Twenty-four-year-old singer/songwriter Mustafa Ahmed grew up fighting. He would do so firstly as a child growing up in Toronto’s Regent Park community, matching up with other children his age at the behest of the older kids from around the way. Somehow, it did not harden him. He would continue fighting, though now against stereotypes, as an adolescent poet dispelling notions of who Black Muslims from Regent Park were with every stanza of his continuously celebrated poetry.
He would attempt to fight again, this time on behalf of his immediate community, as a member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Youth Advisory Council, an effort that helped him realize his mission would be better served by amplifying the stories he’d collected over the years through song.
And that is how we got Mustafa, child of Sudanese Muslim immigrants, one time Pan American Games Poet Laureate, cherished collaborator of acts like Majid Jordan, The Weeknd, and Khalid, and the artist whose debut project When Smoke Rises aims to exalt the Regent Park MC whose legacy Mustafa fights, for now, Jahvante “Smoke Dawg” Smart.
Today, Muslim poet and songwriter Mustafa details his debut project When Smoke Rises, due May 28th via his own Regent Park Songs. After revealing its title and speaking about the body of work in his recent GQ Middle East cover story, Mustafa is sharing one more offering from the new record, the powerful “Ali,” which arrives alongside a self-directed visual.
Mustafa’s two singles to date – “Stay Alive” and “Air Forces” – have been met with adoration from fellow artists, critics and fans and serve as a near-perfect introduction to an important new voice in music. Both songs will be included on When Smoke Rises alongside the aforementioned “Ali.” They exemplify a style Mustafa himself describes as “inner-city folk music” that finds musical inspiration in the folk greats such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Richie Havens but channelled through the contemporary lens of Mustafa’s modern-day Toronto.
Mustafa was moved to release his own music following the loss of close friends to gun violence. Much of his music is addressed to those departed friends and to his Toronto neighbourhood, Regent Park; a vehicle to honour and affirm the concerns of his community while providing sonic solace for those looking to make sense of their own loss.
The video for “Stay Alive” prominently features footage of Regent Park, one of the first housing projects in North America and one of the biggest redevelopment projects on the continent. Mustafa’s experience of seeing the blocks, community, and culture that raised him to transform into something unrecognizable is a story that is playing out in neighbourhoods across the world — the inner city from which his folk songs are born.
Mustafa: When Smoke Rises, Regent Park Songs — May 28th, 2021
1. Stay Alive
2. Air Forces
4. The Hearse
5. Capo (ft. Sampha)
7. What About Heaven
8. Come Back