Editors’ Notes The Long Goodbye is a turbulent exploration of identity and belonging, and serves as a painstaking yet necessary passage for British rapper and actor Riz Ahmed. It’s the first music released under his full name, and alongside Swet Shop Boys compadre Redinho—who handles production—he weaves a rich tapestry of formative influences, turning a romantic relationship into a detailed extended metaphor for life in post-Brexit Britain. “It’s a breakup album, but with your country,” he explains. Taking cues from Sufi devotional music and poetry, the result is an urgent, chaotic piece that holds up a mirror to the rising tide of division in the land he calls home. “I wanted to make something that lets people into the feeling of this heartbreak, the anger, the denial, the acceptance, the realization, self-esteem and self-love,” he says. Further contextualized through feature skits, the album stars an extended support cast that includes the artist’s mother, Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, activist Yara Shahidi, and People Just Do Nothing actor Asim Chaudhry (playing the glorious Chabuddy G). Here, Ahmed talks us through each of the album’s tracks.

The Break Up (Shikwa)
“‘Shikwa’ is an epic poem by Muhammad Iqbal. It’s Iqbal complaining to God saying, ‘Yo, you abandoned us. Look at us. We're being killed in the streets. We're homeless, we're unloved, we're unwashed, we're uneducated, we've lost our way. God, where are you?' With Sufi poetry, they use this metaphor of being separated from your beloved as a way of talking about feeling distant from God. It's a way of saying, 'I want to feel spirituality back in my life.' I had written a lot of the tracks that take you through this journey, and then I realized how many haven't been answered in the backstory, and I need to explain how we get to this point where one day I come home and she's changed the locks. Let me give you the full story, the messy truth of this relationship.”

Toba Tek Singh
“Toba Tek Singh is a place in Pakistan and it's also the name of a short story by this satirical writer [Saadat Hasan] Manto, who was often jailed for his writing. It's about a character who refuses to choose between India and Pakistan, who refuses to pick a side and makes their home in no man’s land instead—in a space between the two countries. We're living in a world that's increasingly polarized and it's being painted in terms of 'us versus them.' But there are a lot of us who neither belong to 'us' nor 'them'—we are culturally hybrid and we have complex identities. And to me I always think that we're in this ‘no man's land’ but actually there's so many of us there, it's not ‘no man's land,’ it's our land.”

Mindy: Take Half
“This is really setting up the concept for the next track, 'Fast Lava,’ which is, ‘How did Britain become Great Britain? How did America become the richest country in the world? On whose backs was that built? If there is going to be a separation, then there needs to be some reparations.’”

Fast Lava
“‘I’ll spit my truth and it's Brown.’ I think that means actually no longer apologizing for your identity or having to edit your identity. It's about saying, ‘You know what, I've been told to hide who I am. I've been told to kind of tailor who I am to your tastes, for your acceptance. But actually, if you're going to try and kick me out, then if you're going to stop playing rough with me, then why should I hide who I am anymore?’”

Ammi: Come Home
“That's [Ammi] my mum, and what she's saying in Urdu is, 'Look, I told you, she'll be no good for you. There's no common ground between you culturally. When are you going to listen to me? Now what can we do? What we are going to do is pray? You know what, just leave with your head held high and come back home if you have to.’ I just say, ‘Mummy, can you leave me a voicemail?’ and she does it. It’s probably the reason I'm an actor, 'cause she's just got such a big personality. She's such a natural performer.”

Any Day (feat. Jay Sean)
“This is me taking my mum’s advice: ‘You know what, just leave it, man. Just let it go. Let go of the idea that she's ever going to accept you.’ It's that moment of looking back at the relationship with all of the nostalgia and feeling a bit of heartache. I was so happy Jay Sean could jump on it, too—an absolute pioneer and also a West Londoner.”

Mahershala: Don’t Do Anything Stupid
“So Mahershala is someone I've got to know, just as we were both gaining some momentum in our careers. He's just a real dude with a massive heart, and he's just been so supportive. We're at the point of the story now where I've taken my mum’s advice, ended the relationship, but now I'm really depressed. Now I'm feeling really isolated and rejected, and that's what Mahershala talks to, leading into the next track.”

Can I Live
“This is about how rejection, hatred, and prejudice affects our mental health. It makes us hate ourselves, it makes us question ourselves. And over the course of the track, what you have is, I question my place in this relationship, in this world, in this country. I also question what the fuck I'm doing as an artist. I'm like, ‘What good is it doing'? I say 'East and West are clashing but cash is the only outcome.’ By me kind of performing my trauma and performing my pain, is it kind of minstrels-y? What is it? Am I putting my foot down or am I tap-dancing to the man?”

Yara: Look Inside
“Yara is such a young woman but such an inspirational leader, an amazing young voice. She comes in with real wisdom at this point to say, ‘You know what? Just because you're not accepted in a relationship doesn't mean you can't still have acceptance in your life. It doesn't mean you can't have love in your life.'”

Where You From
“I guess this is a question that is so common, and to some of us can be annoying. But it's also a question we all ask ourselves sometimes: Where are you really from? And a lot of us have quite complex identities. Maybe I'm not from this place or that place. Maybe I'm from this 'no man's land' in between, and if I am from this ‘no man's land,' it doesn't mean we can't plant a flag there and make it habitable. Let's still find some dignity.”

Mogambo
“This is an anthem of resilience. You may kind of feel like your position is sometimes under threat, or feel sometimes like you’re on the back foot, but they can't take us all out, mate. It's like a middle finger.”

Chabuddy: Go Southall
“Chabuddy comes in with the voicemail. It gives it the old ‘You know what? Connect. Connect with other people in this no man’s land with you.’ Let’s go Southall. There are people with you on this journey. Not ‘let's get on a plane and go to India, or LA'—nah, let's go Southall: No Man's Land HQ.”

Deal With It
“‘Slap two pagans saying that’s too Asian.’ It’s about being your unapologetic self. It’s saying, ‘I don’t need your acceptance, Britney. I don’t need you to love me, I accept myself.’”

Hasan: You Came Out on Top
“Hasan [Minhaj] comes on and lets you know that by going on this journey, reconnecting with self-love, you’ve come out resilient. You’ve come out on top.”

Karma
“It’s like a victory lap, I guess. It’s saying we’ve all been through some crazy shit and we’re still here. We’re not going anywhere, because the people that are pushed to the periphery of a society are often the people that make that society special.”

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