UK Drill, and the debate surrounding it.
The debate about whether or not UK Drill fuels gang violence is raging at the moment and at the heart of it is a question that won’t be settled easily: does the violent content of UK Drill merely reflect a long-entrenched social reality, or is it glamorising the negative aspects of that reality and thus causing them to get worse? This is not something that can be properly addressed in such a confined space, but one thing that seems to be getting lost in the debates is the positive effect that UK Drill is having musically.
The delivery and wordplay of popular groups like 67, Harlem Spartans and many others are unlike anything the UK has heard before. Their songs have pushed things forward sonically (and visually, with the forward-thinking video-making accompanying popular singles). One example of this global impact is the fact Drake recently cited Loski (a member of Harlem Spartans) as being one of his main influences for his record-breaking new release, Scorpion.
This is where the attraction of UK Drill lies for the majority of fans and artists, it’s striking and forward-thinking. It’s also why the majority of fans that attend UK Drill shows are predominantly white and middle class: they can relate to the music because it’s banging, refreshing and nothing else sounds like it.
Like always, however, blood sells. The headlines boasting of establishing a link between a surge in knife crime and UK Drill (Sunday Times, April 2018) ironically channel the same kind of gravitas that Drill MCs are aiming for when they document their violent surroundings in their verses (be it from the position of perpetrator or reporter, it’s the same fascination that the spectator has with death and destruction that is at play).
The frustrating thing is that UK Drill only started to get proper mainstream attention when it was being persecuted for being evil rather than being noticed for its merits. Now that it’s in the limelight though, perhaps the debate should turn to whether or not it is right to reduce the entire work of a set of new, young artists to a societal question that has been a problem for decades.
Hassan Anderson is a music journalist and TV researcher who has worked for the likes of Channel 4 and MTV. Find Hassan on Instagram at @hass.anderson