Grime Kids: ‘We want to inspire young black and ethnic kids’

By Manish Pandey & Ruchira Sharma

BBC Newsbeat & BBC Three

It’s the early noughties and a new genre of music is emerging from the electronic dance scene – helped by the underground and pirate radio stations.

Grime – which draws influences from garage, drum and bass and dancehall – eventually went mainstream a few years later thanks to artists like Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Lethal Bizzle, and Wiley.

Another of the people involved in bringing it to the forefront of the UK music scene was DJ Target, a member of Wiley’s grime collective Roll Deep.

A few years ago Target wrote the non-fiction book Grime Kids about how the genre went from subculture to global success story.

So it’s no surprise his words have inspired the new BBC Three drama of the same name, which charts the rise of a group of teenagers growing up in 2001.

It shows the friends – who live in the UK home of grime in Bow, east London – dreaming of being able to make their voice heard through music.

Character of Genevieve wearing a blue denim jacket and skirt with a white top and a pink handbag. She is leaning on a railing, with the background of green trees and a cloudy sky.
Image caption,Delove Akra says there were challenges growing up black in the noughties, when the show is set

Grime Kids plays on the differences between today and the time it’s set in, according to one of its stars Delove Akra.

She describes her character Genevieve as “such a fashionista”, but perceptions about hair and appearance are not the same for her.

“Being a black girl there were a lot of challenges growing up for the ladies back then, especially with confidence,” she tells BBC Newsbeat.

“They didn’t often feel appreciated, so it was nice to just share the beauty of how it is to be a black girl in that time.

“There’s definitely more confidence in a lot of people nowadays, a lot of acceptance, diversity. So it’s nice to see that evolution, whether it’s in fashion or music or anything like that.”

Character of Junior wearing a brown jacket and cream sweater and grey cap. He is looking at the camera while clucthing the top of a bag strap running across his chest. The background is of green trees.
Image caption,Actor Gabriel says his character Junior has the best wardrobe in the series

One of the key themes of the coming-of-age drama is the friendship between the characters enjoying their “last summer as kids”.

And showcasing that connection, care and joy was important to Grime Kids screenwriter Theresa Ikoko, who also wrote the film Rocks.

Having grown up with three brothers as well as nephews and friends’ older brothers, she’s witnessed them bonding first hand.

“I just thought there’s so much joy and play in male friendships,” she tells BBC Three.

“I see their laughter and it is raucous. It’s beautiful and it is really from the gut.

“It’s that side-splitting laughter and I just really wanted to capture that joy and also the intimacy.”

Gabriel Robinson, who plays the role of Junior, feels the show demonstrates the value of relationships, particularly through his own character who has to deal with things like loss.

“A good way it shows how people deal with those kinds of things is the relationships that you have,” he says.

“That escapism that you’ve had with your friends, and not always sitting in your room and being upset. Because that’s when sometimes things can get worse.”

Stormzy and DJ Target in BBC 1Xtra studio. Stormzy is on the left wearing a black long sleeved top with his arm around Target, who is wearing a black and pink zipped jumper. Target's left hand is pointing towards the camera. In the background there is branding on a black background of "BBC Radio 1Xtra", green neon lights and a radio fader board with lots of buttons.
Image caption,Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Target wrote the original book and is an executive producer on the TV adaptation

DJ Target, who now presents on Radio 1Xtra, started off playing grime on former pirate station Rinse FM way before major labels hopped on board.

And the station is referenced in the drama, which heavily features the east London music scene as the group of boys form their own garage crew and dream of fame.

For Yus Jamal Crookes, who plays Dane, the role of music in his life is an important one.

“It’s part of your family, one of your six a day,” he says.

“Whatever mood you’re in, you can always find a song or a piece that is relatable to that.

“Also with music it’s very timeless. So I feel like in certain stages in your life you always have a song that will take you back to that time.”

Grime Kids is the highest-profile job for most of the cast, who want their positive message about navigating tricky but relatable issues to come across.

Or, as Yus describes it, “maturity”.

“The age that you leave school, to figuring out what you’re going to do next. And that is a lot of pressure for young people,” he says.

Character of Bayo wearing a maroon sweater with blue and yellow lines. He is looking at the cmaera and has a bag strap going across his top. The background has buildings, silver railings and a large green tree in the top right.
Image caption,Juwon says the series really captured the noughties era

For the young actors, the series goes beyond just being something to watch on TV and instead is a chance to have a much wider impact.

Juwon Adedokun, who plays the role of Bayo, didn’t see “people like me” on screen growing up, but says that made him determined to be “that person” for the next generation.

He tells Newsbeat more TV is coming out “giving young black kids, young ethnic kids, more chances”.

“Yeah, we’re paving the way slowly,” he says.

“I would like the audience to take away that no dream is too small. Just dream big and hope for the best.”

Grime Kids is on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from 22:00 GMT on Monday 13 November.

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