Graphic lyrics and eerie melodies – is drill as negative for the youth as the media suggests?
A city notorious for being one of the most dangerous cities in America. Home to scenes that drew comparison to the the war-torn state of Iraq. 2016 was the year that the murder rate in the city of Chicago, nicknamed Chi-raq, was even higher than that of Iraq.
Amidst all this chaos, the new subgenre of rap that contained tales of murder and drugs was created, but it wasn’t the content that was new, it was the sound.
Drill is not the first form of rap to delve into those topics so candidly, but what was new was the sound it was combined with; dark melodies with heavy-hitting 808s coupled with the unapologetic lyrics of a lifestyle many aren’t privy to.
One of the innovators of drill, Chief Keef, burst onto the scene as 16 year old with the single “I Don’t Like” in 2012. This turned out to be the breakout moment for drill and the catalyst for future adaptations of the drill sound.
With many of the originators of drill being locked up or dead, people around the world began to create their own take on Chicago drill.
In the UK, some of the first drill artists were groups, 67 and Section Boys (now known as Smoke Boys). The tempo and aggressive delivery was reminiscent of the beloved grime but was combined with elements of trap. This created a sound that quickly became universally appealing.
Despite starting off as an underground sound for the streets, drill music has surprisingly edged its way into mainstream charts. Artists like Headie One and Tion Wayne, are now finding themselves next to names like Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa on the UK charts.
With more eyes, comes more judgment and drill has often been a hot topic on the news. With the content of the majority of drill songs being so raw and violent, many people have wondered and proclaimed that the rise and knife crime is linked with the popularisation of drill.
The scrutiny of drill however didn’t stop at the media. London based artists Skengdo and AM were handed a sentence of 9 months, suspended for 2 years. This was following a concert in London, on their sold out tour in late 2018.
Police reported that this was due to the pair breaching a gang injunction, by performing their song Attempted 1.0, which “incited violence”.
When Shakespeare wrote of murder, rape and incestual relations, no one was of the opinion that he was inciting nor normalising any of these issues. Why? Simple – because it’s art. Music is also art, an outlet to express your reality, your thoughts and your truths. If we look at drill the same way, then concerns from far removed politicians and media reporters would perhaps be able to see that the violence spoken of in drill, is a reflection of the lives of these young men. Young men, who devoid of opportunity, have unfortunately witnessed or been a part of gang life.
Drill is serving as a means to escape the shackles of the gang life that many of these young artists are suffering from. Is it right for us to attribute the gang crime or violence to the lyrics of drill artists? Better yet, is there even any factual evidence to support this claim?
There are other more serious factors that have contributed to the rise in knife crime and despite what politicians may claim, the biggest of them is not drill.
Whether it’s rapped about or not, banned or censored, the crime and violence plaguing our youth will not simply go away.