Swet Shop Boys
It is officially time to start wetting our pants – Donald Trump will be the President of the United States in mere months. The thought of that orange faced, mentally ill galoot running the most powerful country in the world is reason enough to be nervous, but his hateful rhetoric of bigotry and oppression has been even more appalling. Expressing this panic and anxiety as a white man feels a bit like empty venting in comparison to those who actually have something to fear in the Trump dictatorship.
Enemy #1 seems to be anyone of Muslim descent. Threats of a Muslim registry and even internment camps have already been floated by the Trump camp, and one can’t help but feel helpless to a Republican majority that might just appease the mad man’s wishes. Swet Shop Boys, a hip-hop duo comprised of Heems and Riz MC (both of Muslim descent), might just be the soundtrack of angst and hope that we have all been looking for in these trying times.
Heems, formerly of Das Racist, teamed up with actor and MC, Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of” and “Star Wars: Rogue One”) to create Cashmere, an album with an even measured dose of angst and hilarity. There’s a lot of reason for an angry album from the subjugated pair, but instead of playing into the angry Muslim stereotype, the goofballs playfully mock the absurdity of the threats being waged on their people. Album opener “T5” starts with Heem’s mischievously subdued voice: “Inshallah, mashallah/ Hopefully no martial law.” The song continues with lyrics of “TSA always trying to burst my bubble” and the outro of “Terminal 5, Terminal 1/ Think we’re termites,/wanna terminate us.”
Other songs continue with this mocking tone toward intolerance, making it difficult to not laugh at the Swet Shop Boys’ ridiculous portrayal of a culture infected with an unreasonable fear of anyone different. Even when the lyrics delve into darker themes, the backing tracks are upbeat and lively enough to keep the listening experience light. Producer Redinho helps lift the mood with samples from South Asian and Eastern cultures, bringing worldly sounds to a genre that has become stagnant and uniform in 2016.
Cashmere was released a month before election night, but it feels like a direct response to threats waged on an entire group of people. Instead of responding to the imminent future of oppression with anger, Heems and Rez MC show us all how we should be dealing with our fear: with humor, intelligence, and a positive energy to fight for the rights of all our brothers and sisters.