Tensions are high. Secularism isn’t an ideology that’s being accepted and implemented. Sometimes, not even in your own country. So your family moves to the UK, hoping to find a better and peaceful life. They settle down and build a family. The kids are doing well. They feel like they finally found themselves in a land of foreigners. But, things don’t go as they’d want it to. They soon come to accept the ugly truth that anti-secularism is a curse that follows them to new lands as well. They’re being hunted in the streets now. The concept of ‘time heals all’ doesn’t seem to be working. A brown man can stay in Britain, but can’t call it his home.
37-year-old actor and rapper, Riz Ahmed, aims to capture this exact emotion through his new body of work — The Last Goodbye. “The record is a breakup album — but with your country,” Ahmed said in a statement. The album’s concept is unique and emotional. Ahmed treats Great Britain like his ex-girlfriend that stomped on his heart and broke him as an immigrant man. It’s not rare for rappers to lay out all their emotion about their country on an album, but Ahmed brings several other elements and imbibes them meticulously. His voice is strong throughout most of the album and remains that way till the end.
The tracks are separated by 30 to 50-second interludes that are voiced by celebrities like Mahershala Ali, Mindy Kaling and Yara Shahidis. They use the interludes to console Ahmed and throw shade at his ex. “I never trusted that bitch,” Mindy Kaling says in one skit. “Listen, do not let her kick you out of the house that you built. And if you have to go, take half.”
Along with this, Ahmed also released a powerful and dark short film to accompany the album’s release. The video starts off with a happy immigrant family who are living what seem to be a happy life in a UK neighbourhood. But things soon take a turn. The house is surrounded by several black vans with masked, white supremacists rounding up the whole family. They shove the women and children into vans, with the police standing by and cooperating with them. Ahmed rushes to save the kid, but is shot. He falls to the ground and watches in horror as the men start killing his family one by one and then eventually drive off. He’s on the floor, helpless. The police and his white neighbours are staring at him from their windows, but don’t bother lending a hand.
The album is Riz Ahmed’s most personal and most powerful work yet. It’s so much more than just a music album. It can be a tool to encourage immigrant kids to be proud of their heritage and skin colour while being the voice of a coloured child, who was once silenced by xenophobic taunts and actions.
Listen to the album here.