A view on the significance of drill and grime music and why we should support it, not oppose it
Words by Joe Pearce
Musical expression, to many, exhibits democracy and the freedom of speech. Typically, musicians of any kind, create songs tied to the social setting in which they inhabit. Why then, has such a backlash faced the ‘drill’ community and the music they put out? The answer lies in the stigma surrounding drill and the misunderstanding of its existence.
The political class assigned blame on drill artists for London’s knife-crime epidemic and the glamorising of street-violence. YouTube has removed content from drill artists, with rappers ‘Skengdo and AM’ convicted for performing the song ‘attempted 1.0’, deemed as ‘inflammatory’. Though themes of drugs and violence are reoccurring in drill lyrics, are these artists the root cause of these issues?
Suppression of ‘black music’ is nothing new in Britain. For people of African diaspora, music signified survival, a space for resistance and remembrance. Drill faces similar attacks the grime-scene felt in the early 2000s. Grime and drill are vital, as they allow people ostracised from wider society to tell their stories as ethnic minorities or working-class citizens.
Musicians are organically bound to their social environment. Their lyrics give understanding to the reality of their life. Usually, drill rappers are from areas of social strife and economic difficulty. Thus, drill/grime are products of racial prejudice and capitalist society that has been failing its working class and non-white citizens.
As a Caucasian from Hove, I find myself in the wrong position to fairly postulate an argument. Previous graduates from Sussex (and London residents) helped to conceptualise this issue. Tomi Idowu from Brockley believes that “in thinking such genres can be attributed as a cause, or catalyst, to a culture of violent crimes that long existed before, is naïve.” In concordance, Josh Olakanpo from Lewisham stated that, “people in their thinly veiled racism, would rather attribute blame to something other than the clear socio-economic factors that are the real cause of street violence.”
The sad fact is, many disadvantaged minorities in London, feel in large, that if music and football fail, then gang-related crimes are the only viable way to make money. Grime artists Krept and Konan spoke out, claiming “without music, I do not know if I would be alive today, best-case scenario, I’d be in prison.” If you took this music away, what alternative are you leaving for an already disadvantaged group?
For me, it is best to let the music industry thrive and not rob the UK of free-speech and aspiring young talents seeking a route upward. When you consider grime artists, such as Stormzy, have paid university tuitions for fellow minorities, you can see such artists raise the standard of their communities, not hinder them. Political voices should focus on the real socio-economic issues plaguing ethnic minorities in London. Open opportunity for the disenfranchised and ostracised community can prevent such violent culture occurring in the first place.
Photography: Oscar Eckel