The new Life & Lyrics film stars Ashley Walter, better known as Asher D of So Solid Crew.
It aims be a positive story of young people and their lives, rather than the usual negative depiction of them on TV, in the media or in films.
The film revolves around the story of two multi-racial hip-hop groups, the Motion Crew led by Danny (Ashley Walter), and the Hard Cash Crew, and their fight for musical supremacy in the area.
Ken Williams, the writer of Life & Lyrics, said he wrote the film “for young people, regardless of ethnicity, who want to look at the screen and see youths who are not doomed to a life of crime, failure and premature death.”
Ashley Vincent is a 17 year old student from Waltham Forest in east London. He told Socialist Worker, “Life & Lyrics is a positive film. It is close to our lives.
“We all worry about our friends, families, girlfriends and fights - and the film shows that fights between different groups happen.
“People are getting killed. That’s real. The film shows the people who are from the streets and where they live.”
The police are present throughout the film, whether they are trying to close down a pirate radio station mob-handed, stopping black people in the street or cruising by in the background.
This is close to reality for many young people who face police harassment.
“The police are always stopping you if you have a hat on or a hoodie up,” said Kyle Thompson, a 19 year old student from Tottenham in north London.
“Police stop more black people than any other group. If a black person has a BMW, the police will stop them because they think they’re a drug dealer.”
“I got stopped on the tube on the way to the cinema,” said Ashley. “The police wanted to check that my travel pass was mine.
“You’re stopped all the time if you’re standing there with a group of people.”
“All the stuff with the police was very true,” Melissa Mathurin from Leytonstone in east London told Socialist Worker.
“I was brought up on an estate and the police are always pulling up people who are black or mixed race.
“I have friends who are working, but because they wear their tracksuits low, the police stop them.
“The police get violent too. In the film they were quite polite, but it’s not like that in real life.
“They try and push you in a meat wagon or rough you up. They think black, mixed race or young people are doing drugs. When they don’t find anything they get vexed.”
Life & Lyrics shows women taking a leading role in the crews. Ashley and Kyle think this reflects reality better than other films, where women play little part.
“That was good,” said Kyle. “It’s normally only boys rapping, but in both crews girls got to rap. But there should have been more than one in each crew. They should put more girls in.”
“There should have also been more white people in the crews,” said Ashley. “Crews are a lot more mixed now, and as many white people as black like hip-hop.”
Many of the characters in the film feel stuck in their situation, struggling with their relationships and trying to get a job. Their only hope is making it in the music world, but this seems a distant dream.
Fable, Danny’s best friend in the film, sums it up by saying, “Good things don’t happen to people like us.”
This reflects many people’s worries about where they’re at in life.
“People feel right stuck,” said Ashley. “They’ve got no money, nowhere to go. All you’ve got is your family and friends.”
“Poor people are stuck,” said Kyle. “You’re stuck with your life.”
‘There are some real things, but it’s still a fantasy’
Annique Campbell and Melissa Mathurin, from Leytonstone in east London, liked Life & Lyrics, but felt that it wasn’t close enough to the reality of life on the streets.
Annique said, “The film showed that people have a hard background.
“They wanted to do something with their lives, like rapping and MCing. That’s their way of getting out.
“Because the two main characters in the film were brought up in care it shows you how hurt they’ve been. These are people who haven’t got family to fall back on.
“But it was a bit like any normal gangster movie.
“We’ve all seen or been involved with gangsters when we were younger, but it’s something that many people come out of without people getting hurt.
“People manage to get themselves together.
“There are some real things to the movie and it’s good, but it could have been much better if they’d hit people harder. It’s still a fantasy.
“Asher D’s been on the streets. He knows what you have to go through.”
Melissa told Socialist Worker, “Life & Lyrics showed a bit of the street, but not in enough depth. It wasn’t real enough.
“For instance when one of the character’s house got robbed, that would have led to a big gang fight. There would also have been more friction between the two crews.
“The film was a mild version of what goes on in the streets.
“Other people might think it’s hard hitting, but not if you’ve been raised in that kind of life.
“You just think things wouldn’t happen like that.
“There needed to be more twists and turns, because that’s what life’s about.”