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British hip hop is a genre of music, and a culture that covers a variety of styles of hip hop music made in the United Kingdom.[2][3] It is generally classified as one of a number of styles of urban music.[4] British hip hop can also be referred to referred to as Brit-hop, a term coined and popularized mainly by British Vogue magazine and the BBC.[5][6][7] British hip hop was originally influenced by the dub/toasting introduced to the United Kingdom by Jamaican migrants in the 1960s–70s, who eventually developed uniquely influenced rapping (or speed-toasting) in order to match the rhythm of the ever-increasing pace and aggression of Jamaican-influenced dub in the UK and to describe street/gang lifestyle and violence, similar to that in the US.

In 2003, The Times described British hip hop's broad-ranging approach:

..."UK rap" is a broad sonic church, encompassing anything made in Britain by musicians informed or inspired by hip-hop's possibilities, whose music is a response to the same stimuli that gave birth to rap in New York in the mid-Seventies.[3]



As in the US, British hip hop emerged as a scene from graffiti and breakdancing, and then through to DJing and rapping live at parties and club nights, with its supporters predominantly listening to and influenced by American hip hop. Unlike in the US, the British hip hop scene was cross-racial from the beginning, as various ethnic groups in Britain tend not to live in segregated areas, even in areas with a high percentage of non-white individuals. Such places allow youth to share culture with one another, including musical genres such as hip hop.[8]

Cross pollination through migrating West Indians helped develop a community interested in the music. The integration of sound systems represent a distinct British Caribbean influence. Sound systems allowed for powerful syncopated bass runs and the ability to bring this sound to different venues creating a club culture.[9] There were, however, British tunes starting to appear. Knowledge was England's first documented rapper (Black Echoes Magazine January 1980). The first ever British hip hop tune released on record was "Christmas Rapping" by Dizzy Heights (Polydor, 1982) and not (contrary to popular belief) "London Bridge" by Newtrament (Jive Records, 1983);[10] prior to this British artists were rapping live or recording amateur tapes.

There were earlier pop records which dabbled with rap — such as Adam and the Ants' "Ant Rap" (CBS, 1981) and Wham!'s "Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do)" (Inner Vision, 1982) — but these are often considered pop appropriations of US rap.[11] Punk band The Clash had earlier dabbled with rap on their album Sandinista! (CBS, 1980) and single "This is Radio Clash" (1981).

Malcolm McLaren's "Buffalo Gals" (Charisma, 1982), featuring the New York hip hop group World's Famous Supreme Team, was the breakthrough hit that introduced the genre to the United Kingdom — McLaren's Duck Rock album as a whole experimented with many musical styles from around the world. "Buffalo Gals" and another track from the album, "World's Famous" which also featured the group, used techniques which have been established in hip hop in the United States, such as sampling and scratching. Over the next few years, more UK hip hop and electro music was released: Street Sounds Electro UK (Street Sounds, 1984), which was produced by Greg Wilson and featured an early appearance from MC Kermit, who later went on to form the Wilson produced Ruthless Rap Assassins; The Rapologists' "Kids Rap/Party Rap" (Billy Boy, 1984); Grandmaster Richie Rich's "Don't Be Flash" (Spin Offs, 1985).[12] Releases were still few and far between, and the scene remained predominantly underground.

Westwood's official YouTube channel, Tim Westwood TV, has over 395 million video views and over 750,000 subscribers. The channel has videos of freestyles & interviews from hip hop artists including Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas and Lil Wayne.

Although record labels began to take note of the underground scene throughout the 1980s and 1990s, radio play and publicity were still a difficulty in helping the fledgling scene to grow, and the scene only managed to survive through word of mouth and the patronage of pirate radio stations around the country. Mainstream radio did play British hip hop on occasion, and instrumental in giving the scene wider recognition were DJs such as Dave Pearce, Tim Westwood, and John Peel.

British hip hop in the 1980s was not just confined to music and break-dancing, but also involved the spread of New York City-style graffiti — another integral element of American Hip Hop culture — to London and other UK inner-city areas, both on walls and trains. The most direct influence was, however, on graffiti painted in London Underground trains. Teenagers from inner London and other European cities who were into Electro-Hip Hop and had family and other links to New York City had by the mid-1980s taken up some of the traditions of subway Graffiti and exported them home, although legendary New York writers like Brim, Bio, and Futura had themselves played a significant role in establishing such links when they visited London in the early-to-mid-80s and 'put up pieces' on or near the west London end of the Metropolitan Line. Almost as significantly, just when Subway Graffiti was on the decline in New York City, some British teenagers who had spent time with family in Queens and the Bronx returned to London with a "mission" to Americanize the London Underground through painting New York City-style Graffiti on trains. These small groups of London 'train writers' adopted many of the styles and lifestyles of their New York City forebears, painting Graffiti train pieces and in general 'bombing' the system, but favoring only a few selected underground lines seen as most suitable for train Graffiti. Although on a substantially smaller scale than what had existed in New York City, Graffiti on London Underground trains became seen as enough of a problem by the mid-1980s to provoke the British Transport Police to establish its own Graffiti Squad modeled directly on and in consultation with that of the New York City MTA. At the same time, Graffiti art on London Underground trains generated some interest in the media and arts, leading to several art galleries putting on exhibitions of some of the art work (on canvass) of a few London train writers as well as TV documentaries on London Hip Hop culture like the BBC's 'Bad Meaning Good', which included a section featuring interviews with London train writers and a few examples of their pieces.

While many rappers such as Derek B imitated the styles and accents of their US heroes, there were many who realised that to merely transpose US forms would rob UK hip-hop of the ability to speak for a disenfranchised British constituency in the way that US hip-hop so successfully spoke to, and for, its audience. Attempts were made by UK rappers to develop styles more obviously rooted in British linguistic practices — Rodney P of the London Posse deliberately chose a London accent — although many succeeded only in adopting a slurred hybrid that located the rap "somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean".[13]

Development: Late '80s–early '90sEdit

The first UK record label devoted to releasing UK hip hop acts was founded in 1986. Simon Harris (musician)' Music of Life label was home to rapper Derek B — the first UK rapper to achieve chart success.

Building on Derek B's success, Music of Life went on to sign groups such as Hijack, the Demon Boyz, Hardnoise (later Son of Noise) and MC Duke. Their Hard as Hell series mixed homegrown talent like Thrashpack and the She Rockers with US artists such as Professor Griff. Music of Life was swiftly followed by other labels such as Mango Records and Kold Sweat. Another successful British hip-hop artist that emerged from Music of Life was Asher D, whose Jamaican origins showed through in his vocal style.

Slick Rick is commonly ranked as one of the greatest rappers of all time.

Moving away from its US roots, British hip hop started to develop its own sounds: acts like Hijack, II Tone Committee, Hardnoise, and Silver Bullet developed a fast and hardcore style, while many other acts took influences from elsewhere. Caveman and Outlaw Posse developed a jazz influenced style, whilst MC Mell'O' mixed jazz and hardcore. London Posse, Black Radical Mk II and DJ Ruf Cut And Tuf C were more influenced by reggae and disco whilst the Wee Papa Girl Rappers, Cookie Crew, and Monie Love achieved chart success with more radio friendly hip hop. However, despite the chart success of some British-born hip hop artists — for example Monie Love, Slick Rick, Young MC and MF Doom, who all moved to the US — the majority of the scene was still underground and small scale.

Kinetic Effect joined the scene in the early 1980s and was part of rap outfit 2 the Top as D-Koy; later, in 1991, he teamed with Insane Macbeth to record "Borderin' Insanity" (released in 1993) and in 1995, he recorded "Man Bites Dog"/"The Effect of Fear"[14] Their song "The Rhythm I Give 'Em," made the UK Top 10 Hip Hop chart. Other notable rappers of this era included London Rhyme Syndicate, Cash Crew, Shogun MC, MC Untouchable and Dee Lawal.[15]

In 1987 Positive Beat Records[16] came out of the hotbed of early UK Hip Hop, Ladbroke Grove, London with two releases. The label followed up the single "It's Getting Rough" by Rocky X and D-D Dance[17] with the Various Artists Known 2 Be Down[18] album. This featured Sir Drew (of KREW and Newtrament), MC Flex, She Rockers, Rapski and more of West London's finest rap talents.

In 1988, Rapski released "The Connection"[19] on 12".[20] The track was taken from Known 2 Be Down and was an early example of mixing Hip Hop and Reggae in a (London) Style. More was to come in the early 1990s in the form of MC Reason (aka Voice of Reason) with "Symbolise"/"HouseQuake" and Jonie D with "Which Base"/"Ride On" which was performed live on ITV in 1991.

A mindset began to develop — typified by the Gunshot tune "No Sell Out" (1991), or Son of Noise's tune "Poor But Hardcore" (1992) — that distrusted successful artists who did not utilise the hardcore style most associated with the scene. Silver Bullet's chart success was applauded due to an uncompromisingly rapid delivery, whereas Derek B and Rebel MC were scorned when their more pop influenced styles earned them success. Such artists were often branded "sell outs". As the scene grew, it became less common for British rappers to imitate US accents (those that did were often ridiculed) and British rap became more assured of its identity.

Hip Hop Connection — the first major British hip hop magazine — was founded in 1989 and by the early 1990s the British hip hop scene seemed to be thriving. Not only was there a firm base of rappers in London — such as Blade, Black Radical Mk II, Overlord X and Bushkiller (including Sirus) — but many distinct scenes developed nationally.

Birmingham and the West Midlands gave rise to Credit to the Nation, whose MC Fusion would espouse conscious anti-racist, sexist and homophobic lyrics. The band would also find some brief mainstream success with their indie rock crossover sound. Leeds spawned Braintax and Breaking the Illusion (who together founded Low Life Records) as well as Nightmares on Wax. Greater Manchester gave birth to the Ruthless Rap Assassins, Krispy 3 (later Krispy), the Kaliphz, Jeep Beat Collective and MC Tunes.

Bristol's scene has a long history going right back to the early 80s where links were made with outfits from New York. The fearless Four came over in 1984 along with Graffiti legends the Tats crew and Rock Steady Crew. Bristol (specifically, the St. Pauls area) produced The Wild Bunch (later better known as Massive Attack), Nellee Hooper who went on to produce for Soul II Soul. The city has also produced notable DMC DJs Mad Cut and DJ Quest. The city later became the home of trip hop with artists like Tricky and Portishead.

Caveman signed to a major label — Profile Records, the label home of Run–D.M.C. — and Kold Sweat came into their own, discovering groups like SL Troopers, Dynametrix, Unanimous Decision and Katch 22, whose "Diary of a Blackman" was banned by Radio 1 for using a sound clip from the National Front.

In 1991, Hijack released The Horns of Jericho (Rhyme Syndicate Records, 1991) on Ice-T's recently formed Rhyme Syndicate label. The first single, "The Badman is Robbin'", was a top 40 hit and they went on sell more than 30,000 albums.

British hip hop was affected by the record industry clamping down on sampling, beginning to charge for the use of samples and prosecuting those who used them without permission. Larger US acts could afford to license samples and still turn a profit for their labels, a luxury not available to many smaller UK artists. One such victim of this was Milton Keynes group The Criminal Minds. Their first two releases, the 1990 mini-album Guilty As Charged a 1991 EP Tales From The Wasteland were bogged down by potential sample clearance problems and thus were only ever made available in small numbers, yet rate amongst some of the finest pieces of UK hip hop recorded. As breakbeat hardcore music started to become very popular in the UK in the early to mid-1990s, The Criminal Minds turned their attention to making this type of music instead.

The UK hip hop boom never achieved its predicted commercial success. Hijack's The Horns of Jericho was never released in the US, while record companies dropped artists, citing poor sales and lack of interest. Mango Records closed down, and the British public began to turn their affections to jungle, a fusion of breakbeat hardcore, hip hop and reggae. Other acts and styles developed from the hip hop scene, resulting in new genres to describe them — for example Massive Attack[21] with trip hop, or Galliano, Us3 and Urban Species with acid jazz.

In the period between 1992 and 1995 the only group to make much impact was The Brotherhood. Formed in the 80s, they released their first record, simply called 'Brotherhood EP', as a white label in 1991. They went on to release 'Wayz of the Wize' in 1992, then 'Untitled 93' and 'XXIII' in 1993, and 'Hip Hop N' Rap' in 1994, all on the Bite It! label. None of the records sold in huge numbers but they managed to gain air play on the Tim Westwood show and DJ 279's show on Choice FM, gaining them a solid following across the UK. Bite It! also released tracks from artists such as Pauly Ryan and the Scientists of Sound.

New generation: Late '90s–early '00sEdit

Following an initial flurry of interest from major record labels in the 1980s, by the early 1990s the scene had moved underground after record companies pulled back. In the mid-1990s hip hop in the UK started to experiment and diversify — often mutating into different genres entirely, such as trip hop and began making inroads into the US market.[22]

As the old rappers left the scene, a new generation, raised on hip hop and electronica, was coming of age: The Herbaliser released Remedies (Ninja Tune, 1995), Mr. Scruff released the "Frolic EP Pt 1" (Pleasure Music, 1995), Mark B released "Any More Questions?" (Jazz Fudge, 1995) and DJ Skitz released "Where My Mind Is At/Blessed Be The Manor" (Ronin Records, 1996) featuring a young rapper called Roots Manuva on guest vocals who had previously released the single "Next Type of Motion" (Sound of Money, 1995).

Record labels that attempted to merge British hip hop style and sensibilities with modern dance music began to emerge, like Mark Rae's Grand Central (home to Aim, Rae & Christian, and Fingathing, among others) or DJ Vadim's Jazz Fudge. Increasingly, these artists managed to avoid the issues surrounding sampling by making music themselves (bands such as the Stereo MCs began playing instruments and sampling their own tunes) or searching out more obscure records where a most cost effective licensing deal could be arranged.

British hip hop began to go through a renaissance,[23] its style shifting from the hardcore template of its youth and moving into more melodic territory.

The Brotherhood managed to broker a major deal with Virgin Records in 1995. Continuing their relationship with Trevor Jackson as their producer, they released 3 singles ‘Alphabetical Response’, ‘One Shot’, ‘Punk Funk’ and their album Elementalz, all in 1996. Their work was met with critical acclaim and they toured solidly with American artists including Cypress Hill, The Roots and WuTang, but big record sales seemed to be very elusive and they parted ways with Virgin in 1998.

MF Doom has been ranked as one of the greatest rappers of all time.[24]

In late 1996 Will Ashon started up his new Ninja Tune backed label Big Dada and planned a roster of performers. Bandit of Birmingham's MSI/Asylum crew informed Will of Juice Aleem that he was contemplating who could truly represent the ethos of the new label. Ashon was impressed with the demo and agreed to have Aleem on board. The results of this were the first release of the now famous record label: in 1997 Juice featured on Big Dada record label's first ever release[2], "Misanthropic", under the pseudonym "Alpha Prhyme", a collaboration between himself and Luke Vibert.

In 1998 Mark B and Blade released "Hitmen for Hire EP", which featured guest appearances from Lewis Parker and Mr Thing (of the Scratch Perverts). The EP was a success, and led to the successful 2001 album The Unknown, which despite never charting in the UK top 75, was still a top 100 success and an even bigger success within its genre. Also, the album spawned the 2001 top 40 single "Ya Don't See the Signs", which was a remix by Feeder frontman Grant Nicholas, after the title track was a top 75 hit and Blade with Mark B supported Feeder. The same year, Bristol's Hombré label released the "2012 EP" from Aspects, a benchmark release within the movement. Roots Manuva, Blak Twang, Mud Family, Ti2bs, Task Force, Phi Life Cypher, MSI & Asylum, Jeep Beat Collective and Ty all came to the public's attention, while veteran acts Rodney P, Mike J, and MC Mell'O' returned to the scene. In 1999, MF Doom released his debut studio album Operation: Doomsday which has since been ranked as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time.

21st centuryEdit

Wiley was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to Music.

A new generation of artists emerged following the turn of the century, including Jehst, Idyllic, Nicky Spesh, Bion, Whitecoat, Ricta, Foreign Beggars and Usmaan. At the same time, a new style of electronic music emerged in the early 2000s, derivative of UK Garage and jungle, with influences from Dancehall, Drum and bass and hip hop. The new genre was dubbed grime (sometimes called eskibeat or sublow) and effectively superseded UK hip hop in both popularity and the mainstream conscious. Notable grime acts include Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Kano, Lethal Bizzle, Tinchy Stryder, Skepta, JME, Jammer, Shystie, Ghetts and Devlin. During this period UK hip hop artists have also continued to emerge with N-Dubz, Sway DaSafo and Giggs establishing themselves in recent time. Grime music saw some early success in America with Wiley, Kano and Dizzee Rascal, all releasing music across the atlantic. The mid 2000s saw some controversy regarding the lyrical content in grime music. Records such as Pow! (Forward) (2005) by Lethal Bizzle have allegedly made numerous references to guns and subsequently been banned from receiving airplay. According to leadership, hip-hop may often glorify gun culture and violence.[25] Dizzee Rascal has spoken back, claiming that his existence and the music he made was “a problem for Anthony Blair.”[26] Grime is generally considered to be distinct from hip-hop due to its roots primarily being genres such as UK garage and jungle.[27][28][29][30][31]

The embrace of the "gangster style of hip-hop" has brought about criticism from political figures like David Blunkett, who worries that British hip-hop may perpetuate violence.[32] British hip-hop, claims Roots Manuva, "is more healthy" than American hip-hop, and is about making the music than is it about exploiting wealth or hitting it rich.[33]

Success followed The Streets' 2002 album Original Pirate Material, and he became one of the first of the new breed of British hip hop artists to gain respectable sales, though his verbal style resulted in him being shunned by many artists in the scene. Such success has caused a surge in media exposure of other British hip hop acts. Welsh rap group Goldie Lookin Chain also achieved chart success with their tongue-in-cheek take on hip-hop.

It was at this point that UK Hip-Hop splintered into two genres and ideologies. Key records such as Skinnyman's Council Estate of Mind, and Klashnekoff's The Sagas Of... were released, cementing the reputations of the artists and opening up the floor for new artists to emerge. Labels Low Life Records, run by prominent political rapper Braintax, and Young N' Restless started and became the starting point for many.

At the same time, just as Garage was losing momentum, Grime was creating interest. Wiley's Treddin' on Thin Ice was a cornerstone of the genre, and one-time friend Dizzee Rascal won a Mercury Music Prize for his debut Boy in da Corner. From then on, grime artists were the only MC's for interested record labels, and UK Hip-Hop's momentum dried up.

Chipmunk (left) and Skepta (right) with American rapper Sean Combs in 2011. Combs has also given recognition to Stormzy.[34]

A new generation of young socially conscious hip-hop musicians emerged as a counter to the grime scene that many in the UK Hip Hop Scene perceive as commercial. These rappers strived to bring attention to both positivity and lyricism as well as the injustices of war, gentrification and racism, following in the tradition of conscious rappers such as Nas, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Amongst these artists who proudly define themselves as "Hip Hop" rather than "Grime" are the likes of Klashnekoff, Akala, Wackman, Swag Blanket and the Poisonous Poets. Perhaps the rapper with the biggest underground support not getting coverage by the mainstream media is rapper, political activist and poet Lowkey who has toured America and worked with notable acts such as Immortal Technique, Dead Prez and Chuck D of Public Enemy. Acts such as N-Dubz, Tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk emerged in 2009 to wide commercial success. Tinchy Stryder scored two number ones with songs Number 1 and Never Leave You and became the best-selling British solo artist of 2009.[35] The following year continued the success of the previous, with acts like Professor Green and Tinie Tempah breaking through to even bigger commercial success and also critical appreciation. The debut album from Tinie Tempah called Disc-Overy went to number one in the UK album chart and was certified platinum on 1 March 2011.[36] He also won a Brit Award for his number one single "Pass Out". Rapper Plan B found success with his 2010 Hip Hop and Soul fusion album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, followed by the soundtrack album Ill Manors in 2012, both of which peaked at number 1 in the UK Albums Chart.

Stormzy's Gang Signs & Prayer is certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

In 2014, Scottish alternative hip-hop trio Young Fathers won the Mercury Music Prize for their album Dead. The album entered the UK chart at 35 after they won the award. Riz Ahmed, also known as Riz MC, was featured in the song "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)" in The Hamilton Mixtape, which topped the Billboard 200 chart in 2016.[37] At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), "Immigrants" won the award for Best Fight Against the System.[38]

Skepta's Konnichiwa (2016) won the Mercury Prize and was named the Best Album of 2016 by Apple Music.

Stormzy released his debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, on 24 February 2017. The album was a mixture of grime, hip-hop, and R&B,[39] and was the first grime album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart. In February 2018, Gang Signs & Prayer won British Album of the Year at the 2018 Brit Awards. He has reached number on the UK Singles Chart a total of two times; firstly as part of "Artists for Grenfell" on June 23, 2017 with song "Bridge Over Troubled Water, and secondly with his own solo single "Vossi Bop", which debuted at number-one upon its entry, ahead of "Me!" by Taylor Swift featuring Brendon Urie by some 500 combined sales.[40]

Skepta collaborated with American rapper ASAP Rocky on the song "Praise the Lord (Da Shine)", the second single from his third studio album Testing on June 26, 2018. It was the third collaboration between both artists, following Skepta's appearance on Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends and ASAP Rocky's appearance on Skepta's Vicious EP in 2017. The song was successful in a number of countries, peaking at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 18 on the UK Singles Chart. It was later certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Skepta also collaborated with American rapper Playboi Carti on the single "Lean 4 Real" from his debut studio album Die Lit, also released in 2018.

Dave received recognition from Canadian rapper Drake in 2016. Drake subsequently featured in a remix of his song "Wanna Know". In 2017, Dave did a freestyle on American radio station Power 106 Los Angeles which has accumulated over 1,000,000 views on YouTube. In 2018, Dave achieved his first UK number-one hit with "Funky Friday" which featured British rapper Fredo. Dave's debut album, Psychodrama (2019), debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and became the most-streamed first-week British rap album in the UK with a total of 23.6 million streams. The album was highly acclaimed and received a nomination for the Mercury Prize.

Road rapEdit

Road rap (also known as UK rap and British gangsta rap) is a genre of music pioneered in South London, primarily in Peckham and Brixton.[41][42] The genre came to the fore as a backlash against the perceived commercialisation of grime in the late 2000s in London.[43]. Road rap retained the explicit depictions of violence and British gang culture found in some early grime music and combines it with a musical style more similar to American gangsta rap than the sound system influenced music of grime, dubstep, UK garage, jungle, reggae and dub.[44] The most famous exponents of this style include Krept and Konan,[45] Sneakbo,[46] Giggs,[47] and K Koke.[43]

Gangs played a large part in the genre, with gangs such as the Peckham Boys based in Peckham (with its various subsets such as SN1, PYG, and OPB) and GAS Gang, based in Brixton, becoming notable in the road rap scene during the 2000s.[42][48][41]

The road rap scene centres around mixtape releases and YouTube videos with some of the genres more popular acts getting mainstream recognition.[43] The genre has been criticised for the relentless nihilism and violence in its lyrics as well as its links to gangs and gun crime with many rappers serving prison sentences.[44][49][50] In keeping with grime, road rap has suffered from preemptive policing with Giggs claiming that the Metropolitan Police have set out to deny him the opportunity to make a living from music having banned him from touring.[51] In 2011, Stigs was served the first ever gang injunction that banned him from rapping about anything that may encourage violence.[52]

In the early 2010s, the american genre drill began to emerge in the UK, pushed by artists such as 150, 67, and Section Boyz.[53] Drill has been called a subgenre of road rap due to the influence the genre has had on drill[54].[55][56] Road rap also went on to influence afroswing, which emerged in the mid-2010s.[57]

Notable road rap artists include:

Notable road rap groups include:

UK drillEdit

Stylistic originsEdit

UK drill[65][57][66] is a subgenre of drill music and road rap that originated in the South London district of Brixton from 2012 onwards. Borrowing heavily from the style of Chicago drill music, UK drill artists often rap about violent and hedonistic criminal lifestyles.[67][65] Typically, those that create this style of music are affiliated with gangs or come from socioeconomically-deprived neighborhoods where crime is a way of life for many.[65] UK drill music is heavily related to road rap,[57][66][68] a British style of gangsta rap that became popular in the years prior to the existence of drill. Musically, UK drill often exhibits violent language.[67]

There is common debate about which Brixton and surrounding area group initially pioneered the UK drill sound. Those associated with gangs 150 and Uptop and a majority of fans of the genre believe that Angell Town Estate, Brixton, is the true birthplace of UK drill, particularly rappers Stizzy Stickz, Grizzy, M Dargg & Perm being dedicated exponents of the early style, along with and mentored by former members of PDC (Peel Dem Crew / Poverty Driven Children).[69][70] However, on the flip side, it is argued that group 67 of the New Park Road area and surroundings furthered the sound enough to make UK drill an exclusively British export, and finally distance it from the initial Chicago sound it seemed to heavily draw inspiration from in its early days and foundation. Producers Carns Hill[71] (who crafted instrumentals for many of 67's early songs), and QUIETPVCK (who worked closely by 150, 410 & Uptop 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.[72]

UK drill also takes influence from earlier British genres such as grime and UK garage, so much so that it has been called "the New Grime"[73] and drill producer Carns Hill has commented that it needs a new name. Both drill and grime share the same beats per minute, situated around 140BPM.[74][75][74] Mazza, a UK drill producer, disagreed with the 'new grime' label however, and noted that while they share the same energy, rawness, and a similar history in how they began, both genres are distinct in their own ways.[73] Autotune, unlike American drill, is largely absent within UK drill, with British drill artists utilising a much harsher, stripped-back delivery indebted to grime and earlier road rap. UK drill rappers have also taken on a more allusive, ironic lyrical style; taken on mainly because of the attention attracted from the mainstream media, and also the police; due to its previously much more brazen and direct nature.[57]


A notable activity popularized among UK drill fans is speculating on social media about which drill artist has been sent to prison or what information can be gathered about which "GM" (gang member) has been violated (disrespected / degraded) by whom, adding to what is known as the “scoreboard” (how many people a particular group have collectively stabbed). The commonly used terms "3 The Mandem" and also "Fresh out the can" are observably used by UK Drill rappers, the first one meaning to "Free those in prison" and the latter referring to people "Recently out of / released from prison".[65]

UK drill groups often engage in disputes with each other, sometimes violent, often releasing multiple disrespectful tracks. Notable disputes include Zone 2 versus Moscow 17,[66] 150 versus 67,[66] OFB/NPK versus WG/N9 and SMG versus 814 (a member of 814, Showkey, was stabbed to death in 2016 in an unrelated incident[76]).

UK drill received widespread attention outside of Britain in 2017 when comedian Michael Dapaah released the novelty song "Man's Not Hot". The track samples a beat made by UK drill producers GottiOnEm and Mazza; it was first used by drill group 86 on its song "Lurk", and later 67 with "Let's Lurk" featuring Giggs.[77][78][79]

Controversy & legal issuesEdit

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.[80][81] 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.[82] 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.”[82]

In May 2018, YouTube reported that it had deleted more than half of the "violent" music videos identified by senior police officers as problematic. 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 cause of the deletion of UK drill videos drive from a stop and search done on the West London gang 1011, where they were reported to be on a ride out to retaliate against the opposition. Banning drill caused outrage in the community and caused a slight lull in production of the music. [83]

In 2018, FACT magazine stated 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".[84]

Spread & growthEdit

UK drill music has started to spread and derive from just London alone being the sole production hub of music for the genre, with notable artists such as SmuggzyAce and S. White of Birmingham group "23 Drillas"[85], and Samurai of Manchester group "40", picking up traction and views for their musical work online via video sharing and music streaming platforms and becoming generally accepted outside of the origins of the main London scene, helping expand the genres reach across the country. Another notable artist whose journey began outside of London is Scouse Trappin Tremz (often shortened to just Scouse Tremz or Tremz) of Liverpool, who has frequently collaborated with North London rapper A1FromThe9.[86]

The genre has even begun to 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 beats most often produced directly by British producers in the genre. Some of these artists include Group "ONEFOUR" of Australia[87], Chuks & J.B2 both hailing from Dublin, Ireland[88]; and New York City has a prominent derivative style known as N.Y. drill emerging between 2017 to 2019, which is influenced more by the UK form of drill music, rather than its much closer to home Chicago Drill music counterpart, though still takes influence in some form from both sides.[89] An example of a big exponent of the NY drill derivative style is Pop Smoke, who used one of London producer 808 Melo's instrumentals for his song "Welcome to the Party", which received a considerable amount of attention, to the point global hip hop star Nicki Minaj was implemented into the remix of the song as a featured artist. Further to this, Pop Smoke created a 9 track project produced entirely by 808 Melo and Trap House Mob (a team of UK based producers).[90][91] Artists in Spain making drill music have also taken on influence by its British counterpart, with various references and similar production to UK drill.[92]

Chart success & transition into mainstreamEdit

Unknown T's song "Homerton B" charted after its August 2018 release; and in doing so, became technically the first ever ‘UK drill’ single to officially enter the charts. The song entered at number 83 on the Official Singles Chart Top 100 on the 28th August 2018, then peaked at 48 in September 2018; putting him in the running with the likes of Drake, Travis $cott, Nicki Minaj & Eminem; world-renowned artists who also charted closely in this period, which was unheard of for a UK drill song at the time.[93]

UK drill group 67 had two entries into the official charts, however unlike the Unknown T entry, this was 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.[94] Although considered a predominantly trap based album which implements some drill features and elements, Section Boyz mixtape Don't Panic reached number 37 in the UK Albums Chart, later peaking at number 36 in 2015.[95]

The above entries set off a snowball effect of UK drill song entries into the Official Singles Charts, and Artists being propelled closer to the British mainstream. As the songs entered the charts, more people began to find out and talk about UK drill again, thus attracting new fans to the genre, and attracting both positive and negative media attention for various reasons, keeping the genre in the limelight, and bursting the bubble the genre was confined within. This also opened up drill to UK artists of other genres more, to begin rapping over drill style instrumentals and experimenting with sounds inside of the genre, as opposed to their usual styles.

Notable UK drill singles & albums charting in the Top 100 (between 2015–2019):[96]

Artist Title Peak Type Entry
Section Boyz Don't Panic 36 Album 01 October 2015
67 Let's Lurk 66 Album 22 September 2016
67 Glorious Twelfth 71 Album 27 July 2017
Loski Call Me Loose 44 Album 26 April 2018
Headie One The One Two 32 Album 05 July 2018
Unknown T "Homerton B" 48 Single 06 September 2018
DigDat "Air Force" 20 Single 27 September 2018
Smoke Boys Don't Panic II 60 Album 01 November 2018
Russ "Gun Lean" 09 Single 03 January 2019
DigDat & Loski "No Cap" 51 Single 28 February 2019
Loski Mad Move 41 Album 14 March 2019
Russ & Tion Wayne "Keisha & Becky" 07 Single 04 April 2019
RV & Headie One Drillers & Trappers 2 21 Album 04 April 2019
RV & Headie One "Match Day" 86 Single 04 April 2019
Digga D "No Diet" 20 Single 02 May 2019
Hardy Caprio & DigDat "Guten Tag" 18 Single 16 May 2019
Digga D Double Tap Diaries 11 Album 30 May 2019
Digga D "P4DP" 54 Single 30 May 2019
Digga D & Russ "Mr Sheeen" 63 Single 04 July 2019
Kenny Allstar "Friday" (ft. DigDat) 62 Single 18 July 2019
Krept & Konan "I Spy" (ft. Headie One & K-Trap) 18 Single 25 July 2019
Headie One Music x Road 05 Album 05 September 2019

Notable artistsEdit

Notable groups in UK drill music include:

Notable artists of UK drill include:

Notable and well-known producers of the genre include: QUIETPVCK[156], Carns Hill[157], M1OnTheBeat[158][159], MKThePlug[160][161], Tre Mission[162], Ghosty[163], 808Melo[164], Nyge[165], Zeph Ellis[166], MikaBeats[167], BKay[168], GottiOnEm[169], JB104[170], Mazza[171], D Proffit[172] & Tweeko[173], amongst an abundance of others.


Outside of the London drill scene, there are a number of more American-influenced trap artists such as the group Section Boyz (now performing under the name "Smoke Boys"), and also rappers like TE dness, S Loud, M Huncho, Nafe Smallz, K-Trap and SL (formerly Slimz) plus many more. Many of these artists gained influences from the US trap scene and deciding to add the UK sound and flavour to the genre. Many of them talk about braggadocious lifestyles they live and how it affects their music. In several interviews before, M Huncho has described his more tone-down, melodic style and moderately humbler approach when it comes to lyrics as his own derivative take on UK trap music, in a genre he has personally dubbed as "Trapwave".[174] Wolverhampton artist Scarlxrd implements an energetic aesthetic and tone with explosively brazen shouty "screamo" type vocals, and dark yet reflectively intense and meaningful lyricism in an essentially self-pioneered style known as "Trap-Metal" or "ragecore"; a fusion of trap music, metalcore, horrorcore and hardcore punk, along with traditional hip hop. Scarlxrd has cited some of his main inspirations and influences as including the likes of Eminem, Bring Me the Horizon, Limp Bizkit, DMX, Slipknot, Travi$ Scott and Linkin Park, among others.[175][176][177]

Notable British trap artists & groups include:

  • 6IXVI (6 Figure Music)
  • Ay Em
  • Baseman
  • Clue
  • D-Block Europe
  • Dappy
  • Fekky
  • House of Pharaohs
  • K-Trap
  • Lancey Foux
  • M Huncho
  • Nafe Smallz
  • Octavian
  • S-X
  • S Loud
  • Scarlxrd
  • Sigeol
  • Skeamer
  • SL (formerly Slimz)
  • Smoke Boys (formerly Section Boyz)
  • Solo LDN
  • Suspect
  • TE dness
  • Young Tribez (formerly Bank Roll Young)
  • Yung Fume

Backlash against commercialisationEdit

Since grime's post-millennial boom period coincided with UK hip-hop's, the eagerly anticipated commercial breakout of the latter did not happen. Instead, acts such as Tinchy Stryder, Tinie Tempah, N-Dubz and Chip were signed to major labels and their traditional sound tweaked to fit a pop sensibility. However the lineage of these, and many UK rappers, is unquestionably grime rather than UK hip-hop.

There is a common belief within the underground hip hop community that true hip hop is music relevant primarily to the disenfranchised listeners, rather than the mass market. Because of the belief that mainstream acts are paid large sums of money by the major labels to make music tailored to the current mass market, these artists often face a backlash and accusations of 'selling out' from the underground community.[178]


The growth of British hip hop was given a boost when in 2002, the BBC launched a digital radio station 1Xtra devoted to "new black music" including hip hop, R&B, soul, UK garage, dancehall, grime and drum and bass,[179] however 1Xtra does not play exclusively British hip hop. The cable and satellite channel, Channel AKA (formerly Channel U, now known as Total Country) also had the profile of British hip hop and grime. YouTube was also a very important outlet for upcoming and significant artists. Channels include Link Up TV, GRM Daily, SB.TV, Pressplay Media and Mixtape Madness.


Women have contributed to hip hop's evolution in Britain from the beginning.[180] Female British hip hop artists include Alesha Dixon, Baby Blue, Estelle, Kate Tempest, Lady Leshurr, Lady Sovereign, Little Simz, M.I.A., Monie Love, Nadia Rose, Shystie, Stefflon Don, Mercury prize winners Ms. Dynamite and Speech Debelle and music producer Mizz Beats.[181] Other British female rappers have included Cookie Crew, She Rockers, Wee Papa Girl Rappers, NoLay, C-Mone and Envy.

Neneh Cherry, born in Stockholm, moved to England when she was 14 years old, and contributed to early British hip hop. Raw Like Sushi (1989) was solely produced by English producers and was a massive hit in both the UK and US. Cherry continues to produce and release music today.

Women in hip hop often confront a large amount of sexist stereotyping; however some female British hip hop artists such as Lady Sovereign and M.I.A. have achieved success both in the UK and US. Artists such as Kate Tempest, Ms Dynamite, M.I.A. and Speech Debelle have also become known for political and social commentary in their music. Singer, songwriter and rapper Estelle said of the difficult position of female rappers: “I think they get a tough ride because some of them don’t see themselves above and beyond the bullshit and no one’s really given them that break.”[182]

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