Riz Ahmed - 'The Long Goodbye' Album Review
Updated: Mar 15
By Sebastian Lloyd
“Britannia’s a bitch!” sears Emmy-award winning actor Riz Ahmed on the 2nd track of his unflinching post-Brexit album The Long Goodbye. Brimming with a passion to articulate new fears and challenges facing the diaspora in post-Brexit Britain, he references the 1955 Saadat Hasan Manto short story ‘Toba Tek Singh,’ set against the backdrop of the partition of India and addresses the long term effects of the colonisation of the British Raj on ‘The Break-up(Shikwa)’. ‘She went, took a knife out from the bed stand, carved a scar down my middle just to leave me stretched out.’ If the carefully selected historical references were not enough, he has also released a short film, released under the same name, that speaks for itself.
Producer Tom Calvert, known as ‘Redinho,’ who worked with Riz during his time with the Swet Shop Boys, uses south Asian/ Pakistani/ Qawwali samples, vocal harmonies and jangling percussion to create catchy hooks and background ambience. Heavy electronic distortion and clever lines: “My people built the west- we even gave the skinheads swastikas,” are fuelled by a previously unseen energy in Riz’s music; his flow is more refined, his inspiration more distilled. There is a clear desire for no message to be misheard, no sentiment to go unnoticed.
The album is broken up by entertaining skits from an impressive roster of celebrity voices. Mindy Kaling, Mahershala Ali, Yara Shahidi, Asim Choudry as Chubbudy G, Hasan Minhaj and Riz’s mum all console Riz about his break-up. While being a big flex of his star-studded contacts list, the skits also undergo tonal changes to reflect the emotional progression from denial to self-love that Riz addressed in his statement about the project. “This album takes you on a journey of this break-up through the stages of denial, anger, acceptance and finally, self-love to counter the hate.” The simple allegory of an emotional break-up accommodates for swaggering, self-aggrandisement on ‘Can I live’ “Tryna put Pakis on the telly, growing up there weren’t any, now we 24/7 either ISIS or Emmy’s,” and vulnerability on ‘Magambo’. “Hope my people proud and don't forget me, hope my people don't just end up as a memory,” Ahmed’s succinct delve into complex themes of belonging, heritage and identity in modern Britain show this album is far from just a between-role dabble into a passion project.
It’s best moment arguably comes from the frantic focus of ‘Fast lava,’ the backseat freestyle-esque cowbell verses are punctuated by “I spit my truth and its brown.” A 7-word synthesis of Ahmed’s tightly- packed vision for this concept album. However, the reasonably small sum of 9-tracks combined with the lighter moments leave the album precariously balanced between being a seminal socio-political statement and just a welcome, impressive surprise from an actor who might just ‘do-a-Donald’ (Glover!). Nonetheless, the album stands out as a potent piece of political commentary in a contemporary hip hop scene filled with loud and proud opinions, while retaining an originality that means the message will last.
Listen to the Album here: