More than two years after the last James Bond film was released, many fans are itching for information about a new installment. But the grime superstar Skepta isn't among them. Last month, he released the first installment in a new action movie series called Tribal Mark.
"It’s like the Black James Bond thing that everyone was trying to do," he told NME during a recent interview.
There are some parallels between this new project and the 007 series, but there are also major differences.
The 24-minute first installment released on Jan. 26 follows Mark, a young Nigerian boy played by Jude Michael who immigrates to London. There, he falls in with a bad crowd, which is how he ultimately becomes Tribal Mark, a character played by Skepta.
"Is the grass greener all the time?" the musician asked.
The film's narrative was inspired by Skepta's own family history. Both of his parents immigrated to England from Nigeria and raised their four children in North London.
When NME asked why Skepta wanted to create a new character rather than have a Black James Bond, the musician explained that he sees the iconic spy as inherently white.
"James Bond is almost the epitome of a British gentleman, you know?" he said. "A lot of white people must look at him and be like, 'OK, I need my Aston Martin and my watch and I’m gonna be this guy.'"
There's nothing like that for members of the global African diaspora, Skepta said.
"This is gonna be our visual representation of what a Black gentleman is," he said. "We don’t have one. Going forward, we’re gonna be very thoughtful-minded about: ‘What car does Mark drive? What suit does he wear?"
The film was created through Skepta's own production company 1PLUS1 and directed by his cousin Dwight Okechukwu.
The musician, born Joseph Adenuga, comes from a powerful creative family. His sister Julie is a well-known broadcaster and radio host, his brother Jason is a graphic designer, and his brother Jamie is also a musician who goes by JME.
Skepta spoke about how the "open-door policy" at his family home fostered this creativity.
"People would be just walking in my house," he said. "I’d be making beats, I’d turn and there’s a new guy. I’d be like, 'Yo – what’s up.' Sometimes there’d be people in my house rolling, smoking. I’ve never met this person before, but they’re just chillin'."
While Tribal Mark is inspired by Skepta's life, it's not a biographical film. That's something the musician is open to creating in the future.
"I know that a Skepta biopic is something that people wanna see, innit, so I don’t want people to think this is my life," he said. "I’m ready: one day I wanna make the biopic, so I don’t want this to take the shine off that."