Formerly Underground Music Genres – Part 2


Once underground, the drill music genre has been blasted into the headlines for its supposed links to violent crime in the inner city in Britain. But what is drill, and is it really responsible for violence? This article will give you the answers.

What is drill?

Drill is a type of trap music with distinctive, ominous beats. The most famous early artist to use it was Chief Keef, a rapper from Chicago. That city gave birth to the genre. It spread to cities like London, which, like Chicago, had a working-class black population. In some ways young British MCs were seeking to separate themselves from the grime music of older generations.

The rise of drill

Around 2012, south London young people latched on to the drill sound. They started to make their own music videos. Most of the time, these young people would appear on the videos in masks or hooded sweatshirts. Those involved often belonged to gangs, and they would shout these gangs out in their lyrics. They would also rap about guns, drugs, and stabbing their rivals. The internet was responsible for much of the spread of drill. Artists would put their videos on YouTube, such as MC SL, who racked up over 17 million views. They would also stream their songs online, ensuring that they reached a wide audience.

Even without commercial success, the reach of drill has been huge. In one of the best examples, the once-unknown MC Abra Cadabra won the award for best song at the Mobos, a large British awards ceremony. He has also been on BBC radio often, one of the country’s public broadcasters.

Is drill responsible for violence?

Hip-hop and its associated genres are no stranger to being blamed for violence. Popular artists spout drill lyrics that are most of the time full of violent content. This applies even to the more mainstream artists who are played on the radio, such as Giggs. He claims the lyrics are just bragging. The defenders of drill say it’s a reflection, not a cause of the gang violence in London especially. Others say that attacking drill ignores the complex factors that cause crime in inner cities.

However, those who want to make a case for the link can give several examples where life and art intertwined. In one case, rapper M-Trap was jailed for murdering a 15-year-old boy in a knife attack. Before it happened, he had rapped about stabbing. Threats and mockery of rivals in videos are common, and the so-called “postcode wars” are played out online where areas of London are marked out as territory.

It can be argued that music is the only form of self-expression for poor black Londoners. In one way, the music artists who make it big can be seen as an inspiration and a road out of poverty. That doesn’t mean, however, that music doesn’t have the power to egg on what would otherwise have been verbal back-and-forth. 

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