Grime, the British-originated urban music genre, is coming to the big screen with “Wiley,” a biopic of the musical pioneer from Pulse Films and BMG. Wiley is one of the most influential musicians of his generation and is known as the “Godfather of Grime.” He has also had several crossover hits, including “Wearing My Rolex.”
Adam Smith (“Trespass Against Us”) will helm the picture, which will tell the tumultuous life story of Wiley, whose real name is Richard Kylea Cowie. It will cover his early days as a struggling producer and performer on pirate radio in London up to when he began making a worldwide name for himself. The film will also trace the growth of grime from its underground U.K. roots to a genre that has resonated around the world.
“This is my life, my highs and lows, but it’s not really all about me,” Wiley said. “When I make music, help the scene or even do something like this, it’s like I’m not alone any more. It’s for people who grew up like me. I’m doing it to help people who are lost like me.”
Wiley released his latest album, “Godfather II,” on April 27. BMG has published all of Wiley’s songs since it started working with him in April 2015 with co-publishing partner Black Butter.
Film and TV director Smith’s feature debut was “Trespass Against Us” with Michael Fassbender. He also helmed the Chemical Brothers documentary “Don’t Think” and directed the video for Wiley’s single “Wot Do U Call It?” “Meeting Wiley and seeing what he and his friends were creating was a huge inspiration to me,” Smith said. “Making a film about this incredible talent and his story 15 years later is very exciting.”
Sabrina Mahfouz will write “Wiley,” and Pulse Films’ Marisa Clifford, alongside Josephine Davies, and Jacob Swan Hyam will produce. Pulse’s Thomas Benski and Lucas Ochoa, A-List Management’s John Woolf, and BMG’s William Kennedy and Kathy Daum will executive produce.
Janaya Cowie, Wiley’s sister, is also an exec producer, along with Jamal Edwards, founder of the influential SBTV urban music channel.
Pulse has a strong record in music films, with New York indie-rock doc “Meet Me in the Bathroom” in the works and “Lemonade,” the Beyonce-HBO project, among its previous offerings. Pulse Films CEO Clifford said: “We’re honored to be working with [Wiley] on such an ambitious project and thrilled to be collaborating with Adam Smith, who is an incredible and innovative filmmaker. We’re also very excited to be working with Sabrina Mahfouz, who we think is one of the most exciting young writers around.”
BMG is making film moves. It has a slate of docs, including a projects about rocker Joan Jett and a Pulse-produced project about influential reggae label Trojan Records. It also has a Cameron Crowe-directed feature doc about rock icon David Crosby in the works. Unlike those projects, “Wiley” will be dramatized. There is no word yet on who will play the titular grime pioneer.