#WRITERSBLOCK The War On Drill
Author: Lewis Newman | Sunday 24th November 2019
For years Grime music was vilified by the UK media. It was scapegoated as an avenue to rising knife crime and chaos in the streets, with many quick to judge before even taking in what the exciting new sound had to offer. Now, as we witness a new golden generation for the British musical landscape attentions turn to Grimes younger cousin as a target for the hate and blame of the privileged elite.
Bandoe, connect, trapping. Three pretty simple words, right? Ones which are commonly littered throughout urban music and not only in the United Kingdom. Rico Racks may have been convicted for the supply of Class A drugs, but is a ban on the speech he uses in his music really necessary? In the eyes of our justice system, the answer is yes, and this is where the waters of free speech reach murky new depths. Drillers speak mostly of the reality they face and life on the roads. Stunting this expression of experience is a dangerous precedent not only to instil but uphold with consistency. Art has of course always clashed with authority, and many works have been born out of oppression. Grime itself rose as a stance of defiance and gave voice to the anti-establishment, and how many times in history have we seen an expression of interest wrongly stamped out? We live in dangerous times once more it seems.
Drill is characteristically dark, gritty and graphic. It’s also catchy, infectious and slickly produced. Would one ban a Quentin Tarantino picture for over fantasising violence? Let’s not be ridiculous. So, with that said it’s hard to judge this fast-moving musical movement by any other standard. Skengdo and AM were both separately handed sentences for performing their product, with several members of collective 1011 unallowed to even create without permission from the powers that be. When individuals are unable to clear their chest in artistic format what problems does this cause? Mental health is certainly at risk for one. When presented with trauma in your everyday life as many Drillers are, music is a healthy escape for the emotional fallout created by such events. Without an escape route, negative feeling will manifest in other ways. Ways not nearly as productive as hitting the studio to blow off a little steam. The lyrical deliveries of Drill artists not only act as therapy for themselves but as an accessible path to the understanding of their lifestyle to a wider UK audience. Without hearing how can one sympathise? Without sympathy how do we inspire great societal change?
The Metropolitan Police have been quick to disregard any use of the word censorship, but how can their actions be received in any other way? It’s convenient that the media and authorities war on drill acts as a distraction from other issues Britain is facing. The last nine years have displayed a meteoric rise in crime statistics, yes, but we must remember that this spike has occurred during a long-drawn period of austerity. Austerity made commonplace by a ruthless conservative government which has left many voiceless. Over one hundred videos have now been removed from YouTube by request of the Met’s social media hub in their quest for ‘evidence’. Speaking to LBC, Detective Chief Inspector Jim McKee said:
"It defines the gang because actually, these gangs are actually very different to other organised crime groups. They want to be known, they want to demonstrate that they have control over this estate or this postcode. So, the Drill is its PR machine. It's front of the house, it's how it recruits, how it sets out what it's about, what it does, and it wants to do."
So “the drill” is a tool for criminal recruitment? Right. With that logic at least time is spent away from the streets. More time in the studio is beneficial for all, right? Drillers often come from some of the cities poorest and most ignored areas untouched by gentrification. Silencing the voice of a disenfranchised generation cannot be deemed acceptable. These are the people who have been hit by austerity the hardest, so why shouldn’t they express their dissatisfaction for Westminster? It’s important that we listen to and understand the forgotten voices right under our noses. If a younger is making bad moves in the ends, a success story of a breakout into the music industry could inspire change in their own life. They can see the possibilities of art being transformative to their own personal situation, a way out if you will.
As the genre now begins to snowfall into even bigger stature, the mainstream success of artists like Digga D and Headie One has proved that Drill is here to stay. Talented new upstarts like NSG are achieving mainstream chart success and accessing amassing more listeners and views than ever before. So why fight it? Is the target for the authorities to head back to the dark days of the 696 form that silenced grime for so long? Britain needs to tackle the real problems it has amassed and stopped using black music as a cover-up for self-created anarchy. Music is not proof of the crime and but some need to be reminded of that it seems. With the release of ‘Ban Drill’ Krept & Konan have continued this important conversation in the public eye, highlighting its importance to these talented young performers of which we speak. Speaking to the Guardian Krept said:
"After the murder of my stepdad, it was music that actually pulled me out of my former lifestyle. Before music, there was just jail, gangs and getting arrested. Without music, I do not know if I would be alive today. Best-case scenario, I'd be in prison."
While Konan added: "What could happen if they leave these artists alone so they can flourish and become something big? You could have stopped the next Dr Dre. When they were trying to ban NWA back in the day, if they stopped Dr Dre from doing music, there would be no Eminem."
Nothing but the truth, but does improvement rest on the horizon? Only time will tell. Let’s hope that this exciting, necessary and visceral art form continues to grow, and thrive.