Gangs tak­ing the rap


The Citizen (KZN) - - City - Pe­ter Feld­man

Shot on the streets of south­east Lon­don, di­a­logue is hard to fol­low and sub­ti­tles needed.

The harsh gang wars in the south­east of Lon­don are brought dra­mat­i­cally to life in this choppy pro­duc­tion by Rap­man, who wrote and di­rected as well as pro­vid­ing the rap el­e­ments.

Blue Story marks the fea­ture de­but of rap­per-turned-YouTube sen­sa­tion-turned-di­rec­tor An­drew On­wubolu, aka Rap­man.

Born and raised in south­east Lon­don, Rap­man first burst into the pub­lic’s con­scious­ness in 2014 with a se­ries of short films re­leased on YouTube.

He wrote, di­rected, starred in and pro­vided mu­sic and lyrics.

Inspired by the sto­ry­telling style of rap­pers such as 2Pac, Eminem and the No­to­ri­ous B.I.G., Rap­man’s short films are a unique com­bi­na­tion of mu­sic video and nar­ra­tive film­mak­ing, shot on the streets of south­east Lon­don and fea­tur­ing his own rap nar­ra­tion.

He says: “I didn’t know how to write a film, but I knew how to tell a story.

“My raps were al­ways sto­ry­telling. My gift is telling sto­ries.”

Though hid­den in the fab­ric of the story is a kind of Romeo and Juliet theme, the ba­sic tenets of Blue Story are vi­o­lence and ri­valry be­tween teenage gangs jeal­ously guard­ing their turf.

They believe in the dic­tum of an eye for an eye, even though in­no­cent lives are lost and there seems no end to the tur­moil and de­struc­tion be­ing ren­dered in the crowded ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments of to­day.

Rap­man’s lyrics serve to re­count the tense sit­u­a­tions that arise, even though this de­vice is far too in­tru­sive and ham­pers the flow of di­a­logue.

Some of the gang street talk proved mean­ing­less to my ears and I found dif­fi­culty with a char­ac­ter’s di­alect at key mo­ments. Sub­ti­tles would have been of great ben­e­fit.

Still, Rap­man has pro­duced a true-life saga played out in the streets of a de­cay­ing part of Lon­don where gangs rule.

The nar­ra­tive con­cerns two best friends, Timmy (Stephen Odubola), who is of African ori­gin, and Marco (Micheal Ward,) of Caribbean ori­gin, who at­tend the same high school in Peck­ham but live in neigh­bour­ing Lon­don bor­oughs.

Timmy is a quiet, stu­dious in­di­vid­ual who falls for fel­low stu­dent, Leah (Karla-Si­mone Spence) and whose re­la­tion­ship is be­gin­ning to blos­som nicely.

How­ever, an in­ci­dent fol­lows and Marco is beaten up by one of Timmy’s pri­mary school friends and the two boys wind up on ri­val sides of the never-end­ing cy­cle of a post­code gang war in which there are no win­ners … only vic­tims.

We get to un­der­stand a lit­tle about Timmy and Marco and their frus­tra­tions but the char­ac­ters, for a large part, re­main sketchy en­ti­ties; hooded, fast-talk­ing and men­ac­ing in­di­vid­u­als who are out for war, us­ing il­le­gal guns and knives to vent their anger.

Rap­man’s fo­cus is strictly on these peo­ple, while the po­lice are shadow fig­ures and are never part of the sto­ry­line.

If there is a mes­sage here it comes from Rap­man’s lips: “What I want to do with this film is show peo­ple, the kids in­volved in gangs, that the de­ci­sions you make can af­fect not just your life but those around you.

“You might think that ev­ery­thing you’re fight­ing for is so im­por­tant – but is it?”

This over-sim­pli­fied ver­sion never quite gels as there is no an­a­lyt­i­cal depth at­tached to it.

Blue Story be­comes yet an­other deriva­tive plat­form for mean­ing­less vi­o­lence and re­venge.

Pic­tures: Sup­plied

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