Of all the responses to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, one of the most poignant came on Monday night’s Tonight Show (Aug. 14) courtesy of Swet Shop boys rapper and Star Wars actor Riz Ahmed. Asked by host Jimmy Fallon if he had anything to say about the incident — which included bloody clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters, and the murder of a woman by a Nazi sympathizer who drove his car into a crowd of anti-supremacist marchers — Ahmed reached back to a rhyme he wrote more than a decade ago.
“In light of all the current events that are going on, it just seems like we’re living in really, really divided times, and it really hurts,” he said, adding that he wrote the a cappella “Sour Times” 10 years ago and that every year he hopes it will become irrelevant, yet it just keeps becoming more relevant. “It’s my attempt to get behind the headlines and work out where all this extremism is coming from.”
Ahmed then grabbed a mic, walked onto the darkened stage and kicked off a moving, thought-provoking, two-minute spoken-word rap about the dangers of extremism. “In these sour times/Please allow me to vouch for mine/Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme/I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines,” he solemnly began.
Changing up the original lyrics, he continued, “The truth is, terrorism ain’t what you think it is/There ain’t no supervillain 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 the system and no faith in its cause… The way that Trump talks, gives a lost boy a cause.”
Watch the full performance.
This article was originally published on Billboard.