What is drill music?

Drill music originates from Chicago. It’s a form of rap and the majority of it is violent by nature. That’s the main thing that separates it from grime and other forms of music. Most drill artists are young. They talk about their life on the streets – drugs, money, women, that sort of thing.

Is it different from grime?

It’s often around the same tempo. A lot of people distinguish grime from other forms of rap music by saying grime is 140 beats per minute. But music sort of fuses all these genres together so it is a bit difficult to say what is what. It’s more the cadence, flow and type of production that drill uses that differentiates it from grime.


Why are some people concerned about drill music?

I think it’s the violent nature of it. When grime started it was an expression that was a little less violent and more bragging – saying how great you are. Whereas drill at its very nature is about what you are going to do violently when you see a certain person, or what you’ve done. Some of the content is extremely graphic and detailed and I think that’s what differentiates it from grime and worries people.

Do you think that’s a dangerous thing for our young people?

I’m not going to say drill is the problem. There are obviously loads of factors – less youth clubs, lack of trust in the relationship between police and young people and general family breakdown. All these things play into it. But I think drill normalises the behaviours they’re talking about. Anywhere in society where people talk about things and it becomes normal, people are going to start doing that thing, gravitating towards it. It’s not going to affect everyone, but some people are more impressionable than others. Some young people will listen to it and just hear music but others might listen to it and be inspired. They could look up to the people making that music. That artist becomes their role model and they follow what they’ve heard.

I think it’s important to talk to your children about the music they’re listening to

What would you say to parents who are concerned about the influence music might be having on their children?

I think it’s always difficult. Some people call a blanket ban on all music that is negative and all music that talks about things they don’t want their children hearing but that’s not realistic. They’re going to be at school and their friends are going to be listening to it. So I think it’s important to talk to your children about the music they’re listening to. Ask them: why do you enjoy this? What do you think about this? Explain to them that it’s not the greatest thing to fill their minds with. Engage with them rather than cutting them off completely. Use their music as a platform to talk about these issues.

How do we bring our faith into the music our young people are engaging with?

I think it’s important to bring faith into it and listen to their music with them. And if they have a faith and are on a journey with Jesus then just ask them what they think – how it relates to sin and other things in the Bible. Pick their brains on how the music can relate to their Christian faith.

The drill artist Incognito was stabbed this week. What do you make of his death?

It’s quite interesting because that same drill artist did an interview before he died where he was talking to a journalist and he was asked whether drill music was responsible for the crime and killings we’ve seen, and he said it is a factor. This is interesting because everyone else says it’s not a factor. And it’s often the people making money from the industry who say it’s not a factor. I think when we look back in 20 years’ time and ask whether drill music was helpful to the social climate, they’ll probably say no.

I think the police will say drill music is used to send messages to rival gangs or people they disagree with. The sad thing is that this is young people’s reality. What they’re talking about – not for everyone but for some – it’s their reality and reactions take place. So when you see these artists being killed, music has been part of the story of their death.

Can you recommend any non-violent alternatives to drill music?

There’s a lot of different stuff. Guvna B has a Spotify playlist called Allo Mate that has a lot of clean rap. There’s a lot of stuff in the US, but that’s a different style and genre. There are a few UK artists with a similar sound but without the negative content.

Marc Jones' latest single available on Youtube.

You can access Guvna B's playlist on Spotify