Working with Highrise Theatre on the UKDRILLPROJECT theatre production has given me a fresh perspective on both the music and culture surrounding UK Drill. Anyone citing Drill as the cause of knife crime needs to re-examine the logic behind the statement. It’s like saying, horror films are the cause of murders, death metal is the cause of devil worshipping, cosmetic vampires that eat flesh and human sacrifices to Satan. Although, there are probably cases where it’s true, it still comes down to individual choice. If such a broad statement were true, a video with 10 million views would equate to 10 million stabbings. Think about how many videos there are. There would be hundreds of millions of killings in the UK alone.
Fear of the unknown is a massive factor in the argument against Drill music. It has been the argument for demonizing, most new genres of music. Blues was the devil’s music, so was jazz, so was hip-hop/rap and grime.
The line of connection between the aforementioned genres was that the pioneers of that music were predominantly black. Does race come into it? Possibly. There’s an argument that once a predominantly black genre has been conquered by a talented white artist it becomes universally acceptable. Examples of this include Elvis Presley and Eminem among many others. A recent case of the reverse has appeared with Little Nas X’s song Old Town Road. A talented black man made a popular song using the predominantly white genre of Country music. His song was removed from the billboard chart for not being ‘country enough’.
Was Eminem’s song ‘Sing For The Moment’ arguably not hip hop enough due it’s Aerosmith sample and guitar solo? Would anyone consider discrediting it? Not at all. Why?
Eminem and that song
Eminem is also proof, in the same way that Little Nas X is, that talent for different genres isn’t race dependent, although acclaim for said talent can be.
Going back to the song Sing For The Moment, Eminem ingeniously addresses the blurred lines between fantasy and reality as well as artistic licence and the weight of responsibility forced on artists creating explicit material. In the second verse Eminem says.
“It’s like these kids hang on every single statement we make,
Like they worship us, plus all the stores ship us platinum,
Now how the f**k did this metamorphosis happen?
From standin’ on corners and porches just rappin’,
To havin’ a fortune, no more kissin’ ass”
Eminem highlights the popularity of rapping as an art form and presents the idea that rapping can be a means of financial gain. Now, imagine you’re a Drill artist and you know that a certain amount of views on YouTube and touring can generate enough money for you to live in a better environment, would you not go all out to make it happen?
Eminem goes on to say,
“But then these critics crucify you, journalists try to burn you, f
Again, relevant to UK Drill music with headlines such as The Times’- “Drill, the demonic music linked to rise in youth murder” as well as artists like AM and Skengdo, being handed a prison sentence for performing a song, despite the fact none of them had EVER been convicted for violent crimes in their lives.
In ‘Sing For The Moment’, Eminem ends the second verse with a reference to him assaulting John Guerra, a violent crime he actually committed. Is the song banned? No.
The opening to Eminem’s third verse, encapsulates my point.
“They say music can alter moods and talk to you, Well, can it load a gun up for you and cock it too? Well, if it can, then the next time you assault a dude, Just tell the judge it was my fault and I’ll get sued, See, what these kids do is hear about us totin’ pistols, and they wanna get one ‘cause they think the shit’s cool, not knowin’ we really just protectin’ ourselves, We entertainers, of course the shit’s affectin’ our sales,You ignoramus, but music is reflection of self, We just explain it, and then we get our checks in the mail”
‘Art reflects life’ can be broken down in many formats as fiction or nonfiction. Is a photograph more valid than a life drawing? Or an abstract sketch? Each has their own merit. The culture of authenticity in autobiographical content is a problem in Drill culture as it was in grime, and gangster rap before it. The ideology that something is good purely on the basis that it’s a true story, is where lines become blurred. When artists are revered for the fact that they committed the crimes in their lyrics, despite a lack of talent and craft, is when we’re in dangerous territory of influence.
The vast majority of Drill artists live in hostile environments. Although art can be autobiographical, It doesn’t have to be. There are talented Drill artists able to portray a mindset belonging to those around them without having to carry out ‘dirty deeds’ for confirmation of authenticity. On the contrary, there are some incredible life stories that can be used as a means of dissuasion from crime. Each has their own merit. Eminem is adored for his storytelling and I believe Drill artists, especially those using the ultimate tool of creativity and imagination, shouldn’t be silenced but applauded for creating a new genre of artistic expression.
Written by: Gerel Falconer. @highrise_uk