Actor, rapper and activist Riz Ahmed’s first solo album in eight years is a neatly-packed, lazer-focused concept album, based on Pakistan’s relationship with Britain and the extended metaphor of a romantic relationship. Interludes take the form of voicemails from well-known South Asian figures, including Mindy Kaling and Chabuddy G, consoling and advising Riz about a break-up, and each song concerns his feelings about identity, heritage and colonialism.
Spoken word opener The Break Up (Shikwa) outlines this main theme, telling the allegorical story of deception and manipulation, while tracks like Mogambo and Deal With It touch on issues like airport searches and racial profiling. At some points Riz gets close to a Marcus Garvey-esque call for mass emigration, before acknowledging on Can I Live that “where the fuck we gonna go, bro? We got no land”.
The production is consistently high-quality, an intriguing fusion of modern styles like trap and more traditional South Asian sounds – Fast Lava is a particular highlight with its rapid percussion and bassy syncopation. Karma’s beat is pop-rap at its finest, a swaying moombahton complemented by irresistible cut-up vocals on the hook, while Any Day has more of an R&B flavour that suits Jay Sean’s (!!!) voice perfectly.
Where You From is the second spoken word section on The Long Goodbye, a rumination on an often well-meant but insensitive question that proves to be the emotional centre of the record. An excoriating account of oppression and displacement circles back round to the original inquiry – “my tribe is a quest to a land that was lost to us / and its name is Dignity, so where I’m from is not your problem, bruv”.
The Long Goodbye is a fiery yet thoughtful and nuanced record, with artistry and political consciousness on a level above most British rap.