Approved 2016: Riz MC
By Andy Malt | Published on Thursday 15 December 2016
Every day this week in the CMU Approved slot, we’ll be looking at one of our five favourite artists of 2016. Today, Riz MC.
Riz Ahmed is best known to the world at large now as an actor. This year, you may have seen him the new ‘Jason Bourne’ film, and you’ll be able to catch him in the new ‘Star Wars’ movie this weekend. But his ascent in Hollywood doesn’t seem to have affected his output as a rapper.
It’s been quite a year, 2016. A lot has happened in the world, and it’s still not clear what much of it really means. It’s at times like this that the existence of Riz MC becomes all the more reassuring, as a result of his talents for both making good music and writing lyrics that make sense of, or at least ask questions about, the world around us.
His latest solo release, ‘Englistan’, was recorded before June’s EU referendum vote in the UK. But afterwards it all took on a new meaning, as reflected in the video for the title track. Just two weeks after the big vote, he explained: “We made this video in the context of a 500% rise in racist hate crime after the recent Brexit referendum in the UK. It’s for Eid and celebrates multiculturalism as a response to the recent surge in racism”.
Later, Ahmed wrote an essay for a new book called ‘The Good Immigrant’ discussing the ‘random’ searches he has to go through at Heathrow Airport for each of his now frequent trips to the US. “As I’ve travelled more, I’ve also done more film work, increasing the chances of being recognised by the young Asian staff at Heathrow”, he wrote. “I have had my films quoted back at me by someone rifling through my underpants, and been asked for selfies by someone swabbing me for explosives”.
He also recalled the first time this happened to him, as he travelled home after making his first film, Michael Winterbottom’s ‘The Road To Guantánamo’. That experience was spun into the track for which he is still best known, ‘Post 9/11 Blues’.
With similar wit and lyrical skill, his more recent airport experiences were turned into ‘T5’, the opening track on ‘Cashmere’, the debut album by Swet Shop Boys – the duo he formed with Das Racist’s Heems. “Trump want my exit, but if he press a red button/To watch Netflix, bruv, I’m on/I run the city like my name Sadiq/Not the Syrian city of Dabiq”, he raps.
“I’m so happy to talk about all these things”, he told The Guardian recently. “I think it’s really important that we do. I don’t think it’s enough to be visible anymore. I think we have to be vocal about what we believe in. We’re living in scary times”.
Watch the video for ‘T5’ here:
Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column in 2016 by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.