A lifetime of traveling in brown skin and with a Muslim name have taught Riz Ahmed to expect the indignity of being racially profiled. At borders and airports, immigration officers see a potential terrorist where there's an actor. For years, casting directors did much the same, typecasting him as a jihadi or a cab driver or some other racial stereotype. The Pakistani-British actor and rapper detailed, and connected, those experiences in a recent essay, published on The Guardian and excerpted from a forthcoming anthology.
This sort of sociopolitical reflection through the lens of identity exists in much of Riz's work elsewhere. It's a significant thread in the music he makes with Himanshu Suri, b.k.a. Heems, as the rap duo Swet Shop Boys. "T5," a recent, Redinho-produced single from their forthcoming Cashmere LP, is a pulsing meditation on airports as centers of socially sanctioned racism. The video for the song, premiering here today and produced by The FADER, puts Riz and Heems at the mercy of TSA and border control officers at JFK's Terminal 5. In the clip, Riz and Heems play semi-autobiographical versions of themselves, with parallel experiences ending in different fates. And the message is right on time, coinciding with intense anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy in their home countries — Brexit in the U.K., and the ever-creeping threat of a Trump presidency in the U.S. Watch above for a take that's as entertaining as it is crucial.
7 Nov - San Francisco, CA - The Rickshaw Stop
8 Nov - Los Angeles, CA - Bootleg
14 Nov - Washington, DC - U Street Music Hall
17 Nov - Brooklyn, NY - Rough Trade (Sold Out)
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