What is Drill Music?
Lets start with where the genre of Drill music gets its name. When you “Drill” someone, it is slag for shooting someone with an automatic weapon on the streets… Rhythmically the beats in Drill music can range from slow to medium tempo, but it’s delivered over beats at around 60 or 70 beats per minute. The lyrical style of the rapping isn’t as concerned with metaphors or punchlines heard in other forms of Hip Hop and often it is delivered in a deadpan manner, free from the lyrical embellishments that many tend to expect in more mainstream hip-hop.
The violence that is depected in this genre is a reflection of the uptick in violence that many cities are experiencing around the world. Its popularity has risen in the wake of civil unrest due to Police brutality in urban areas in the US and conditions that are compounded by a global pandemic that has disproportionately ravaged communities in urban areas around the world. The music’s rage is evident, but it’s a normal pendulum swing within the enigmatic genre from which it was born…hip-hop.
Explore Drill Music
Where did drill music come from?
The rapping style was developed in the crime-riddled South Side of Chicago. It seems to have originated in a number of neighborhoods and around the Woodlawn neighborhood of “Dro City”.
Keith Farrelle Cozart, better known by his stage name Chief Keef, from Chicago’s South Side became popular among high school students in Chicago, in his teens years in the early 2010’s after a jail stint and a period of house arrest where he wrote prolifically his popularity rose even higher. Keef’s debut hit (with fellow drill sensation Lil Reese), includes bars like: “I’m carrying a pistol and shooting on the spot… I got your b*tch, and I’d been in it all night “. Keef’s viral hit “Bang” was an anthem for teens across the city, and the blogosphere.
Chief Keef’s hood is “The O-Block” near 64th and King Drive. Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “The most dangerous block in Chicago isn’t in Englewood or on the West Side. It’s a stretch of South King Drive where a young Michelle Obama once lived.”
Another key figure in Drill music is Lil Durk. He became a father at 17 and dropped out of school at Paul Robeson High School. He was a member of Black Disciples, a key gang in Chicago. Soon after joining, he so faced gun charges, including possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number. Lil Durk, 25, ascended through the Chicago drill culture to collaborate with huge artists like French Montana and Meek Mill before launching his own record label and Drill Team. Lil Durk reps his hood, near 59th and Princeton in this video.
Does Drill Cause Violence?
Hip-Hop violence is making headlines again… politicians reflexively return to archaic tropes to blame anything outside of public policy for rising crime rates. This cycle seems to repeat every 10 years or so, as politicians and the media choose to use violence in rap music as a scapegoat to demonize hip-hop and the artist in the industry they represent to fuel news cycles.
New York City Mayor, Eric Adam’s, reaction to the genre is to ask for a ban on Drill Music and to blame “trigger-happy” rappers for the rising rates of crime in NYC. It’s important to remember that artists are documenting the lifestyles seen around them and in their communities and their lyrics is reflecting rampant violence in their communities, it is not fueling it. We can’t deny “beef” that is instigated in a song may play out in the streets… but this is no different than the Instagram-fueled spats that end in violence every day in the hood. Instagram enabled the communication and transmitted the location of the participants yet we don’t blame Instagram… Is it the message or the medium? These artists, rappers document killings that are happening all too often in their communities in their music. They are reacting to the fact that they have become targets for robberies because they wear valuable jewelry and coveted designer streetwear. They feel they are forced to be surrounded by an entourage and security who carry weapons. They also have the added burden of the need to appear “real” or “authentic” to the communities they represent. A scenario where the violence is normalized. In their neighborhoods, their followers are quick to reach for guns to settle disputes or perceived disrespect so their music reflects this harsh reality. Not to mention “beef” creates buzz, and buzz generates streams and hits…plain and simple.
Deaths of icons in the genre like New York rapper Pop Smoke who was killed in his Los Angeles rental house during a home invasion On February 19, 2020 when he was just 20 years old, compound the issues for this genre.
The music has come under extreme scrutiny this year. The Drill music artist Chii Wvttz (Jayquan McKenley) was shot and murdered in an ambush outside a recording studio in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Manhattan Mayor Eric Adam’ called to ban drill rap videos from social media after the murder of this 18-year-old rapper Chii Wvttz. Many feel it’s deadlier than just aggressive videos. As Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez told Fox News, “We’ve had a number of shootings in Brooklyn recently that are directly related to drill rap … [The rappers appear] on Facebook Live and Instagram Live, and they’re taunting their rivals in the rival gangs’ territory, saying, ‘We’re here. Come get us. If we see you, we’re going to shoot you.” The violence is happening in the streets and it’s amplified by social media regardless, of who is affected. Whether we blame the method or the medium the violence is still happening in the streets.
Cheo H. Coker, who has covered the Bay Area rap scene for the last few years said in the LA Times, “rap’s energy and inspiration, which comes from the streets, will consistently control its messages. The tension that envelops the music is inevitable because of the social baggage that the performers bring with them.” He went on, “A great deal of it has to do with the intensity of the music,” Coker said. “And a lot of people just gravitate toward the hard stuff. Black music will always speak to whatever goes on in black life in America.”