For Riz Ahmed and Himanshu Suri of rap duo Swet Shop Boys, entering airport security can be something of a hassle. Their problems go far beyond merely taking their shoes off: Suri has been interrogated, detained, and sent back to his departure country. Ahmed once left a Berlin film festival, only for an officer to twist his arm and scream, “Did you become an actor to further the Muslim struggle?” To hear of all the different ways they’ve been singled out and sized up—most of them likely due to post-9/11 Islamophobia—can be harrowing. “A lot of odd looks,” Suri says. “A lot of body touching. A lot of sitting at a table and being asked questions. A lot of sitting in rooms with other brown people.”
What makes this even more frustrating is that both artists are more recognizable than ever before. Suri, who raps as Heems and was formerly a member of the group Das Racist, gives lectures at Ivy League schools; last year, 20th Century Fox bought the story rights to an autobiographical sitcom titled Eat Pray Thug, which shares its name with Heems’ solo album. When Ahmed isn’t rapping as Riz MC (his latest mixtape, Englistan, came out earlier this year), he’s acting; he recently starred in HBO’s acclaimed crime drama The Night Of and filmed scenes for both Jason Bourne and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Their sharp debut album as Swet Shop Boys, Cashmere, perfectly captures that irony.