Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Swet Shop Boys

  • Cashmere [Customs, 2016] A-
  • Sufi La [Customs EP, 2017] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Cashmere [Customs, 2016]
Rat-a-tat-tatting his rhymes grime style, Riz MC--better known as Oxford-educated, Anglo-Pakistani big deal actor Rizwan Ahmed--might better captivate American ears with his bookish smarts and common touch if his gritty high baritone was more resonant and his flow more fluent. Instead equal partner Heems is the de facto lead. But a timely partnership it is. The focused Indian-born Pakistani Ahmed is the foil the disoriented Pakistan-born Hindu Suri has needed since Das Racist split--so unlike stoner-for-life Kool A.D., yet providing not just an aptly skewed racial focus but the ideological ballast Heems needs as he delivers such serious jokes as "Oh no, we're in trouble / TSA always wanna burst my bubble/Always get a random check when I rock the stubble" and "My shoes off at the mandir/My shoes off at the airport, airport, airport, airport / My shoes off at the masjid/My shoes off at the airport, airport, airport, airport." A mandir is a Hindu temple. A masjir is a Muslim mosque. Airports you know about. A-

Sufi La [Customs EP, 2017]
Starting with the consciously rowdy joking around on his 16 of the album- and we hope show-opening "Anthem," this EP's slapstick vibe loosens up meaning and matures Riz's rapping. The clincher is how ebulliently he not just celebrates "Thas My Girl"'s title sex object but pronounces her--"gul," "gyal," etc. Heems's showoff number is "Birding," which names and rhymes 42 species from brown pelican to dowitcher, topping the most recent bird song by that other East Asian rapper. M.I.A., your move. C'mon, girl. A-