Because Mustafa is the new voice of a generation
The folk singer’s stunning debut album mourns lives lost in Regent Park
Mustafa Ahmed grew up in Regent Park, and it was clear early on that he was destined for greatness. By the time he was 12, his prodigious poems about life in the projects were already earning standing ovations. Before long, he was writing lyrics and melodies for Justin Bieber, the Weeknd and Daniel Caesar. Last year, he stepped into the spotlight with When Smoke Rises, a tender folk album that showcased his musical ingenuity and gave voice to his neighbourhood’s pain. The record mourns the friends Mustafa has lost to gang violence—particularly Jahvante “Smoke Dawg” Smart, the Regent Park rapper who was murdered in 2018. Mustafa lays bare his heartbreak and interrupts the cycle of tragedy, singing, “Just put down that bottle, tell me your sorrows, I care about you fam.” The album appeared on best-of lists, but its true power is that it helped a community heal.