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Life & Lyrics Review

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DJ Danny (Walters) is the leader of London rappers Motion Crew, headed for the Mic Master finals. When he falls for Carmen (Rose), his loyalties are tested — particularly when he learns she is linked to rivals Hard Cash Crew and their leader Money Man (Re

★★★★★

The easy pitch is the “British 8 Mile”, but this slice of London life arguably has more in common with Boyz N the Hood, as its heroes wrestle with the twin lures of rap stardom and gang crime.

Set on luminously shot council estates and dodgy back streets, the surrogate family of the “crew” are lost souls and former foster children who find strength in rap and their fiercely close bonds. Danny and best mate Fable (Steward, AKA rapper Ethix, whose search for his birth mother provides a moving subplot) are near-brothers, but Danny implicitly threatens their dynamic by taking up with middle-class, educated Carmen; a threat even before her affiliation to their rap rivals emerges.

When the rap battles start, they’re more vicious and less polished than we’ve seen before, and Regis as Danny’s opposite number Money Man creates a believably desperate ‘villain’ of the piece. If the tone sometimes wobbles — most damagingly in the final moments — this cleverly scripted tale of urban life nevertheless showcases an array of up-and-coming talent, with Ashley Walters building on the promise he showed in Bullet Boy with an incredibly good performance.

Well-acted by its novice cast, this may be a plot we’ve seen a thousand times before but its setting, in a London a world away from Richard Curtis’, gives it a reality all of its own.