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Native Helps McCann Bring Rapper Back to Life for Anti-knife Crime Music Video


Native manipulated a base recording to recreate Depzman’s voice for the The Joshua Ribera Foundation

Native Helps McCann Bring Rapper Back to Life for Anti-knife Crime Music Video

Over a year ago, Native were approached to be involved in something quite extraordinary, a huge endeavour to raise the anti - knife crime profile. Joshua Ribera, aka Depzman, was a rising star in the grime scene when he was killed in 2013, and since then, knife crime has continued to rise inexorably in the UK.

McCann London partnered with The Joshua Ribera Foundation, a charity that combats knife crime in his name, to commission a music video, 'Life Cut Short'. The video uses deepfake and audio technology, to tell Depzman’s tragic story through a new song called ‘Life Cut Short’, describing his childhood, career and the night that he died. 

It was done to raise awareness about knife crime in a new way. 

In partnership with SBTV, the campaign was supported by Jamal Edwards who was integral in the creative conception before his death earlier this year. SBTV successfully launched a new generation of stars such as Stormzy, J Hus and Ed Sheeran; Depzman was predicted to be equally as successful. 

The campaign was devised by creatives Elliot Lee and Rory Peyton-Jones at McCann London, who were inspired to find a new way to talk to young people about knife crime through culture. The pair also directed the music video under their directing alias BRIGHTNIGHT. For this campaign the pair wanted to find an authentic voice that young people would listen to. Depzman was the perfect choice, but to get his message across they would have to bring him back, using technology.

Midlands’ rappers ShadowCV and T-Roadz ghost-wrote the lyrics with support from Alison Cope, Depzman’s mum. The lyrics were inspired by Depzman’s life and music, emulating his 'flow' (the cadence and style of his rapping) and even using some of his old lyrics. Birmingham producer PhazeFX produced the instrumental in the style of grime from 2013 style with a 140bpm grime beat complete with choir sounds and melancholy piano. 

To bring the vocal to life Native manipulated a base recording to recreate Depzman’s voice. They researched Depzman’s recordings from around 2013 and implemented the same techniques as he was using at that time, such as double tracking parts of the vocal, and subtle reverb, to try to be as faithful as possible to his sound. Native also reached out to Depzman’s old crew, Invasion, to make sure it was authentic, resulting in a sound that matched Depzman’s voice at 18, just before he died. 

Alongside this, Fred Ashworth (head of production at Native) explains: “We used formant shifting to change the tone of the voice independently to the pitch, effectively digitally altering the size and shape of the vocal tract, and pushing the character of the voice more towards Depzman’s. Crucially, we were able to do this at a very detailed level, adjusting the processing from one syllable to the next, to really shape the performance. We were also able to tweak the length and speed of each individual word, allowing us to shorten certain words to match Depzman’s punchy, staccato energy.”

Alison Cope, Depzman’s mum and founder of The Joshua Ribera Foundation said: “When I first saw the film it was very emotional, I wanted to continue with it even knowing the difficult emotions that the project would have. I trusted the team to bring my son’s story to life respectfully and effectively. It makes me incredibly proud of what’s been achieved and the impact that it’s already had. I hope that this campaign will inspire the government, especially the Education Secretary, to use this film as a tool effectively and make education around youth violence compulsory in the UK.”

The video has already made an impact across social media, amassing more than 4 million views so far, having been shared by artists Jaykae, JME and Skepta. The video will also play across 65 prisons up and down the UK to send a powerful message about the consequences of carrying a knife. 


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Categories: Charity, Corporate, Social and PSAs

Native Music, Mon, 07 Nov 2022 15:13:24 GMT