UK drill is a subgenre of drill music and road rap that originated in the South London district of Brixton from 2012 onwards.[1][2][3] Initially borrowing heavily from the style of Chicago drill music before creating its own unique sound, UK drill artists often rap about violent and hedonistic criminal lifestyles.[4][1] Typically, those who create this style of music are affiliated with gangs or come from socioeconomically-deprived neighbourhoods where crime is a way of life for many.[1]

UK drill music is closely related to road rap, a British style of gangsta rap that became popular in the years prior to the existence of drill.[2][3][5] Musically, UK drill often exhibits violent language and provocative lyrics,[4] resulting in the genre being cited as a reason for an increase in knife crime in London.[6][7]

Characteristics

UK drill has developed a different production style than Chicago drill, taking influence from earlier British genres such as grime and UK garage; in an interview with Complex, Jammer noted that "without grime...there would be no UK drill."[8] Drill producer Mazza noted that both drill and grime share a similar rawness and energy, yet the two genres remain distinct from each-other. Drill producer Carns Hill, alongside several drill rappers, noted that UK drill should probably have a "new name" in order to distinguish it from the original Chicago drill sound.[9][10] UK drill is generally more fast-paced compared to its Chicago counterpart. UK drill beats are generally structured around a Tresillo hi-hat pattern, with snares landing on the fourth beat instead of the third every 2 bars. Instrumentals often also have a sliding bass, hard hitting kicks, and dark melodies. AXL Beats explained that the 808s and fast-tempo snares in UK drill are derivative of grime music.[11][12] Both genres typically utilise a tempo of approximately 138-151 beats per minute.[13][14]

Censorship of UK drill lyrics through vocal cuts and mutes are very common to avoid lyrics being used against them during prosecution by the police;[15] for example, "shh" is used in songs to replace the names of people, weapons and criminal acts.[16] The head of the Crown Prosecution Service said that videos of UK drill were used to connect suspects charged with offenses relating to gangs if they denied affiliation.[17]

History

150 (now known as GBG), a group from the Angell Town Estate, Brixton, is often credited with pioneering UK drill music. 150 members Stickz (also known as Stizzy Stickz), Grizzy (stylized as GR1ZZY) and M Dargg were dedicated exponents of the early style; however, 67 is often credited for shifting the sound away from the Chicago influences it seemed to heavily draw inspiration from in its early days and foundation and for forming a more homegrown sound,[18] with LD, one of its members, being named as the godfather of the genre.[19] Producers Carns Hill (who crafted instrumentals for many of 67's early songs), and QUIETPVCK (who worked closely by 150 and 410 members in their early era) are widely considered to be two of the main pioneering producers of the genre with their unique and innovative alternatives to the Chicago drill sound.[18][20]

An article from Vice divides the history of UK drill into 3 phases; the first of these phases, which lasted from 2014 to 2018, resulted in drill becoming "its own distinctly British entity", with the phase peaking in 2016 with the release of "Let's Lurk" by 67 featuring Giggs. Given that the genre was "locked out" of the mainstream music industry due to its uncensored nature, music videos became a major player in the genre's circulation.[21] Its uncensored nature also resulted in Form 696 being used to cancel shows by drill artists.[22] In early 2017, "Kennington Where It Started" was released by the Harlem Spartans, which was considered by a fans to turn UK drill from an underground genre to a mainstream one.[23]

In 2018, members of 1011 (now known as CGM), including Digga D, were given a court order that banned them from making music without police permission; in addition, they couldn't mention death or injury, including the death of Abdullahi Tarabi (also known as Teewizz), and had to notify police in advance of any song releases or performances. Kevin Southworth, Detective Chief Superintendent, noted that it was "one of the first times" that such an order was made. The order was condemned by Index on Censorship.[24]

In 2019, Skengdo & AM, members of drill group 410, were handed a 9-month suspended sentence, suspended for 2 years, for breaching a gang injunction.[25] According to The Guardian, the injunction, which was to last until January 2021, prevented Skengdo & AM, as well as 2 other members of 410, from entering the SE11 postcode, as well as prohibiting them from performing songs that had lyrics mentioning rival crews, their rappers or any mentions to them entering the territory of other groups.[26] The sentence resulted in a letter being signed by 65 people that was addressed to the Metropolitan Police, calling upon them to stop issuing gang injunctions and stating that musicians should be given the rights of freedom of speech and creative expression.[27]

Influence

UK drill received widespread attention outside of Britain in 2017, when comedian Michael Dapaah released the novelty song "Man's Not Hot" under the name "Big Shaq" or "Roadman Shaq". The track sampled a beat made by UK drill producers GottiOnEm and Mazza; it was first used by drill group 86 on its song "Lurk", and, later on, 67 on "Let's Lurk" featuring Giggs.[9][28][29]

Unknown T's song "Homerton B" charted on the Official Singles Chart after its August 2018 release, becoming the first UK drill single to do so. The song entered at number 83 on the chart on 28 August 2018, then peaked at 48 in September 2018.[30]

UK drill group 67 had two entries into the official charts; however, unlike "Homerton B", the entries were on the albums chart and not the singles chart. They reached number 66 in the Official Albums Chart with the mixtape Let's Lurk and number 71 with the mixtape The Glorious Twelfth.[31] Although considered a predominantly trap-based album that implemented some drill features and elements, Section Boyz's mixtape Don't Panic reached number 37 in the UK Albums Chart, later peaking at number 36 in 2015.[32]

Canadian musician Drake did a "Behind Barz" freestyle for Link Up TV in 2018, where he rapped over a UK drill beat. Drake also credited UK drill artist Loski as an influence for his 2018 album, Scorpion.[33][34] In 2019, Drake released "War"; the song used UK drill's production style and was produced by British producer AXL Beats.[35][36] Drake's flow in both instances was reminiscent of UK drill artists.[35][33]

In 2020, DigDat released Ei8ht Mile. The mixtape scored the biggest opening week for a UK drill album at the time, opening at number 12.[37] The same year, Skengdo & AM released EU Drillas, a collaborative project that featured drill artists from across Europe;[38] in addition, Headie One released "Only You Freestyle" with Drake, which peaked at number 5 on the UK Singles Chart.[39] Towards the end of the year, he released Edna, which debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart,[40] becoming the first UK drill album to do so.[41]

In 2021, Digga D's mixtape Made in the Pyrex peaked at number three on the UK Albums Chart, becoming the highest-charting UK drill mixtape at the time.[42] In the same year, Tion Wayne and Russ Millions released "Body", becoming the first UK drill song to reach Number 1 on the UK Singles Chart.[43]

Though the genre originated in London, it is not restricted to London alone as the genre's sole production hub in terms of emerging talents and dissemination of the sound. Artists around the country have appeared and become prominent creators within the scene, such as SmuggzyAce and S.White of Birmingham group 23 Drillas and SV of Nottingham.[44][45]

UK drill has spread outside of the United Kingdom, with artists and groups in other countries rapping in styles and using slang terms heavily influenced by UK drill music, and using UK drill instrumentals produced by British producers. Ireland, the Netherlands, and Australia in particular have developed drill scenes that are heavily indebted to UK drill music, with artists such as OneFour in Australia,[46] Offica and A92 in Ireland,[47] and 73 De Pijp from The Netherlands.[48] In addition, artists in Spain making drill music have also taken on influence by its British counterpart, with various references and similar production to UK drill; Spanish drill artists include 970Block[49] and Skinny Flex.[50] Other countries with UK drill-inspired scenes include Ghana and France.[51]

Brooklyn drill music began rising to prominence in the late 2010s. Brooklyn drill has taken influence from UK drill with artists such as Pop Smoke, Sheff G, and 22Gz collaborating with UK drill producers such as AXL Beats, Yoz Beats, Ghosty, and 808Melo.[52][53][54] 808Melo produced "Welcome to the Party" for Pop Smoke, which received a considerable amount of attention. Pop Smoke created a mixtape produced entirely by 808Melo and Trap House Mob (a team of UK-based producers).[55][56]

UK drill, alongside grime, has been cited as a reason for the expansion of Multicultural London English to other countries, including Finland[57] and Australia.[58]

Culture

UK drill groups often engage in rivalries with each other - sometimes violent[59] - often releasing multiple diss tracks towards each other.[60] The names of these groups sometimes reflect the postcode they are located in.[61] Notable rivalries include 67 versus GBG/150,[3][62] Harlem Spartans versus 410,[3][26] Zone 2 versus Moscow17,[3] OFB versus 3x3,[63][64][65] NPK/Sin Squad versus WoodGreen,[63][64] CGM/1011 versus 12A/12Anti and 12World[66][67] and 7th/BWC versus ACG/Y.ACG.[68]

The aesthetic of UK drill videos was described by Jonathan Ilan, of the University of London, in a paper within The British Journal of Criminology; the aesthetic included groups of young men, usually near council houses and wearing a variety of streetwear, using hand gestures to represent a variety of things, including tributes to their friends that were dead or jailed.[69] In addition, as a result of the police response to UK drill, drill artists began to adopt masks in order to protect their identities; these masks soon became an artistic statement, with an article in Dazed saying that, "As much as a method of hiding personal information, it was also a way of standing out from the crowd."[70] A 2021 book regarding music genres noted that "rather than personalized nicknames, performers strip themselves of any individuality or character so as to become...conflated with their gang."[16]

Controversy

The genre's violent lyrics have been cited by police, MPs, journalists and others in positions of potentially significant influence as the reason for a climb in the rate of knife crimes in London.[6][7] In one instance, then 17-year-old rapper Junior Simpson, better known as M-Trap, who had written lyrics about knife attacks, was part of a four-person group that stabbed a 15-year-old boy to death, for which he received a life sentence.[71] Judge Anthony Leonard QC told Simpson, "You suggested [the lyrics] were just for show but I do not believe that, and I suspect you were waiting for the right opportunity for an attack."[71]

In defence of the genre, a 2019 paper in The Sociological Review says that the genre "naturalistically broadcasts, but does not cause violent crime" and that drill musicians have become "both suspects and victims of state-administered racial injustice in an allegedly post-racial era."[72] Another paper, published in The British Journal of Criminology, states that:

"Media stories that position drill music as a cause of urban violence also...tend to reaffirm the view that young urban black men—and the forms of culture that appear tied to this population—constitute a threat to the civic mainstream. These stories...appear to have fed into the vague police cultures that sustain racialized stop and search practices in the capital."[73]

An article by Ciaran Thapar states that, rather than addressing the causes of youth violence, "those in power are content to target the music that rises, like steam from a pressure cooker, out of these conditions."[74]

In May 2018, YouTube reported that it had deleted more than half of the "violent" music videos identified by senior police officers as problematic; this was done through Operation Domain, which was established in September 2015 in order to remove gang-related YouTube videos.[75] Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick blamed some videos for fuelling a surge in murders and violent crime in London, singling out drill music. YouTube said that more than 30 clips had been removed. The removal of drill videos caused outrage in the community - with several drill artists condemning the Metropolitan Police[75][76] - and caused a slight lull in production of the music.[77]

In 2018, FACT magazine claimed in an article on UK drill producers M1OnTheBeat & MKThePlug:

..."Drill is this generation's furious response against the Conservative government's decimation of state support for the most vulnerable communities under austerity".[78]

In late 2018, South London-born drill MC and aspiring Mayor of London Drillminister created a track called "Political Drillin", which was broadcast on Channel 4 News and used comments made by Members of Parliament, attempting to highlight their own hypocrisy in using violent language.[79]

In 2021, a report by Policy Exchange stated that 37% of homicide cases in 2018 were linked to drill music. The report was condemned in a letter signed by 49 criminologists, which said that the report was factually incorrect.[80]

In 2022, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it would update guidance regarding the use of drill lyrics within criminal trials; the announcement stemmed from concerns from numerous groups, including academics and organisations such as JUSTICE.[81][82][83]

See also

References

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