Swet Shop Boys – British/American Desi Hip Hop Group Making a Difference

It has been almost four decades since Hip Hop music scene and culture came into existence, you can trace its origins to the 1970s when block parties became increasingly popular in New York City, particularly among African-American youth residing in the Bronx. Hip hop grew out of a need to address the issues that plagued the artist who pioneered at the grass root level but over time it spawned out its own sub genres.

Taking cue from the very basis on which the whole hip hop culture owes its existence to, there is a new entrant into the world of conscious Hip Hop music world, it is none other than Swet Shop Boys, an Indian-American/British-Pakistani hip hop group, whose line up include  rappers Heems and Riz MC, with producer Redinho.

They formed the group back in the year 2014. They have till date released one album titled ” Cashmere”. Both Heems and Riz MC are children of immigrants who left their respective countries in search of a better prospects in USA and UK.

Heems:

Heems was born 6th July 1985, his real name is ‘Himanshu Kumar Suri’ is an American rapper based in Queens, New York City, USA. Before forming Swet Shop Boys he was part of the alternative hip hop group Das Racist, and is also the founder of Greedhead Music, which is an independent record label.

In the year 2012, Heems released his first solo mix tape, titled Nehru Jackets, on his own record label Greedhead and in conjunction with SEVA NY, which is a community-based organization in Queens, of which Suri is a board member. Before being a member of Das Racist, Suri used to work for the financial sector in New York. Owing to his South Asian origins, Suri has been one of the vocal advocate for the South Asian community and giving a hand in the development of the community.

Riz MC

Riz MC was born on December 1st, 1982, his real name is ‘Rizwan Ahmed’, he is a British actor and also a rapper of Pakistani origin.

About the group:

The group mainly focuses and explores on the day to day life of people of their ethnicity, and what difficulties and problems and struggles they face as they go about their life. From racial profiling to stereotypes. Through their lyrics they have tried to show or expressed one mood in particular which their community faces and it is anxiety. To be honest all of the people belonging to the South Asian community feels this same exact mood, as we think more of what the indigenous population thinks and it makes us really uneasy and unnerving.

They also take up social issue like the ongoing Syrian crisis, and they speak and criticizes as to how limiting or stopping the influx of Syrian refugee crisis will have a detrimental effect for that particular country or the world as large, as it is clear from the lyrics of one their song and I quote ” Well you know about Aeneas in the Iliad/ fled Turkey and he just founded Rome , what if he had drowned in a boat?”

They also took up the concept of racial profiling and the hazard it poses by subjecting people of their ethnicity to unnecessary and stupid checks at airports to any public place. They also state in their songs , that if they by chance grow a beard or keep a stubble, they are immediately linked to be the bad persons. They have tried to let the world know that a person is not bad just on the basis of views, opinions and  have tried to kick this western bigotry and thinking and perception. People are not just on the fact that they belong to a certain community.

Like most Westerners will link or the first thing that comes to their mind when we say that we are from India is that, we are still backward, and I am talking of some section of the western community and not the whole community at large, yet they are oblivious to the fact that India holds the world record for the most satellites launched in space in one go. I also not saying that our country is perfect and that we have to go a long way before things are better. Neither the fact that any other country in the world is perfect, there are problems in each and every country.  And that we as citizen and a community have to work hand in hand to make it work, and move towards an ideal society.

Both rappers were introduced to the rap scene early in their life and their role models include “So to me”, “2Pac”.

While the two rappers made music before they collaborated, the project did not took off until it was joined by producer Tom Calvert, also known as “Redinho”. Both rappers not only draw inspiration from the hip hop culture but also from the poetry from their own qawwali and punjabi culture, respectively.

Check Out the “T5” video by the Swet Shop Boys here: