The Sound: Is Drill on the decline?

Whilst drill is still a majorly underground sound, it has gained a significant fan base.

With this, a number of things have happened – most obviously an influx of people doing drill. Now whilst this is not in itself a bad thing on its own, what is bad is how it’s beginning to lack originality. Beyond even lacking originality what we’re being given as fans is an over saturation of a sound, and it’s not even all good quality.

This may just be symptomatic of our current musical climate where new music is constantly coming at consumers, with very little of it having longevity. This climate is what breeds the trend, and burst in new drill rappers, as people are just trying to capitalise on whatever sound is hot. This is not a phenomenon unique to drill however Afro-Swing also suffers for this problem, but that’s for another article.

With drill what makes it especially heartbreaking is the fact that drill is something brand new. It was made by the youth for the youth and sounds nothing like what came before it sonically. Yes, it is rap and British, with debatable influence from Chicago, but the flows and beat selection are nothing like what came before it.

Just look at Loski. Loski at this point is essentially the poster boy for drill, with the older groups like 67 seemingly having had their time in the limelight. Loski has just released Call Me Loose, his debut mixtape. Additionally, he released visuals to the Forrest Gump track from that mixtape. If we look at Forrest Gump it sounds like Afro-Swing production wise and even the singing vibe but the content and flows are so clearly drill. More broadly though Loski and his Harlem Spartans camp came up with a flow that moves between speedy sections, what seems like expert breath control to allow lyrics to cross the bar line at will, as well as occasional sections with an awkward delivery that seems to work contrary to the beat.

Yet there is only one Loski, and what makes him stand out amongst his peers is his ability to constantly switch up. Other artists have their own unique selling points which they thrive on, not everyone has to be extremely versatile in delivery just look at K Trap or even 67. But what has stopped certain artists from simply fading into the background of the growing trend is having a stylistic feature that others just can’t quite replicate in the way the original artist can. An example of this is voice – Q2T has a very distinct voice that sets him apart from other artists that do drill.

But the flip side of this is that once certain styles seemingly become popular with consumers, more and more people pop up trying to replicate. Drill is no exception. The first names we really heard were 150, 67, 86 then we saw Harlem Spartans, 410 and the likes and the growth just hasn’t stopped. Every day there’s a new balaclava wearing drill artists talking about “splashings” and “chingings” and what they’ll do to the “opps”. But unfortunately, music isn’t for everyone. For every successful artist like Headie One, there are at least five terrible imitations.

Of course, bad imitations aren’t exclusive to drill, it is a symptom of drill being the popular sound for now.

What is arguably drill’s biggest problem at the moment is its perception not just amongst the general public but also in mainstream media. We have seen The Independent call drill “the demonised rap genre”, The Times says that “Murders and stabbings plaguing London and other cities are directly linked to an ultra-violent new form of music sweeping Britain”, and even lesser known The Spectator produce the headline “Drill, the brutal rap that fuels gang murder”.

With an increase in knife crime that has caused London to overtake New York for murders for the first time in modern history, everyone is scrambling for a solution. In search of a solution, people are first trying to identify a cause for the issue. Unfortunately, a lot of people have done what we would usually criticize the mainstream media for doing – blaming the music.

As such drill’s negative content and association with artists who have a criminal affiliation or record have it under close scrutiny. What’s interesting is that whilst everyone and their aunt has an opinion on Twitter, largely just to have something to say, those with the experience of street life are offering perspectives that counter the Twitter masses. Whilst swathes of people want to point the finger at drill, the people who have experienced living that criminal lifestyle or felt the effects of it, as well as youth workers, have raised a key point.

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Drill is a new thing – the knife crime epidemic is not. Therefore, to address the issue with drill as the focus is naïve and potentially dangerous. The reason being that these youths you are blaming for causing a rise in violence due to their music are the ones most at risk to feel the effects of knife crime. Should it come to a point where people pressure them so much that drill music dies out – where do people think these kids will end up? They will end up back in the landscape they describe in their lyrics and are trying to escape. Now, this is not to say that drill doesn’t play a part in the issue of rising violence, it is just a much smaller factor than social media would have you believe. What people should be more concerned about regarding the drill situation is the pressure that comments and ordinary people place on artists to react negatively to already bad situations.

Go onto any drill video on YouTube and you will see comments from random accounts along the lines of “person x stabbed person y’s friend, person y is moist! He ain’t on anything”. This not only exacerbates issues between those people named in the comments, but also causes issues for the artists as venues and promoters will see those kind of things and choose not to book them off of the perception that the artists are problematic. Just look at how many profile cases of recent people have been pressured into reacting to situations through social media: Headie One, Ice City, C Biz and more have all been alleged to have retaliated to issues due to constant pressure and comments from social media – as these artists street reputation is key to their branding.

Luckily, it looks like drill artists are staying focused and undeterred amongst the waves of the negativity. With artists continuing to put out music, do shows, and make their money in the best ways they can – like partnering up with brands to help draw crowds into their events. Is drill about to decline? Well hopefully not, and even if it does its stars will undoubtedly survive in the music industry, but only time will tell what will happen.

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