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Top Boy Netflix documentary
Courtesy of Netflix

Watch a mini-doc about the revival of Top Boy

We get an exclusive new look at the raw London drama about gang life and mentality, with insight from Drake, Kano, Little Simz, and more

When Channel 4 decided to cancel the cult show Top Boy after two successful seasons without giving an official reason, the choice left not only its crew, but also its loyal fan base, baffled. “For the past six or seven years, I have been constantly bombarded with questions (about it), I can’t even put petrol in a car without someone going ‘Are they going to do the third one?’,” says Kane Robinson – also known as Kano, and one of the show’s original cast members. Now, thanks to Netflix, the reboot of the acclaimed show is coming back to our screens this autumn.

The series gained notoriety in 2011 for its honest, raw depiction of gang life in London’s Hackney. It follows the daily realities of two drug dealers, Sully (Robinson) and Dushane (played by Ashley Walters), and the decisions they have to make to stay on top of their trade, often turning to violence towards those who stand in their way. This authentic, gritty portrayal of life – that is often omitted from or sanitised on TV – quickly resonated with young audiences around the UK, and rightfully so. As Jasmine Jobson, who plays the part of Jaq, points out in the documentary: “We’re underlining issues that are either swept under the carpet or not really spoken about too much.”

Luckily for its creators, the series found a devoted fan in Drake who, besides being a rap megastar, has been also successfully dipping his toes in the world of TV production, with HBO’s Euphoria, a now celebrated addition to the teen TV canon, with its honest portrayal of sex, drugs, and gen Z life. The rapper has been praising Top Boy on social media since 2014, and publicly vowed to bring the cult TV show back to our screens. “He was just magnificent! He loved the show and wanted to do whatever he could. He also did the bulk of the pitch to Netflix, and I barely had to say anything, ” admits the original creator Ronan Bennett.

Drake has a lot of faith in the triumph of his latest project. While talking to the show’s cast and crew during the final read-through, he says boldly: “I want to express how happy this room makes me! The show has meant the world to me. I’m sure we’ll be all together winning awards and talking about how successful this (the series) is.”

The show has been known for casting up-and-coming rappers as actors too, with Kano (Robinson) and Asher D (Walters) excelling as protagonists in the first two seasons. The latest instalment brings two new rising stars of the genre to the spotlight: Dave and Little Simz, who are both nominated for this year’s prestigious Mercury Prize for their critically-acclaimed albums Psychodrama and Grey Area respectively.  

Alongside the series’ new star power association, the crew is certain that Top Boy’s candour is here to stay, thanks to Bennett’s signature style of writing. “We’re going to create essentially the same show that we would have before, but it’s now in a climate where everyone is going to be able to consume it,” says Walters. He adds: “There’s crime in every part of the world. Maybe not on your doorstep, but with gentrification, it’s probably not that far from you.” With the show’s release set for this Autumn, we’re certain that the creators will once again succeed in bringing the human side of those crimes to our attention.

The acclaimed show is coming back to our screens this September on Netflix – check out this short doc, TOP BOY: The Legacy Documentary, on the exciting journey to the reboot, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the new cast and set-up.