From Deptford to Hollywood: Rapman’s story

How the British storyteller rose to worldwide prominence 

Rapman – real name Andrew Onwubolu – is a rapper from Deptford, South East London who is distinctively known for his lyrical narration and visual storytelling in his music videos.

Onwubolu announced his first feature film ‘Blue Story’ at the beginning of this year – partnering with BBC and Paramount Pictures for the production with a release date of November 22.

Blue Story was previously a music trilogy on YouTube that Rapman released in 2014, focusing on two friends from South London who turned into enemies due to area complications, sparking a postcode war.

The film version will follow the same premise with a new cast whilst keeping true to Rapman’s style of narration through rapping.

It will represent the gritty reality of London’s gang culture, something which has not been done successfully since Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood trilogy.

Onwubolu has stated in an interview with The Guardian that the film title derives from Lewisham which is often referred to as the ‘blue borough’.

Cast members include Michael Ward, who appeared in the third season of popular crime drama Top Boy playing Jamie, along with Khali Best known for his appearance on Eastenders as Dexter.

On November 8, Rapman announced the tracklist for the film’s soundtrack, which was released today on all streaming platforms.

The soundtrack features notable artists such as Giggs, LD, Krept and Konan, and Jorja Smith – along with a new song from Rapman.

Co-founder of MITA magazine – online independent music magazine – Andrea Magra spoke to Voice of London on the importance of having soundtracks for films:

“Soundtracks define films, having music that complements visuals creates a strong sense of emotions that fluoresces through the audiences.”

Rapman’s career began in 2014, where he started releasing music on YouTube with narrative singles such as ‘Hope’, ‘Tough Love’ and ‘Pay As You Go’, all having contextual messages behind them.

He also releases yearly music videos called ‘Wrap Up’ – where he summarises notable news and significant world events that have happened within that year.

Onwubolu had gained notoriety through his breakthrough music drama trilogy Shiro’s Story, with the first video releasing in April 2018, which currently has 6.6 million views.

Themes of Shiro’s Story’s consist of London gang culture, love, betrayal and family.

The trilogy has a total run time of 45 minutes. The second instalment of the trilogy won GRM Daily’s video of the year award in 2018 as it was able to capture the emotional authenticity of London’s urban culture.

Not only had Shiro’s story become a viral sensation in the UK, it’d gotten the attention of rap veteran Jay-Z, who viewed the British music drama through British singer and producer Jeymes Samuel (also known as The Bullitts).

Rapman was invited to the hip-hop icons home in Los Angeles, where he signed a contract to his entertainment agency ROC Nation in November 2018.

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🎉 Biggest moment of my career!!!🎉🙌🏾 I can finally announce I’m the newest member of ROC Nation! This deal is for Management, Film and TV as well as my own Record Label. I look forward to signing my first artist in 2019 on top of releasing my feature film and new TV shows. Thank you so much to @thebullitts for making this deal happen and to the rest of @rocnation for believing in me. For everyone who’s been supporting me thank you! You are responsible for getting me to this point. I went from a council estate in south east London to sitting in Jay-Z’s AMAZING home talking for hours about everything from his first album to Shiro’s story. He dropped so many gems on me I literally feel like I’m ready to take over the world!! It truly was a life changing experience and made me know with hard work consistency and faith anything in life is possible. The hard work starts now!!#GodsPlan 🙏🏾 P.S Jays house is like nothing I’ve ever seen I told him one day I will have a home like this and he agreed 🙂 #rocnation

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The rapper turned director has come a long way since the beginning of his career, with other exciting projects expected in future.

Words: Dominic Magli

Featured Image Credit: @Realrapman