• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Jungle: How the Amazon Prime Video series uses drill music to create a dystopian soundtrack

BySamuel M. Craig

Oct 5, 2022

Jhe near-future sound in film and television has typically been characterized by dramatic synths that reflect the conflict between man and machine. Think Vangelis Atmosphere blade runner score with his memorable Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer, or the sparse orchestral cues heard in more recent projects such as The Handmaid’s Tale. Now, a new series is set to take a very different route.

Jungle is the debut TV project from up-and-coming production company Nothing Lost, best known for directing London rapper Big Tobz’s “Woke” music video, which landed them on the Saatchi & Saatchi New Creators Class shortlist. from 2019. Available on Amazon Prime Video now, the show follows a group of strangers whose lives are interconnected by a series of bizarre events.

It is set in dystopian inner-city London, with a backdrop of a drill and rap soundtrack. While the exact plot details leading up to the series’ release have been intentionally kept cryptic, the showrunners promise it will resonate with viewers. “It’s the urban jungle we live in, and the rules that apply,” show co-creator Junior Okoli tells me. “Survival of the fittest. Kill or be killed.”

Since Headie One smashed its way into the Top 10 with ’18HUNNA’ in 2019, the UK exercise has moved ever closer to the mainstream, buoyed by the success of bands such as K-Trap and 67. Yet the genre has also courted controversy amid a moral. panic around its lyrical content. Born on the south side of Chicago and arguably popularized by American rapper Chief Keef, drill shares some similarities with trap music, but is often darker and more anarchic in tone – aided by lyrics that focus on visions and experiences. of the real world of its artists. .

Some lawmakers argued that it served as a catalyst for real crimes. The same year, Headie One hit the UK charts, fellow rappers Skengdo & AM made legal history with a nine-month suspended sentence…for performing their own music. “I feel violated,” Skengdo said The Guardian, while AM ​​said, “We don’t have much power in the end. I have the impression that the authorities took advantage of this.

Recent developments indicate that the general public’s perception of exercise is changing, however, with Tion Wayne and Russ Millions single “Body” and Central Cee’s mixtape 23 both leading the way. charts in the UK. Asda’s “Arrive Like You Mean It” campaign, meanwhile, depicted school kids rapping to a drill beat produced by KZ, putting the genre in a decidedly more family-friendly setting. Still, its more obscure origins mean it’s arguably the most fitting sound for a dystopian future. In Junglethis results in a society where inequality, institutional racism, disenfranchisement and neglect persist.

Preconceived notions of exercise were not lost on Okoli and series co-creator Chas Appeti when they created Jungle. “We went to great lengths, not necessarily to challenge stereotypes, but to provide insight,” Okoli says. “Stereotypes are there for a reason, it’s just the truth, but sometimes they’re unfounded – a lot of stereotypes are based on ignorance.”

Addressing their decision to focus on the drill scene, Appeti explains that they wanted to connect with a younger demographic through music. “I think it just depends on the times we live in, and it’s happening now that young people today are listening to exercise,” he says. “If you were to go back maybe seven or eight years ago, it might have been dirt. A little further than that, it could have been a British garage.

While the current socio-economic state of the UK makes it a time of anxious uncertainty, the themes of the series seem relevant in their ability to bridge the gaps between demographics, whose mutual fears have different catalysts. The glowing neon backdrop turns blood red minutes into the first episode: the shimmering optimism of a bright future subverted by the unforgiving reality of the present. It talks about the need to survive by any means in a ruthless and demanding city.

Enjoy unlimited access to 70 million ad-free songs and podcasts with Amazon Music Sign up now for a 30 day free trial


With Jungle Finding its home on Amazon Prime Video (which reaches 46% of UK households), introducing a wider audience to the maligned world of exercise in an authentic way was one of Nothing Lost’s aims.

Jungle essentially tries to be this conduit between two worlds – the world of young people and that of other civilians with whom we share the city,” says Okoli. “We are all bound by six degrees of separation, and we need to have this dialogue open so that we can understand each other and the different dynamics that shape our city. This leads to much more harmony, understanding… less ignorance. For Okoli, Jungle gets to the root of the problems drill artists rap about: “You can’t remedy a problem without first properly diagnosing it.”

To achieve this, the team assembled a group of up-and-coming artists – from Unknown T to Bandokay – along with a number of well-known faces, some of whom made their acting debuts on the show. Several female MCs are involved, including IAMDBB and TeeZandos. Yet Okoli is quick to point out that gender parity, in a world where male artists still dominate, was not necessarily the goal here. “There was no mandate to follow: the message is not for a particular color, creed or gender, it’s for an entire culture,” he says. “We wanted them to be involved, but more for what they bring to the project as a whole…Each character has earned their place in it.”

For IAMDDB, however, the representation of black women in this male-dominated industry was paramount in its approach to the role of its character, Mia. “We have to put on that brave face and carry ourselves in a certain way,” she said at a launch event for the series earlier this year. “Every turn we take, there’s always someone trying to take advantage of it, thinking we’re weak, that we’re poorly educated, but that’s not the case.”

We gotta put on that brave face and behave a certain way


Perhaps more unexpected are the appearances of household names from the UK rap scene, namely Dizzee Rascal and Big Narstie. At first glance, their inclusion seems at odds with the show’s edgy, youthful narrative. But, as Appeti explains, it’s about showing how far rap has come in the UK. “There are some really interesting collaborations, and it’s about educating people about who’s next, because music moves fast,” he says. “It’s almost like passing the baton. When you can do it, you can see it visually. So I think that’s a pretty interesting dynamic.

Tinie Tempah, one of the most important crossover artists of the 2010s, agrees with this sentiment. “Being heavily involved with grime and influenced by grime, I know that when something is in its infancy, or slightly past its infancy, it’s usually viewed in a particular way and given the wrong light. Because that there is a lack of understanding,” he told me.

Through successful collaborations with pop artists such as Jess Glynne and Swedish House Mafia, as well as his work as a label boss, property developer and fashion icon, Tinie’s career represents success in hustle culture. who rules the world Jungle. Of course, it wasn’t without its detractors: “But I know that over time, if you look at something like grime, it’s produced so many stars, so many stars that shine even brighter than ever. today.”

Tinie Tempah in “Jungle”

(Amazon Prime Video)

Jungle It means Tinie can now add “acting” to her extensive CV, after years of waiting for the right moment. “If you think of Avoided, you know, it’s Madonna, isn’t it,” he says. “If you think of Fatthis is Olivia Newton John – she was a [singer] at the time. So musicals have always been artist-directed, as opposed to just a cast of actors…it adds authenticity to the musical element.

by Netflix Boy Top went through a similar process of casting musicians and also offers commentary on inner-city strife. Rapman’s Shiro’s story, released in 2018, draws inspiration from the musical genre, with dialogue delivered in rap form as opposed to spoken word. But Nothing Lost thinks any comparison to similar shows won’t Jungle bad service. They want people from disadvantaged backgrounds to have the opportunity and freedom to share their own individual stories.

“[Chas and I] we weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths, and we feel very lucky about what we did with our lives – it wasn’t given to us,” says Okoli. “[Jungle] really shines a light on the zeal and talent that lies in the ‘hood’ – just look for it. He is convinced that their background – different from that of your average studio manager – is what gives Jungle its upside: “Once you get the chance, you’ll be amazed at what people from a not-so-typical background can do.”

‘Jungle’ is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video