Hip-hop is well represented at the Emmys this year, from the six nominations for “Atlanta” and its creator-star Donald Glover to songwriting bids for Common and Chance the Rapper. Another rapper-slash-actor is the frontrunner to win at least one Emmy this year, and in a rare twist of fate he’s also the favorite to win an MTV Video Music Award: Riz Ahmed.
The British actor gave a breakthrough performance in the HBO limited series “The Night Of” in which he played Nasir Khan, a Pakistani-American student who is accused of murder. That role has made him the Emmy frontrunner for Best Movie/Mini Actor, but if that fails he has a second chance to win thanks to his nomination for Best Comedy Guest Actor for his appearance in HBO’s “Girls.” It’s an impressive feat to earn multiple performance nominations in a single year, but he doesn’t stop there.
In addition to acting, Ahmed also raps under the stage name Riz MC. In that capacity he joined K’naan, Resident, and Snow Tha Product to perform “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” from “The Hamilton Mixtape.” The music video for that song (watch it above) is nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Fight Against the System, and it’s nothing if not timely. For instance, Ahmed’s verse includes pointed lyrics about refugees: “Who these fugees what did they do for me / But contribute new dreams / Taxes and tools, swagger and food to eat / Cool, they flee war zones, but the problem ain’t ours / Even if our bombs landed on them like the Mayflower.”
This comes at a time when President Donald Trump has attempted to enact a travel ban against select Muslim nations — though so far he hasn’t succeeded to the extent he would have hoped. He’s also still trying to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico in a misguided attempt to prevent illegal immigration, and now he’s even taking aim at legal immigration. So it’s no wonder that our users currently consider “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” the frontrunner to win at the VMAs. Many fans voting for this category will be well aware of the political climate and may wish to honor Ahmed and company to take a stand against xenophobia.
As dissimilar as the Emmys and VMAs are, Ahmed actually wouldn’t be the first to win both in the same year. It happened just four years ago when director David Fincher won a VMA for Justin Timberlake‘s “Suit & Tie” video and then an Emmy a month later for the “House of Cards” pilot. The divisions in media that used to separate music, TV, and film have broken down in the 21st century — it’s almost like they have open borders.