s not the guitar-fired salvo that the original was in 2001, but there are some charming takes on the tunes, a Postal Service-y danceified version of “Last Nite” from the morning benders, Owen Pallett in full-on strings mode covering “Hard to Explain”, but most of all, Heems and his blistering version of “New York City Cops”, which makes this post kind of right on time: halfway between the 10th anniversary of the UK record drop and the impending 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/2001.

When the Is This It was released in the US in October of that year, “New York City Cops” had been excised as a sign of deference and commercial cover, but Heems, a.k.a Himanshu Suri, usually stoner-intellectual and oblique via the Das Racist crew brings it back in a big and accusatory way. None of the goofy, looping rhyme schemes of Das Racist (or their non sequitur, pop culture-riffing interview style) but just a straight up indictment of New York City cops. Suri’s liner notes for Stereogum say it all:

“Michael Stewart, Eleanor Bumpurs, Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Alberta Spruill, Timothy Stansbury, Abner Louima, Sean Bell, Ousmane Zongo, Randolph Evans, Anthony Baez, Clifford Glover, and Fermin Arzou were senselessly beaten or killed by the NYPD while unarmed.”

All this is true, which gives the offending chorus of “New York City Cops, they ain’t too smart” the addendum of “…but they’ve got the power,” and the result is a burning piece of rap narrative that might have been more likely from Chuck D or Nas than a guy who made his first bones rapping about fast-food chains. The comp is all the better for the spark of expansive creativity and for all the hate it’s caught in the comment section about not being a proper “cover”, at least it stands up on its own. Heems, much like Casablancas & Co., probably couldn’t care less anyway, as long as he get to keep on doing what he wants. Just don’t fuck with the cops.

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