Das Racist founder and flagship talent Heems is brings a Far East rap to the mainstream with “Swet Shop,” a pulsing club EP he put together with British/Pakistani rhymer Riz MC and a crew of hot-stepping producers.
Bollywood has always had trouble attracting serious attention in the United States, but Heems and Riz have distilled something undeniably enjoyable, despite that imperial impulse. Fuck manifest destiny, as Heems puts it, this is “the brown man’s burden.” “Swet Shop” is impulsive and jagged, labeled with traditional Indian melodies that are cracked down to their essentials and enhanced with hip-hop components.
Released on Heems’ Greehead Music, “Swet Shop” curves through five songs that, though at times unintelligible, span the continental space between the two emcees. Heems’ New York hogknuckle bruises through the Bollywood noise, and Riz’s Pakistani stylings are never behind his Guy Ritchie-esque Wembley accent. There are layers of Punjabi chanting that give songs like “Meh Sherabi” a mystical feeling, but nothing about the EP gets lost in translation.
“Benny Lava,” a song that samples “Kalluri Vaanil,” which is among the internet’s most deliberately misunderstood cultural touchstones from India, is laced with mean cuts from both Heems and Riz. “Batalvi” works standard-issue hip-hop materialism into a caste metaphor that zings, which is a tribute to Heem’s unerring tendency to anchor his music equally in both spheres of his identity.
However, “Swet Shop”‘s enduring component is the production. Slapped together by a cadre of Lushlife, Lynas, Ryan Hemsworth, and Trooko, “Swet Shop”‘s musical stencil is erratic and unpredictable in all the best ways. From downmodulated Tamil choruses to ethereal interludes of Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U,” the producers of this EP give Heems and Riz MC morsel after morsel of international club bangers to eat up. And they hungrily oblige.