Riz Ahmed, the actor-rapper best-known for his roles in The Night Of and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, celebrates his Pakistani roots on new single “Mogambo,” released under his rap name, Riz MC.
The song opens with Ahmed spitting a frenetic verse over relentless hand drums. “They put their boots in our ground/ In put my roots in their ground/ And I put my truth in this sound/ I spit my truth, and it’s brown,” he raps. “I don’t give a fuck about the cash you stack/ Or the crown on your skull – you ain’t Basquiat/ Or the Prince of Denmark/ Rizzy boy piss on their benchmarks ’til the white kids wanna be Paks/ Brown planet – it’s gonna be that/ The man frown, panic and wanting me out/ But I’m outstanding ’cause I stand out/ And where I was standing there’s gonna be plaques.”
“Mogambo” then settles into a minimalist beat build from clanging percussion samples and low-rumbling synth. “This is for the mosque and the mosh-pit,” Ahmed notes. “We ain’t got shit, but we got this.”
Redinho, Ahmed’s bandmate in the rap trio Swet Shop Boys, produced the track. The group issued their debut LP, Cashmere, in 2016, and the Sufi La EP the following year. Ahmed, who won the 2017 Emmy for Lead Actor in a Limited Series for his role in The Night Of, released his Englistan mixtape in 2016.
Ahmed paired “Mogambo” with Bassam Tariq’s raw video, which features a wrestling match filmed in Pakistan. In a statement, Stereogum notes, Tariq said their initial concept was a “glamorized and intentionally composed video that challenged ideas of masculinity.” But they changed course after reviewing their footage from Pakistan.
“We realized that there is a raw energy that we can never recreate,” Tariq continued. “So we decided to make the footage work and embrace the pedestrian nature of it. It’s tough for my ego to put something out that feels rough around the edges but throughout the edit the footage kept telling me that we are enough to keep viewers interested. We don’t need to be flashy to have people like us. We are perfectly imperfect – shaky compositions and soft focus and all.”