Hip-Hop Junkie
Rap fan Rizwan Ahmed from HBO’s The Night Of doesn’t just act, he slings rhymes too.
Words: Emmanuel C.M.
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

HBO’s miniseries The Night Of was one of the most critically acclaimed shows of the summer and introduced Americans to British actor Rizwan Ahmed, the star. But Ahmed isn’t just an actor; he’s also Riz MC, a rapper who’s participated in some of the U.K.’s premiere battle leagues and released his first album, Microscope, in 2011. A year later, he linked with Queens native Heems, former member of Das Racist. In the spring of 2013, Riz and Heems formed their duo, the Swet Shop Boys, and dropped their Swet Shop EP in 2014. This past May, Riz released his first solo mixtape and is now gearing up for the official group album, Cashmere.

XXL recently caught up with the HBO star to talk about The Night Of and his love of hip-hop.

XXL: What’s the process of getting the role for The Night Of?

Rizwan Ahmed: It came at me kind of last minute. I just read the script when I was flying back to London and pretty much as soon as I landed my agent said, “What do you think about it?” I said, “It was good. Tell me more about it.” My agent was like, “There’s no time, just go do the audition” and I just went and did it, then I got it. To be honest, I didn’t even fully understand that it’s on HBO and what that even really meant because in the United Kingdom we don’t have HBO. I still hadn’t even seen The Sopranos at that point. This was summer 2012.

The show has a lot of rappers in it. We’ve seen Treach, Sticky Fingaz and Lord Jamar. What did you think of that?

I grew up listening to a lot of those guys so it was kind of a moment just meeting them, let alone working with them. They are all incredible actors and brought a brilliant authenticity to the show. I got to work with Jamar a little more than some of the other guys. I played him my track “Sour Times.” I wasn’t sure what he would think of it, with the British accent and the string arrangements and stuff I do. He was like, “Yo, that’s really hip-hop.” He was really into it. That was a real moment to me.

You and Heems linked and are finally dropping the group album. How does that feel?

We just want to drop a dope album that people really like. We’re really excited about it. Heems and I come from similar paths in life but come from different flavors. I kind of feel like culturally we occupy similar spaces on different sides of the Atlantic. So I kind of feel like with our forces combined, it’s something that’s exciting for both, our group of fans and something that can bring in new people that don’t know either of our work.

Check out more from XXL’s Fall 2016 issue including our Gucci Mane cover story interview, Young Thug’s cover story interview, Rich Homie Quan's trials and tribulations, Young M.A in Show & Prove, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie puts New York on his back, Ghostface Killah reflects on the making of Ironman, our picks for fall kicks and more.

See Exclusive Photos From Gucci Mane's XXL Magazine Fall 2016 Cover Story