I cannot recommend the Swet Shop Boys enough, and last night’s Echoplex performance only solidified their importance in the current era. Comprised of Riz Ahmed (Riz MC), Himanshu Kumar Suri (Heems), and Tom Calvert (Redinho), the boys brought politics to the party, ripping into racial profiling, capitalism, xenophobia, and the hypocrisy of western consumerism. Each MC complemented the other’s stage presence like pineapple on top of pizza; Heems’ lethargic saunter (see: intoxicated) and casual flow across the stage found a balance against Riz’s spirited and vicious persona, creating a perfect blend of assurance and animosity that simply works in live music. Against Redinho’s globally cultivated production, they thrashed, ranted, and raved to a crowd just as disillusioned with the world as they are.
But of all the boys on stage, Riz stands out as a force worth watching on his own. Aside from simply being much more animated, and therefore, exciting than Heems, Riz launched verses with the intensity of a machine gun but with the precision of a sniper. His acapella spoken-word freestyle towards the show’s end stood as proof of his excellence.
“It ain’t religious faith that’s causing these crimes/It’s losing faith in democratic free market designs” he spat, each point landing with the force of a gut punch. There was a reason Time named him one of the most influential people in the world, because there’s very little it appears that he can’t do.
But that doesn’t mean Heems simply fell to the wayside against Riz. Instead he simply occupied the stage in his own easygoing manner: “Ain’t another motherfucker that can do it like me” was not delivered as hyperbole. Though he appeared buzzed and wee bit tired, he still never missed a line, and grew more energetic as the show progressed. In fact, the later half brought them all to euphoric heights when they debuted new material like “Zombie” and “That’s My Girl”. With these absolute banging previews, they gave everyone something we definitely can looking forward to.
Happy 4/20 to all, especially the Swet Shop Boys. Artists this monumentally talented in both musical and political terms deserve a platform more than ever, and Heems, Riz, and Redinho deserve a much bigger one.