YouTube isn’t the most obvious destination if you’re searching for a compelling new drama series. But the enthralling narrative of Shiro’s Story has captured a massive audience on the platform with its portrayal of family struggle, frayed relationships and gang violence.

Written by grime MC turned director Rapman, the hit show has amassed a cult following since the release of the first episode in April. The creators have staggered the release of the first three episodes over the past six months, allowing for buzz around the show to snowball.

South London storyteller mixes rap and telly

The entire show is performed in freestyle rap verses, with the various characters miming along with Rapman’s flow. This technique speeds up the dialogue and action of the mini-series, meaning that each episode fits into a short 10 minute clip (except episode 3 which is slightly longer).

So what is the show even about?

The story focuses on the life of Shiro, the show’s title character. Shiro is a family man whose life is turned upside down after his best friend Kyle betrays him. Huge plot twists ensue and drastically change Shiro’s life, altering the storyline in turn. The third and (perhaps) final episode culminates in a heart-wrenching climax which forces Shiro to confront his enemies in front of his family.

Shiros StoryUK stars appear in Rapman’s gritty drama

As the hype for Shiro’s Story has grown, an increasing number of artists have been starring in the episodes. With Michael Dapaah (aka Big Shaq), Not3s and  Konan making cameo appearances, Rapman’s powerful drama has made headlines. Major news outlets including the BBC and ITV have picked up on the show and interviewed the show’s creator.

So what can be learned from the massive success of Shiro’s Story?

With SVOD services coming to dominate TV, Shiro’s Story represents an example of great online content beyond Netflix and the other streaming platforms. The fact that this low-budget drama series became a smash hit demonstrates that audiences still get excited by grassroots storytelling and innovative new television formats (find more of these insights in our blog on BBC Director of Content Charlotte Moore’s Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture). So if broadcasters are to learn anything from this rap-drama hybrid, it’s to empower diverse young talent to tell their own stories. If they want to capture a sustainable youth audience, they need to take risks with new content to challenge the digital giants of SVOD.

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