From Wall Street Headhunter To Indie Rap Mogul: Das Racist’s Himanshu Suri

Himanshu Suri (center) with bandmates Victor Vazquez (left) and Ashok Kondabolu.

From Forbes:

“These days I mostly worry ‘bout my bank account/I ain’t backin’ out ‘til I own a bank to brag about.”

– Himanshu Suri, “Relax”

Three years ago, Himanshu Suri was a Wall Street worker with a hip-hop hobby. This July, he signed a six-figure advance with Sony/Megaforce for his fifth release in four years. As half of indie rap group Das Racist and head of record label/management company Greedhead Music, Suri wants to change the face of independent rap – and make some money in the meantime. He may not be a cash king yet, but he’s far from your typical independent rapper.

“When I first left Wall Street, I knew I couldn’t just be a musician,” says Suri, 27, who studied economics at Wesleyan and spent two years in executive search on the Street, placing traders at firms like Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. “Part of Greedhead comes from me having this business part of my brain that I want to keep active. Just being in the group or being an artist wasn’t enough for me. The way I work, I still want to chase deals.”

And chase deals he has. Since its launch in 2009, Greedhead Music has reshaped the way indie rappers think about business, merging artist development with innovative distribution models. Greedhead – a term coined by Hunter S. Thompson (and famously hurled towards paparazzi by Benicio Del Toro in 2008) – was created as a response to well-known DJs like DJ Drama and Green Lantern charging $10,000 fees to aspiring rappers in exchange for mixtape co-signs. Suri didn’t want to spend the cash, and figured there had to be a better way. He called up New York City apparel company Mishka, which partnered with the nascent label to release Das Racist’s first mixtape, the critically acclaimed Shut Up, Dude. Since then, other indie brand/rapper partnerships have followed suit.

“Essentially, I had no choice but to put stuff out on my own,” says Suri. “It’s not unusual for rappers to want to run labels and put other people on. I was just thinking on a much smaller scale – to come out of the gate doing that rather than much later on, when you have money.”

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