Music

Riz MC: MICroscope

Noisy Brit-rap album contends with social alienation, anti-Muslim racism, and a bunch of unnecessary remixes.


Riz MC

MICroscope

Label: Tru Thoughts
US Release Date: 2012-06-19
UK Release Date: 2012-06-18
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

So what we’ve got here is 10 noisy Brit-rap songs, four electro-experimental “skits”, and eight remixes, all of which somehow yields four versions of “All of You”, Riz MC’s worst song and maybe not coincidentally his sex song. Not that sex raps are necessarily bad -- Florida’s Trina and White Dawg have clearly proven as much. But when Riz turns to love, he sounds like he’s reading from the Harlequin Historical series. He tells his lady he wants to “be the first to get a taste of your creamy truth", which is just not something you say in public. And then there’s this: “Now I’m diggin’ in your trenches, bending you / And you’re No Man’s Land, wanna enter you.” I defer to Babette Gladney from Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise: “I don’t care what these people do as long as they don’t enter or get entered.”

Riz seems better suited to the social observations and political screeds of the other nine songs on MICroscope, his debut. After the short “Sonic Warfare” opens the album by drawing us into a nightmarish world of everyday sonic overload -- it’s very Pink Floyd -- we get “Radar” and “People Like People”, both sides of Riz’s 2008 single produced by the future-hugging Lazersonic. The beats sound really good -- deep bass shudders, sproingy kick drums, a giant snare backbeat in “People”, and transient random-noise bursts with the MC’s announcements. Lazersonic sometimes slips into hackneyed social alienation stuff -- "the world is a noisy scary place, so that’s what music should sound like," he seems to say -- but he brings plenty of momentum and cool effects, so the beats actually sell you on the alienation.

Same with the affable MC who, going under his real name Riz Ahmed, is a well-known London actor from the dark Jihad comedy Four Lions and Michael Winterbottom’s drama Trishna. Riz sees much with his actor’s eye, and he turns his portraits of other people around on himself. “Radar” is all about judging people by appearances -- “I can’t turn my radar off / Anyone, anything, I’mma put it in a box” -- and Riz makes those judgments feel inescapable, suffocating, especially when it means judging himself and presenting himself the same way. The flipside, “People”, takes up its key hypothesis -- “People like people who don’t give a @!$%” (where “@!$%” equals “ELECTRONIC BLURP”) -- and runs with it, although the details sometimes contradict Riz’s thesis. If all these people don’t give a @!$%, why do they spend so much energy hearing the right tunes, buying the right clothes, and revising the reviews? They DO care, but that’s the point -- Riz the narrator and his radar have confused people’s sociopathic fronts with their insecure innards. Again, Riz flips the observation around and contemplates not caring himself. “Not sure / But maybe they’ll like me more” -- and so goes the endless chain of fronting.

The rest of the 10-song album, released digitally last year, is just as sonically arresting. The beats by Lazersonic and Redinho churn and pop, squeal and squirm, and Riz tries to take the edge off by cracking jokes. Sometimes those jokes are terrible. He coins the word “trashionable” for the gentrification anthem “All in the Ghetto”; a bemused look at the economic crisis climaxes with the line, “You take the piss, I’ll chop off your schlong.” But that just means he’ll try anything for a laugh, a quality as endearing as it is annoying. And anyway, Riz knows what he’s doing on the mic. A virtuoso who leavens his virtuosity with ear-grabbing syncopation and hooks, he’s not afraid to let his flow breathe.

The original album closed with “Sour Times”, a convincing look at the economic factors driving young Muslims to Jihad. (Riz is British-Pakistani, from a Muslim family.) Its words are better than its music -- slow, beatless, and ruminative, it’s a self-serious dramatic monologue. But it’s certainly more interesting than the new remixes that end the album. Besides the endless takes on “All of You”, we get a dubbed-out “Radar”, a house version on “Hundereds & Thousands”, and a dubsteppy “Dark Hearts” with gun sounds for beats. Riz’s originals flip around in all sorts of directions; processing their beats feels like trying to hold freshly caught fish. The remixes just tend to pick one thing and do it over and over for five minutes. The winning exception is True Tiger’s huge and heartrending remix of “Get On It”. In what may be dubstep’s New Romantic moment, it’ll make you grab whatever light source is handy and wave it in the air. It has little to do with the rest of MICroscope, but one taste of its creamy truth won’t be enough.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.