Published Oct 13, 2016There's a lot to like about Swet Shop Boys full-length debut, Cashmere. It clocks in at a tight, well-edited, filler-free 38 minutes; it's full of three-minute gems that get your head nodding and your brain working hard to parse multi-layered metaphors, and that stop when you're still wanting more. The production, courtesy of British beatsmith Redinho, is a singular blend of South Asian instrumental samples and chiptune bleeps.
What really makes Cashmere, though, is the contrasting styles of Swet Shop Boys' two MCs, British rapper Rizwan "Riz MC" Ahmed — best known to North Americans as Naz from HBO's The Night Of — and Das Racist alum Heems. The two are a perfect pairing. Thematically, they tend to mine similar themes; life as a South Asian man in a post-9/11 and post-7/7 world, police brutality, the surveillance state and, on a lighter note, their varying degrees of success with women.
Stylistically, though, they're very different. Riz MC drops dense, technical bars and has a knack for storytelling, while Heems has one of the most unique flows in all of hip-hop. He raps at a languid, spacious pace and has a gift for deceptively clever punchlines that sound like free-association until you start picking them apart. The team is at their strongest on "No Fly List" and "Tiger Hologram," on which Heems lulls you into a mellow, head-nodding sort of hypnosis before Riz comes in and blows up the spot.
It's hard to find a flaw on this album, quite frankly. It's personal, political, funny and the production is spectacular. Even at its most serious, it sounds like Heems and Riz had a blast making it. (Customs)