Jungle, the new drama series premiering this week on Prime Video, vividly showcases U.K. Hip-Hop and London street life in a new and unique aura. Hip-Hop Wired got the chance to interview the duo behind the project.
As Hip-Hop further becomes a more embedded part of global culture, storytellers are utilizing it to create new projects that will redefine and shape complex narratives reflecting urban life. The United Kingdom is no different, with Netflix’s Top Boy as a recent example. A new series from Amazon Studios, Jungle is making its debut this week depicting the taut intricacies of inner city life in London, but in a visually arresting way with a plot and cast to match.
The six-episode scripted series is the creation of Junior Okoli and Chas Appeti, the duo behind the production company Nothing Lost. The two creatives (Appeti as a music video director and director of photography and Okoli as a director and writer), have strode onto the scene with a desire to upend the way viewers have come to look at dramas about life in the London streets with this series by employing striking and honest cinematography in conjunction with dialogue utilizing drill and rap lyrics throughout with inspiration from their backgrounds in the Peckham and Streatham neighborhoods, respectively.
Both men have already made a significant impact with a short film, Woke, which made Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Creators Class list for 2019. “We’re not interested in ‘safe’ or ‘conventional’ because life isn’t always that, it’s not always safe and conventional. Not for some people anyway … and those are people whose stories we want to tell,” they say of their vision.
We recently got the chance to ask the creatives some questions about the series and their own unique vision during the filming and creative process.
HHW: What I love about Jungle is how it pulls you in with Gogo’s first lines and how every character we meet just matches his intensity. What was it like working with each cast member during filming & building from their energy?
Chas: It was a really exciting process. Because we wasn’t just working with actors, we were working also with artists. So you’ve got some really interesting dynamics while you were shooting, and getting some really, really interesting performances, especially from those people. Because it wasn’t their normal theatre performance, you’d get some really authentic performances out of them. And some really interesting dynamics when you’ve got two different artists that you wouldn’t normally put together.
So I was really excited. I think every day was exciting on set. Because everyone had such good energy on set where everyone really wanted the best for the show. So it was really – it wasn’t an easy shooting. It was tough. But it was really worth it. In the end. I think everyone sort of knew that we were just going to do something a bit different. So yeah, it was, it was exciting.
HHW: What strikes me about Jungle from the jump is how visually striking it is, how the scenery matches every bar in those scenes. What tracks did you two have going to inspire the visual process and aesthetic?
Junior: Yeah, there’s one scene in episode three, where Slim is opposite Gober at a dining table in a restaurant, and that scene, I was inspired by (Michael Mann’s) Heat for that scene. And I wanted to make our version of it. So that was a really exciting scene, an exciting kind of aspect of the production for myself. It was one that I looked forward to. And I’m sure that the viewer will almost be glad the tension is palpable. You could feel the tension at the table. So I’m in the diner in the restaurant, so both actors and artists did very, very well in that scene.
And you know, we showed them Heat where we took the scene of Pacino & De Niro (in the diner). And we show it to the artist and be like, “Look, we’re trying to create a version of this where, where the viewer feels the emotion and, and that also demonstrates precisely the lyrics and the energy that we produced in the booth for that scene.” It was a very strange technique of creativity when given severe it was very strange, and unique and allowed us to be very kind of like off the cuff and creative really.
HHW: Lastly, how do you see the work you’ve done here with Jungle becoming a template to tell even more impactful stories with drill and grime?
Chas: As a template, I’m not sure if it’ll be a template for future projects, because we try and approach every project differently. This one just so happens to revolve around drill on it being a musical. Our main thing is telling stories never been told. So that’s the important thing to us. And to approach projects in not a conventional way, just trying to push them, push a little bit more to the left, rather than going down your usual and always telling a compelling story to finish the and, and not being afraid and not being afraid to push boundaries of it. You know, I think that’s more of a template for us, rather than the same path, yeah.
The cast of Jungle includes Ezra Elliott, RA, Amaria BB, Tinie Tempah, Big Narstie, Unknown T, Jordan McCann, Jaykae, IAMDDB, Double Lz, M24, and more. The series premieres on Amazon Prime Video Friday, Sept. 30.