Riz Ahmed

26th March 2021

Riz Ahmed has spent the last decade pursuing dual careers in acting and hip-hop. His work has been political, controversial, funny, subtle — the sort of stuff critics love — and it’s found huge audiences, despite all that controversy. He started in British independent movies like suicide-bomber comedy Four Lions, acted in a Star Wars movie, and now has made history as the first Muslim actor to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. As if all that wasn’t enough, he’s also a pretty good MC! When we talked in 2016, he had just released an album as part of the hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys.

Episode notes

Photo Credit: Jesse Thorn

Riz Ahmed on pursuing dual careers in acting ad music

Riz Ahmed is a man of many talents.

As an actor, he’s earned accolades for the British independent movies where he started his career in the mid-2000s. He’s excelled in Hollywood blockbusters like “Nightcrawler” and “Rogue One,” and on television in roles like the HBO miniseries “The Night Of.” Most recently, he picked up his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in the drama “Sound of Metal,” making him both the first Muslim and the first Pakistani actor ever nominated for that award.

He’s also a musician — he started releasing music in the mid-2000s as Riz MC, drawing on his life in Since then, he’s used hip-hop to examine his native Britain’s relationship with racism, Islamophobia, the Global War on Terror and more. He made his first single, 2006’s “Post 9/11 Blues,” after he was detained at a British airport upon returning home from the premiere of “The Road to Guantanamo.” His subsequent work has been similarly political, and highly critical of discriminatory power structures and racial injustice.

When we sat down with Riz in 2016, he had just formed Swet Shop Boys with fellow rapper Heems, of the group Das Racist. Together they released Cashmere, an album featuring music that explores societal treatment of South Asians.

Riz chats with us about how hip hop culture influenced working class migrant life in the UK, doing accents and we definitely ask him about some Star Wars stuff.

Check out Riz’s latest album The Long Goodbye here and catch his Ocar-nominate turn in Sound of Metal on Amazon Prime.

This interview originally aired in 2016.

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  • Riz Ahmed

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Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

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