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'Top Boy' Roundtable - Comparisons To 'The Wire,' Rappers As Actors, Authenticity Of Representation...

by Tambay A. Obenson
July 12, 2013 2:39 PM
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Top Boy

Meanwhile... across the pond...

I've highlighted some video discussions from Jump TV UK - an online urban sports/entertainment/lifestyle magazine. I enjoyed watching/listening to this episode in which the panel of guests discuss the 4-part Channel 4 thriller titled Top Boy, which stars Ashley Walters (it's currently on Netflix by the way, so check it out, although its familiar *urban* themes of drugs, gangs and violence (but in a different setting) may turn off some Stateside.

In the discussion that transpires in the 13-minute video below, comparisons are made to The Wire, as they question Top Boy's *positive* and/or *negative* messages about black youth as well as the authenticity of its representations (as you'll recall, these are similar questions The Wire faced - a combo of the "burden of representation" and "the danger of the single story"). 

The young panel also tackled an issue that's come up quite a lot on this side of the pond - specifically on this site; and that is, the "rappers versus actors" debate.

The point of it all being that these topics we constantly debate here in the USA aren't strictly black American concerns, and it's always worthwhile to hear what others from the Diaspora have to say on these "universally black" matters.

Watch below, and feel free to subscribe to the Jump TV UK YouTube channel HERE.

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  • Cali | July 14, 2013 5:59 PMReply

    I watched it on Netflix, was bummed it was only 4 eps. Liked it, not sure I'd put it on par w/ The Wire (other than the overall subject) but it is powerful in its own way. I have no knowledge of most UK actors so I wasn't aware some are rappers. In general, I'm cool w/ rappers/singers turning to acting IF & only IF they're good (as with ANY actor, really). Where I have a problem is when the fame gives them a pass to headline a film, be terrible in it, take jobs from real actors & attention from deserving actors. THAT is annoying.

  • Ojie | July 14, 2013 8:44 AMReply

    I have seen top boy. Brilliant piece of work. I am awaiting the second season. I understand and appreciate the round table discussion, but the rapper vs actor point is one I might not agree on some level. I believe that trained actor or not, it comes down to the performance. That's the beginning and end of it. The performance is sovereign and top boy had an over flow of strong performances, from the major characters to the minor characters. And that script!! Such a brilliant script! Good job to them and I hope the show continues for years to come. Let the uk have their own wire.

  • deecreative | July 12, 2013 9:47 PMReply

    I've seen Top Boy, looking forward to eventually seeing the second season. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kano(who plays Ashley Walters best in friend on the show) a few years ago and I've followed his career since the interview. He is a very talented artist and personally ever since Tupac and Queen Latifah here in the U.S./Kid and Play the whole 'rapper vs actor' debate is mute to me. Mos Def studied acting before he was known as a rapper. Rappers act, actually a lot, many of the stories they tell are embellished, many are made up, rappers are story tellers and the best bring you in and make you feel whatever story they telling, same thing actors do. I'm going to watch the debate from an objective standpoint. I don't think you can compare Top Boy to the wire, maybe the inner city settings but the series are totally different.

  • Free Spirit | July 12, 2013 8:00 PMReply

    This video offended me! Is it a crime to have more than one talent???? People can act and rap in equal measure, and be as worthy in both! For example Ashley Walters, has been consistently underrated as an actor because he was associated with the rap group "So-solid." However he is, and always has been a great actor irrespective of his other musical abilities. Google all the films he has ever appeared in, and then when you have finished, google all the stage plays that he has ever acted in. And I have seen many of them, and know that he is brilliant. He is one black male actor from the U.K, that has bucket loads of talent. What other black male actor in the U.K has done so well, for so many years in music and acting? I can't think of a single person. You are insulting him by even adding his name to this debate. Is being ultra talented a curse? or a cause for criticism? He was in Top Boy because of his proven track record as a stage and screen actor. Not because his "So Solid" fans will be rushing to see him. If that was the case, Chipmunk, Dizee Rascal and the other rappers would all be in Eastenders and Coronation Street, to pull in more ratings. But that is not happening is it? Why are you people sinking your teeth into others who have more than one talent???

    The sky is the limit, if you have multiple abilities then go for it. Poor is the man who dies with his talents still inside him. I did BA Acting in an NCDT accredited drama school, yet I don't sit here only claiming acting for myself, I also present, write scripts, have done voice over for animations etc. I do whatever else I can do!

    Today we are in an entertainment industry in which it is "Anyone's game" he who dares, wins. Nobody is going to respect you any more or less because "you trained in your craft" and you think that craft should belong to you and your peers. Or whatever you guys in the video are talking about. In fact people will have more respect for the artist that can successfully do their craft and then do other things on top of that.

  • Ojie | July 14, 2013 8:41 AM

    I completely concur. It is not a bad thing to have more than one talent. However, I think their point was just solely on rappers coming into actors vs actors alone. But at the end of the day, rapper, trained actor, it comes down to the performance. How authentic was the performance? When the performance is so strong, that's when people decide to find out what led to creating such a performance. There are tons of actors today who learnt on the job and there are tons of actors today, although trained, unemployed.

  • Young Black Actor | July 12, 2013 5:26 PMReply

    This was an AWESOME debate! So many truths on both sides. More like this... Love S&A

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