Blue Story director Rapman says MBE is just the beginning
Rapman has said being made an MBE is “just the beginning” as he hailed his film Blue Story for changing his life in ways he “can’t describe”.
The filmmaker and musician, real name Andrew Onwubolu, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to drama and music.
The 32-year-old won plaudits for his directorial film debut Blue Story, the 2019 gang drama that followed the lives of two boys caught on opposite sides of a postcode war in London.
Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “I wrote that in 2016, it was the first thing I ever wrote and I never ever thought anybody would ever see it.
“And that changed my life in ways I can’t describe, it got me on the radar as a filmmaker, a working filmmaker, that’s what it’s done.
“I’m super proud of Blue Story because it got people to… I always knew I could make films, but no-one believed I can do it because I’ve only done small things at the time.
“So that now has given people, studios who press the green button, the faith that ‘Oh we should get Rapman in to see if he wants to do it’.
“So it literally took me from YouTube uploader to now filmmaker.”
Blue Story was temporarily pulled from cinemas in 2019 due to violence at screenings, but was later reinstalled.
Rapman’s three-part YouTube series, titled Shiro’s Story, gained a huge fan-following after it was released in 2018.
The series, narrated through the medium of rap by Rapman, stars Joivan Wade as Shiro and has cameo appearances by Ashley Walters, Headie One, Not3s and the rapper Cadet, who was killed in a car crash on the way to a gig in 2019.
Rapman paid tribute to Jamal Edwards as he spoke about being made an MBE, saying the entrepreneur, who found fame after setting up the music platform SBTV in 2006, had told him he too could one day make the Honours list.
Edwards, the son of TV star and singer Brenda Edwards, died earlier this year from a heart attack at the age of 31, and was credited with having propelled a string of UK music acts to stardom, including Ed Sheeran, Dave and Jessie J.
Rapman said: “I remember when Jamal Edwards got it (an MBE) and it was such a big moment for the UK music scene at the time. So obviously, RIP Jamal, but it was such a big honour.
“I remember speaking to him saying ‘Bro, that’s crazy, that’s big’. Like, that’s a mad award, getting recognised by the royals.
“And he was just like, ‘Yeah but one day it will be you’. I was like ‘No way bro, I’m like a million miles from that, but like what you’re doing is so well-deserved’.
“So I remember just having this conversation with Jamal about it, so when it first came up, that’s the first person I thought of was Jamal. RIP Jamal and I never thought it would be my turn to have a similar award.”
He said of the MBE: “It really makes me feel like everything I’ve done has hit a target and it’s rising and rising, and to me it’s only the beginning – it’s only the start.
“But it does give you that push and what it’s done personally is, on top of that, is that when I told my parents, they were really excited, it was really good because it made them happy as well, so that was nice.”
He said he has always aimed to tell stories that he feels he does not see on screen.
He added: “And to give people who are not familiar with the world I’m talking about insight, how, you know, a kid can go from one direction to another direction, and what it’s like just being a young black man growing up in south London, or any part of London, or even just being a young black man growing up in London in general, like just certain things that you go through, and just a different side of the spectrum that not everybody sees.
“So I suppose if I’m one of the lucky ones that gets a chance to tell stories for the UK, I do try to make it as authentic as possible and show a style, a version of a story that I grew up in and how I grew up and just to see another side of living.”
In a few weeks he will start filming for Netflix series Supacell, a superhero drama which he has written and will also direct.
He said: “We’re about eight weeks out from shooting and it really is a massive show. I can’t say too much on the plot, but what is already out there is (it’s) literally a massive drama, but with a big superhero, sci-fi element on top.
“And it’s crazy, I’ve been thinking about this show for years, even before I started writing it.
“So the fact that I’m doing it now, and I’m doing it on a massive scale, it’s just, it feels great.”