London rappers Skengdo and AM, are constantly being regarded as the leaders of the new genre of music. Both say it’s an art form like any other and that they’re just reflecting life as they see it around them.
“We don’t always talk about violence, we talk about solutions, we talk about economic problems, we talk about the repercussions of violence. We cover a whole load of different ways to understand what’s going on,” AM tells BBC 1Xtra’s Twin B.
“When they want to talk about drill it’s always negativity. I don’t want to be seen in that light 24/7,” Skengdo says.
Drill has been linked to gangs and violence over the past few years however Skengdo and AM say that the reality is unlike the connotations.
The Metropolitan Police says it’s been monitoring videos that incite violence since 2015, and has had 90 drill music videos removed from YouTube as of November 2018.
“Music role models and social media have a hugely powerful and positive impact, but when used in the wrong way the consequences can quite literally be deadly,” Detective Superintendent Mike West told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.
Early on the music was almost always about sending shots at rival gangs – it was about the “local politics of young people”, youth worker and writer Ciaran Thapar says.
Gang-related threats in music videos are still common.
Attempted 1.0, the AM song police decided breached a gang injunction, referenced real-life violence that was taking place between different gangs.
When Skengdo and AM were sentenced, police said violence in drill music “can, and did in this case, amount to gang-related violence”.
While Ciaran believes that threats are still happening in drill, he says the genre has “adapted and evolved” in response to pushback from police over the past few years.
“The trend of music in general, and hip-hop, has been in that direction, and drill is just reflecting that.”
AM adds that if everyone was being truthful in their music, “then everyone would be in jail”.
The Brixton rapper says that the phase of drill artists sending threats to their enemies in music videos is mostly “long gone”.
Drill started in Chicago in the early 2010s but in recent years UK artists have made it their own, rapping the same dark content but at a quicker tempo.