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Riz Ahmed - The Long Goodbye (Album Review)

Tuesday, 17 March 2020 Written by Milly McMahon

Photo: Sharif Hamza

Riz Ahmed’s 'The Long Goodbye' is a deeply personal exploration of his attachment to home and heritage as part of a British-Pakistani family. The first album to be released under his name, as opposed to the moniker by which he is better known, Riz MC, or as one half of duo Swet Shop Boys, this nine track concept LP opens with Riz delivering the immortal line, “Britain's broken up with me.”

Sometimes referring to Britain as Britney, Riz reflects on the impact Brexit has had upon his sense of identity and self-worth. Rejected, Riz deliberates over the sudden change in the socio-political climate of the country. Trying to make sense of the regressive attitudes that rob him of his originality, he feels stereotyped by this culture, and not respected as an individual.

Fury and frustration are tangible, feeling powerfully ever-present in Riz's flow. Produced by Redinho, an alluring and exotic landscape builds with intent through simmering beats and florid instrumentals.

Interspersed with short spoken word prefaces, friends offer advice and support to Riz to open each track. On Yara: Look Inside, actor and activist Yara Shahidi offers: "Ask yourself who am I without her? I mean, who was I before she came along? You can't know where you're going until you know where you're from". This is then followed by a poignant poem spoken without musical backing by Riz. Where You From claps back at uninformed ideas on what race and nationality really mean.

There is an emptiness that appeals honestly to the listener; resignation tinged with melancholy. Deal With It brings Riz back to his righteousness. Channelling anger, he steps up to his antagonists, demanding they move out the way of his progress. He refuses to be marginalised by opinion and judgement. 

Expertly crafted to simulate the end of a meaningful relationship, this album is hard-hitting. Holding a mirror up to those who practice casual racism, facilitating exclusionary belief systems, Riz's quick-witted rhymes and expertly constructed narratives combat negative attitudes.

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