Album Review: Swet Shop Boys – Sufi La EP

By on Tuesday, 6th June 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Swet Shop Boys Sufi La album coverThe Swet Shop Boys are transatlantic rappers Riz MC and Heems (ex-Das Racist) and producer Redinho. One part Queens, one part London, Indian-American and British Pakistani, you get my point. In Swet Shop Boys, you have a nice melting pot of influences and cultural heritage in a unique package: artists not afraid to be both political, yet funny in their approach.

Some obligatory background information for you: their debut album ‘Cashmere’, released in 2016, was a breath of much-needed fresh air by approaching a difficult topic. We are living during an exceptional time in our history, where the charged political climate in the West means a different cultural background such as being an Asian Muslim can come with additional baggage. This powerful subject, paired with the sharp vocal delivery of Riz MC, Heem’s laid-back flow, and experimental production from Redinho, makes for a sound that both stands alone and stands for something.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4Yb8AWXgLI[/youtube]

With six all new tracks, latest EP offering is ‘Sufi La’ – the word ‘Sufi’ translates as a Muslim mystic – and yes, it’s good in case you where wondering. ‘Sufi La’ offers a slightly less dissident voice than previous record ‘Cashmere’, instead giving us more of the party, or the partaaaaaay, depending on how you like to get down. Opening track ‘Anthem’ starts with an infectious beat reminiscent of a ‘90s hip-hop party track, but with a slightly more contemporary twist. The track also delivers some seriously witty lyrics; Riz Ahmed may be single-handedly bringing back the word ‘yatty’ (old school London slang for girls) when he proclaims that his ‘Yatty is Paki Onassis’, and goes on to call himself ‘Paki Chan’. The focus on race is still a central theme that hovers around these songs, but this focus doesn’t stray too far from sharp, comedic play on words. Moving on to ‘Thas My Girl’, another up-tempo banger with tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “You know it’s real when you stop watching porn hub”. The contrast in Heems and Riz’s accents can take a moment for the listener to absorb together on the same track, but it’s also this meeting of styles and vocal delivery that makes their sound unique and enables the two to play lyrical back and forth with each other.

‘Birding’ is a charming little number that pays tribute to the Mughal past time of bird watching, while title track ‘Sufi La’ provides a languid, hypnotic vocal looped intro that is soon met with fast drums that conjure up images of the Sufi whirling dervishes of Turkey. The beat pairs well with a vocal delivery from Riz MC that is reminiscent of a UK drum ’n’ bass MC riding the beat. With a similar relentlessly fast tempo hyping up the listener, Riz’s roots in London MC culture to subtly merge into the tune. Final track ‘Need Moor’, seemingly a play on the Muslim North Africans who settled in Spain, has an infectious chorus and plays around with the theme of wanting more, more of everything. It sweeps along at mid-tempo rhythm, carried by some beautiful sitar sounds. In ‘Zombie’, we have a traditional Indian folk-tinged sound paired with almost whispered lyrics addressing the feeling of belonging that has become lost for many in their own country since the UK’s Brexit vote and Trump taking up residence in the White House, “You see the results of the vote though / so where we gonna go bro?” The question hangs in the air, as if waiting for an answer. “If you black or brown, Babylon coming for your head” are the heated words Heems sleepily spits.

‘Sufi La’ offers a strong awareness and commentary of identity, paired with humor and progressive, multicultured sounds. Songs are short and end abruptly, with the longest track clocking in at just over 3 minutes long. But they hang in the air long after they have been played, as do the laughs.

7.5/10

The ‘Sufi La’ EP from Swet Shop Boys is out now via Customs. A limited edition white vinyl of the EP are available now from the band’s official Web site.

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