The good name of UK Drill has been dragged through the mud in recent months by critics, connoisseurs and commentators alike, but does it deserve it? Like many UK genres, Drill found international fandom because of the culture surrounding the scene as well as the creations made in the booth.
Despite dominating the airwaves for nearly a decade, longevity when it comes to cultural relevance ultimately comes down to the quality of the music being made in the present moment, and this new era of ‘Sample Drill’ is just not up to standard.
Unfortunately, like in professional sports and politics, the UK music industry is a “what have you done for me lately” league that doesn’t take kindly to any slip in standards or abandonment of originality. So as Drill moves into this new over-saturated sample era with every new track seemingly stitching together 90s and early 2000s knee-slappers over 808s and adlibs, the very valid question remains: What happened to Drill, is it a bad thing and whose fault is it?
Unlike the downfall of previous genres, the dwindling of real Drill cannot be rationalized by the rampant rise of a newer and more exciting genre. Although genres like grunge, emo-core, punk rap and those under the afro-beat umbrella have undoubtedly pounced to prominence in recent years, none of them have usurped Drill in the same way that Grime replaced the uncomfortable era of UK MCs spitting in American accents or how Drum & Bass seized the spotlight briefly held by Dubstep.
Instead, a conflation of the understanding of Drill with other typically ‘softer’ genres has broadened its definition to an unrecognisable degree. UK Drill seems to be following a similar direction of dilution first exhibited in the New York Drill scene as artists began remixing everything from old Tupac records to David Bowie tracks and even Dick Dale’s surf rock classic ‘Misirlou’.
Artists like A1xJ1, Millionz, Deno, Russ and Tion Wayne are too often wrongfully being dubbed as Drill rappers by those not familiar with the history of the genre simplify because of some surface-level similarities. Although artists like Digga D, Kwengface and SL are undoubtedly still creating forward-thinking and intelligently authentic Drill, the mastery of the minority is being lost in a maze of mediocrity as Drill continues to be dissociated with the raw, reckless and ruckus energy at its genesis. As more tracks like ‘Night Away’, ‘Baby’, ‘Bando Spot’ are mistakenly dubbed as Drill records, the overall understanding and uniqueness of Drill are being droned out.
So what exactly has caused the Drill drop off? Although there is no single answer to why Drill seems to have strayed so far from itself, the demonisation of Drill by mainstream UK media, political figures, celebrities and even other MCs undoubtedly made it almost impossible for authentic Drill to thrive and exist in a vacuum.
Ultimately, we created an environment where Drill artists that hoped to follow the path to the bag laid by Grime and Garage MCs had to shed the street surrounding and hood poetry aspects of their artists to be accepted on a mainstream stage.
Crud and creativity are sadly only rewarded up to a certain point, if stardom and generational wealth are the objectives then sampling an already iconic riddim and giving it the Drill-Esque aesthetic has become a formulaic and replicable recipe to bridge the gap between the streets and the charts.
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