Sometimes, the assholes in charge of dishing out work visas make mistakes. When British rapper Riz MC (who's Muslim and of Pakistani descent) tried coming to the United States a couple of months ago for a showcase at South by Southwest — followed by a couple of spot dates in New York and Los Angeles — U.S. officials balked at his application. It took the U.K. consul general and two members of Parliament writing letters on his behalf (plus hiring Amy Winehouse's attorney) to get his visa application approved. The point is, they let him in, and that was the big mistake. Aside from rocking various stages to rave reviews in three cities, he also left behind a bombastic five-song EP, Confirm/Ignore, that's as refreshing and jarring as anything to be released this year. It's part London grime, part breakbeat, and it has enough electronic tinkering to satisfy knob tweakers and backpack hip-hoppers alike. The pulsating beat of "Radar" is jittery enough to make you nervous, and Riz's colorful lyrics keep listeners on their toes. "Don't Sleep" is all futuristic broken beat, in which the stellar production manages to overshadow the vocals. As for why they didn't want to let him in the country: His wordplay challenges authority, pisses on conformity, and confronts issues of race and class unlike any rapper in the States. Period. "Sour Times" is a powerful ode that breaks down global terrorism in a way that anyone can understand. Linking the disenfranchised youth in Northern England with those in the United States and the Middle East, "Sour Times" is a brave breakdown of the economic jihad we're all going through.
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