Marco (Micheal Ward) and Timmy (Stephen Odubola) in 'Blue Story,' photo by Nick Wall.

In Conversation: Rapman on His Explosive Debut Film, US Perceptions of Black-British Identity & Meeting Jay-Z

The British-Nigerian rapper and filmmaker releases 'Blue Story' to US audiences today, and speaks with OkayAfrica about the film's momentous journey.

Best intentions don't always go as planned. British-Nigerian rapper and filmmaker Rapman knows this firsthand. With Blue Story, his feature film debut about two best friends-turned-rivals, his ultimate goal was anti-gang and anti-violence. But when it was released throughout the UK this past November, a fight in a theater in Birmingham resulted in UK's Vue Cinemas pulling the film from all its theaters. But there was a silver lining. The ban attracted attention, garnering international press coverage for the emerging filmmaker and coincidentally introducing his unique brand of storytelling to an even wider audience.

Inspired by Rapman's own experiences of growing up in Southeast London, Blue Story reveals the longstanding gang rivalry that has claimed the lives of far too many. At the center of it all is Marco (Top Boy's Micheal Ward who plays Jamie) and Timmy, (Stephen Odubola) who begin as the best of friends, only to turn bitter enemies. Described in American terms as a "British Boyz N the Hood," Blue Story builds on Rapman's 2013 music video "Blue Story Pt. 1." As a bonus, Tiny Boost, Jorja Smith, Buju Banton, Raye and Giggs, among others, join Rapman on Blue Story's soundtrack.

Long known for including cinematic elements into his music video, the British-Nigerian rapper and filmmaker hit his groove with 2018's Shiro's Story, a three-part YouTube series balancing rapping with a full story. Rapman provides the narration, using his clever rhymes to sum up the dramatic action witnessed on screen. In many ways, it's become his signature and is prominent in Blue Story as well.

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