You may know Riz Ahmed from big screen stints like his supporting role in the 2014 Jake Gyllenhaal-led thriller Nightcrawler, or his forthcoming gigs in the Jason Bourne and Star Wars flicks. More recently, he plays leading man Naz Khan on HBO’s new crime thriller The Night Of. Beyond the screen, though, the London-based actor also has a rap catalog.
Born Rizwan Ahmed, the British-Pakistani rapper, better known as Riz MC, frequently airs out his thoughts on racial tensions and immigrant-related issues in England on wax. With Episode 2 of The Night Of less than a week away, tune into four fast facts about his MC career below.
Riz launched his rap career at an open mic night
The Wembley native rocked the mic on local pirate radio stations, club nights and rap battles in the U.K., according to the official website of his label home, Tru Thoughts. He won several competitions in 2005 like Hit & Run night in Oxford, the Jump-Off (the club night that also discovered Mr. Hudson), Battlescars, and DJ Nihal’s “Bombay Bronx.”
Riz tackles identity on Englistan?
Riz doesn’t shy away from sensitive topics like racism on his previously released mixtape Englistan. On the title track, he spits, “This is England/ The bridge we living in/ A kicharee simmering/ Women in hijaabs, syringe popstars/ And the promise of a Patel as a ‘Man U’ star.” The video for “Englistan” arrived on the heels off Brexit, where the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. Englistan also contains the seven-minute spoken word piece called “I Ain’t Being Racist But…” about immigration to the U.K. The project follows his first album, 2012’s MICroscope, which also contains opinionated bars about Islamophobia on “Sour Times.”
Riz is a member of the Swet Shop Boys
Alongside Heems of Das Racist, Riz MC serves as one-half of Swet Shop Boys. The tandem rolled out their 2014 Swet Shop EP, which was partly inspired by Hindi language and Sufi poetry. Heems explained to Stereogum the cultural significance of the project. “My being a New Yorker of Indian descent and [Riz] being a Londoner of Pakistani descent kind of just connects the dots in a certain way,” he said. “Historically this is two countries and two groups of people who have never gotten along. It was just a cool idea for us to come together.”
Riz is also a part of Halflife
The Oxford alum is a collaborator magnet. In addition to his contributions to the Swet Shop Boys, Riz is also a member of Halflife, a dance-rap collaboration with dubstep producer Distance. Their debut single was 2015’s sonically spacey “Subtle.”