On Monday night’s The Tonight Show, Emmy-nominated actor and rapper Riz Ahmed (also known as Riz MC) took to the stage for an impromptu, acapella performance of ten year-old song “Sour Times,” an address to Western listeners that breaks down so-called Islamic terrorism, but is just as applicable to the wave of white supremacist thought that is currently overtaking American cities like Charlottesville, VA.
Riz has always had a strong political streak in his music; most recently, he was featured on Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton Mixtape track “Immigrants,” dismantling stereotypes that seem all too poignant in the current climate. As a member of Swet Shop Boys alongside Heems and Redhino, he also tackled racial profiling with another spine-tingling late night performance of their song “T5” with additional verses for The Late Show.
Coming from Riz’s 2011 LP MICroscope, “Sour Times” is his lament that “I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines,” and his efforts to counteract stereotypes that Islam is a violent religion, instead blaming the rise of extremist terrorism on the same things that have set Americans against each other in the last few years: Poverty and lack of education.
“The truth is Al Qaeda doesn’t really exist / There ain’t no super villain planning these attacks from some base /
The truth is so much scarier and harder to face / See, there’s thousands of angry young men that are lost / Sidelined in the economy, a marginal cost / They think there’s no point in putting ballots up in the box / They got no place in this system, and no faith in its cogs / They’re easy targets, that be getting brainwashed by these knobs / Who say that spilling innocent blood is pleasing a god / Well, it sounds good when you don’t see no justice or jobs.”
Check out his performance above, and listen to the original version of “Sour Times” here.