Rapper and actor Riz Ahmed says his new EP is “a breakup album — but with your country.” The album, and the accompanying short film, both titled “The Long Goodbye,” feature 15-tracks, complete with spoken word and interludes from Mahershala Ali, Mindy Kaling and Yara Shahidis.
The nearly 12-minute short film, directed by Aneil Karia, follows a British South Asian family, to highlight a post-Brexit Britain and the heightened xenophobia. As the family prepares for a wedding, they are attacked by a racist gang that breaks into their home, drags them into the street and executes them.
The family pleads for help as white neighbors look on in concern, but do not intervene.
The video comes to an end with a short poem, “Where Are You From,” which explores the idea of how being born and raised in a country doesn’t always mean that you feel welcome there.
In a tweet announcing the release of his EP on March 6, the British Pakistani actor, also known by his stage name Riz MC and birth name Rizwan Ahmed, wrote: “My country’s broken up with me. We had our ups, but now it’s broken down.”
He told the British Vogue that he made the album because he “wanted to talk about how it feels to be here [in England].” He told the magazine, that, for him, being in the U.K. feels “heartbreaking,” “enraging,” “like it’s not real.” He continued: “When you’re in a relationship, sometimes you’re looking for someone else to validate you. And when you’re rejected, you internalize the idea that you aren’t worth anything. I’m feeling rejected by Britain, but I am f**king British. I am Britain. So evaporating that illusion of duality is really empowering.”
Ahmed told the BBC that, to him, the album’s not political - it’s all deeply personal. “I want people to know what this feels like. People who haven’t really maybe understood how it feels, I want [them] to step into this feeling of heartbreak that a lot of us feel right now.”
“The Long Goodbye” has received positive reviews. Contactmusic.com says “the whole analogy is thoroughly amusing and totally spot on, likening all the emotions that Brexit has brought out in us to those that we may experience in the breakdown of a relationship, but at no point does Ahmed let you forget the seriousness of the situation.”
The BBC says the first song in “The Long Goodbye” titled “The Breakup” (Shikwa), “is delivered from the perspective of a person and a people who are so let down that they feel like their own country has ditched them. It only gets more pained and painful as it goes on.”
Other songs like “Fast Lava” is about Ahmed’s relationship with the color of his skin, while “Toba Tek Singh” likens the relationship between the UK and Europe to that of Pakistan and India during the 1947 Partition as described in the 1955 satirical story which was also called “Toba Tek Singh.”
The Atlantic, in its review of “The Long Goodbye” says the album’s “argument is unmissable and scathing. Ahmed thinks that Great Britain has been a hateful and abusive partner to immigrants and native-born people of color, who now must determine whether to flee or fight back,” the magazine says.
In 2017, Ahmed became the first South Asian man to win an Emmy for best actor in a limited series or a television movie for his performance in HBO’s “The Night Of,” shattering Hollywood stereotypes and breaking records. He’s known for his role as Bodhi Rook in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) or Aaron Kalloor in “Jason Bourne” (2016).
Meanwhile, he has had a parallel music career, using his sharp lyrical wit as Riz MC and part of the Swet Shop Boys, often to tackle his conflicted cultural identity and his experiences of racial stereotyping. His rap career began with the satirical 2006 track “Post 9/11 Blues,” the controversial satire that was temporarily banned from British airplay. According to his IMDb profile, Ahmed, who was inspired equally by jungle and hip-hop, first got involved with music directly in his mid-teens. He won several rap battles in 2005, including at Hit & Run night in Oxford, the Jump-Off, Battlescars, and DJ Nihal’s “Bombay Bronx.” He was selected as a BBC Introducing artist in 2007, playing the Glastonbury Festival and the BBC Electric Proms.
Since graduating from Oxford in 2004, he has worked consistently in theatre, film and television, starring in award-winning dramas “The Road to Guantanamo” (2006), “Shifty” (2008) and
“Four Lions” (2010). He was nominated for the 2012 Shooting Stars Award, which is held every year at the Berlin Film Festival.