Misogyny in the music industry has long been an interest of mine which led me to research the culture of drill. This is a highly controversial form of music due to its infamously violent lyrics and has recently attracted particular attention as a result of the government’s new prohibitions. More specifically, certain UK drill artists have been banned from creating music without permission from the authorities and many more drill music videos have been removed under the instruction of Parliament. Of particular interest is a track made in response to this by a drill MC, Drillminister. He released Political Drilling with lyrics consisting wholly of quotes made by MPs; for example, ‘she’s a dead woman walking,’ said by George Osborne (former Chancellor). Hence, the juxtaposition of misogyny in politics and drill possibly renders the stance held by those in power rather hypocritical. Having only scratched the surface of this genre through listening to two of its pioneers, Skengdo and AM, I was lucky enough to secure guestlist for their concert and further investigate the alleged violent nature of UK drill. Unfortunately, after cancelling their interview with myself, Skengdo and AM have been contacted for their opinion on such topic but I am yet to receive a reply, hmu!
Immediately, any preconceived ideas of Skengdo and AM’s Birmingham show were challenged by the predominantly young, mostly white, teenage crowd in attendance. The event took place in an intimate room of the O2 Institute where mosh pits were kept to a minimum and remained relatively friendly. AM even swapped his balaclava for something more akin to a muzzle, not only leading me to question his ability to rap rather clearly through it, but so too reaffirming the unthreatening nature of his performance. Naturally drill does not usually make for an exciting concert but Skengdo and AM contest this conviction with their bashment style rewinds and lively stage presence. They were even joined by a crew of around 15 who aided in hyping the audience. Thus, the overall atmosphere was noticeably unhostile.
The buoyant performance did however create a façade and it was easy to forget the harsh content being presented, as Skengdo raps: ‘Couple youngers on their ones / And I’m giving them guns’ – arguably not the best example set to their listeners. Skengdo and AM’s delivery of Greener on the Other Side, their most recent EP, was exciting, energetic and seemed to please the crowd; the release even features a collab called Pitbulls with Chief Keef, possibly a salute to drill’s Chicago routes. Although, I would personally have appreciated hearing more than Macaroni and Mansa Musa from the hugely successful 2 Bunny the Mixtape as this seems to stick more strictly to their genre than the heavy hip-hop beats of Back 4 Back.
It’s obvious that Skengdo and AM have a large Brum fan base and I can see their appeal. Based solely upon the entertaining performance (akin to one of a pop/rap show) from this drill duo, I oppose the notion that drill artists are the cause of a surge in youth violence. Instead, this lifestyle seems to offer an escape for those growing up on South London council estates, such as Skengdo and AM, who are members of the Brixton-based gang 410. For this reason, maybe the authorities should place more focus upon these artist’s origins, rather than scapegoating music, as they are simply a reflection of their environment. Drillminister supports this in saying, ‘[drill is] gonna get soft when society’s soft to us’. Nonetheless, I believe that Skengdo and AM owe a certain responsibility to their younger, more impressionable fans of whom clearly have a high regard for their work.