Rizwan Ahmed is a British citizen of Pakistani descent; Himanshu Suri is a Punjabi Indian born in Queens, New York. This rap duo known as Swet Shop Boys produces sharp rhymes denouncing the prejudice that “brown” men and women endure in the West. Their 2016 debut album, Cashmere, represents a rare perspective in the storied tradition of political hip-hop: “Rap is inherently protest music. It just doesn’t usually come from South Asians or Pakistanis or Indians,” Suri told Newsweek. Yet in a year of rising Islamophobia, the artists’ contributions to the genre were vital. Their first single, “T5,” for instance, takes aim at Europe’s treatment of refugees and Donald Trump’s fear-mongering. “What could be a better foil to micro-aggressive profiling,” Pitchfork wrote, “than quippy, multi-ethnic hip-hop?” (Photo credit: EREZ AVISSAR)
Also an actor, Ahmed garnered acclaim in 2016 as the lead in HBO’s limited series The Night Of.
Suri, who was previously part of the indie rap group Das Racist, recorded music for an episode of chef Anthony Bourdain’s travel show on CNN.