UK drill is a regional 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. Typically, those who create this style of music are affiliated with gangs or come from socioeconomically-deprived neighborhoods where crime is a way of life for many. 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. Musically, UK drill often exhibits violent language and provocative lyrics.
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). 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 (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.
UK drill has developed a different production style than Chicago drill taking influence from earlier British genres such as grime and UK garage so much so that it has been called "the New Grime" and drill producer Carns Hill has commented that it needs a new name. However, Mazza, a UK drill producer, disagreed with the "new grime" label, maintaining that although drill and grime share the same energy, rawness, and originated in a similar fashion, the two genres are distinct in their own ways. UK drill is generally more fast-paced compared to its Chicago counterpart. Instrumentals often also have a sliding bass, hard hitting kicks, and dark melodies. AXL Beats explained that the 808's and fast-tempo snares are derivative of grime music. Both genres typically utilise a tempo of approximately 140 bpm.
Autotune, unlike American drill, is largely absent within UK drill with British drill artists utilising a much harsher and 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.
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, 150 versus 67, OFB/NPK versus WG/N9 and SMG versus 814 (a member of 814, Showkey, was stabbed to death in 2016 in an unrelated incident).
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.
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. 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. 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."
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 (today known as CGM), 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.
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".
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 UK MPs attempting to highlight their own hypocrisy in using violent language.
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 28 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.
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. 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.
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.
Though a majority of UK drill artists hail from the capital (which can be attributed in part due to the much larger population of London, in comparison to other British cities), it is not restricted to London alone as the genres 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".
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, Chuks & J.B2 from Dublin, Ireland, and 73 De Pijp from The Netherlands. New York drill music began rising to prominence in the late 2010s. New York drill, primarily based in Brooklyn, 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. 808Melo produced "Welcome to the Party" for Pop Smoke, which received a considerable amount of attention. Pop Smoke created a 9 track project produced entirely by 808 Melo and Trap House Mob (a team of UK based producers). Artists in Spain making drill music have also taken on influence by its British counterpart, with various references and similar production to UK drill.
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. In 2019, Drake released "War". The song used UK drill's production style and was produced by British producer AXL Beats. Drake's flow in both instances was reminiscent of UK drill artists.
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