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19: 67

Photo By The Blup

 

 

“Skengs In The Ride, We Ain’t Tryna Get Pulled…”

 

The common conundrum in the recent history of Black music, be it Hip Hop or Drill, is gang culture and any subject matter related to it. Artists have tried to use these outlets of musicality to express themselves and their lives in these environments to achieve a means to an end; to legally earn a living for themselves and their closest. The eternal problem? The shit trickles down. The crabs that make it out the barrel don’t knock it over so the rest can escape, they instead cement the idea of the barrel to begin with. The newer generations are witnessing the same vicious cycle that plagues their communities, and seemingly the only way out: it’s glamorization.

Drill music was a creation spawned from the war zone commonly known as “Chiraq.”:

“Chiraq is a nickname given to Americas third largest city, Chicago. Chicago was given this nickname because there are more murders and violent crimes that occur in Chicago than anything during the War in Iraq. Walking the streets of Chicago is like walking in a warzone with all the murders, robbery, gang bangs, and acts of violence…”

During 2016, gun crime in Chicago jumped to over an 80% increase during the first three months – an unprecedented amount - with 727 people suffering gunshot wounds at the least. Pioneers like Chief Keef, Lil Reese and Lil Durk used their agony from such realities and channeled it into their respective art. It made them millionaires and household names, arguably with no second thought towards the poverty-stricken, fallen brothers in arms around them. The common, and perhaps obvious explanation around these and other artists’ freedom to express themselves and depict their environment, but this is a school of thought that I feel has run its course. Drill would eventually cross the Atlantic Ocean and land in the south of London, through early acts such as 410 and Scribz. This version would be more antagonistic, higher in tempo and have a distinctive UK feel and sound that separated it from its US counterpart. It would take the UK by storm, and at the forefront, the group known as 67.

Formed in Brixton in 2014, this music collective is an offshoot of the 674/OSG/BHB gang that are home to the area. Members include LD (Scribz), Monkey, Dimzy, Liquez , ASAP and 67Sj. Their territory spans from Brixton Hill towards Clapham Park, and they have gained many rivals and allies in that time span, most of them also drill artists. The 674 name is a clever take on the OSG initials when pressing the O, S and G buttons on a burner phone (think the Nokia 3310). Brixton Hill has been a common birthing location for top tier UK rap talent like Ard Ardz, Sho Shallow and Stickz, who was the first to propel Drill in London.

Under their gang moniker, they began to release tracks as far back as 2009. Honing their craft and seeking a way out from their graphic lives, they would soon jump on the new drill wave. In the beginning, drill would be used as a method to call out rival gang members to undergo street politics. No one could have known at the time that this style would blow up the way it did. But it did, and 67 were at the forefront. Their proverbial frontman, Scribz (LD), was issued an anti-social behaviour order that banned him from making and performing music for a period of two years, just as 67 were finding their feet. This wouldn’t stop him; however, a simple name change and iconic mask, inspired by West African sorcery, would provide a loophole. Their first mixtape “In Skengs We Trust”, was the beginning of their official rise to the top of the mountain. The extended play featured notable tracks “Take It There”, “Traumatized” and “67K What Where”.

Cover Art for 67's "In Skengs We Trust"

A viral sensation, they amassed millions of views for their music videos. I recall how different they were - grounded, fresh, and raw – something I, as a music connoisseur of sorts, hadn’t heard anything like - coming from the UK underground scene. Many shared this sentiment, with the MOBO Award panel blessing them with a “Best Newcomer” nomination.

Later that year, LD’s ASBO would be lifted and to commemorate this occasion, he would shortly return to his former alias of Scribz, releasing “Wicked & Bad”. Leading the entire drill sound, many other gang members would follow their lead and start to release music themselves, to the point where drill itself was seemingly the most lucrative source of income on the internet. Acts like AM, Skengdo, RV & Headie One would dominate the webspace. 67 themselves were getting ready for their first UK tour, a tremendous achievement seeing how far they had come. Alas, the Metropolitan police had other ideas. Form 696 was a piece of governmental legislation, or risk assessment form, in which promoters and licensees of events are requested to provide information, 14 days in advance, of any events promoted to the public. Given the label of 67 as a “criminal gang” by the Metropolitan police, their first tour was discontinued.

The year was not going according to plan, and it was made worse with the incarceration of LD, once again, for the possession of a knife. Many thought that 67 had reached their ceiling, with their enigmatic front man behind bars, but like most the mindset of making something from nothing, they decided to introduce younger and fresher members of the gang more frequently, whilst collaborating with affiliate artists.

With the boom of UK Drill, every Joshua, Rhys, and Harry wanted in. The government felt the need to start sanctioning the scene, taking down multiple videos and releases. The rising crime rates in London didn’t help matters. The Police Commissioner cited Drill rap as a factor behind a rapid increase in knife crime in the capital and pleaded with social media platforms to stop spreading it. A complicated situation. A chicken or egg argument; cause or effect? 67 had already established themselves as the leaders of the scene, and Dimzy took it upon himself to provide context and clarity on the subject through an open letter in July of 2018.

"No matter what is portrayed by the media, there are always two angles, the positive and the negative. Of late there have been a large number of negative articles and opinions centred around Drill music. Most articles focus on lyrical content and have made a conclusion that it is fuelling the sporadic rise in the number of violent crimes in London.
Whilst I see that media need to give the general public answers, and authorities have to publicly be seen to do something about violence and crime, I don’t think it is right to blame or alienate one music genre as a scapegoat. There have been many occasions in history where this has happened before including the Punk era and even most recently with Grime - a genre that is now hugely supported by media and creating some of the UK’s biggest musical exports - surely only a benefit to the country and a great example to the budding musicians out there.
If we put it in to a different context, we don’t see blame being focussed half as much on other entertainment such as computer games, films or TV. I personally have watched numerous series on Netflix, recently binge watching Bulletproof, but that does not make me want to start stealing high end cars or accusing the police of corruption, as much as watching Money Heist doesn’t make me want to rob a bank. The media haven’t turned to the writers of certain video games or films to blame them for the actions of those committing crimes and whilst there may be an argument which would suggest that music is more of a personal account from its writers, whether that is the case or not, the message being displayed is somewhat similar.
Until my daughter arrived, music was one of the things keeping me going in life, giving me hope and something to focus on instead of being outside where I was more likely to have problems or get into trouble. Through my journey as a drill artist I’ve learned an empire doesn’t become an empire overnight, it’s going to take both positivity & negativity to become something successful and you learn how to deal with that professionally and maturely.
Unfortunately for many growing up in today’s society, particularly in inner city areas, the youth is exposed to crime and violence as part of every day life. As drill is a relatively ’new’ genre of music, you tend to find a lot of the people involved in it are young so I personally am not surprised by the content of the music. They are talking about life as they see it and experiences they have been through, the same as any other artist tends to in any other genre.
I can’t speak for everyone else but from my experience, doing Drill music has positively changed my life in so many ways. I can now pay bills & set up direct debits which builds my credit score so I can go on to have a mortgage and be self sufficient. I can contribute financially to help my family financially. I’ve explored different cities & towns, indulged in different cultures, tasted different food and met different types of people who live all different types of lifestyles with different beliefs and these things have made me be a much more mature and patient person.
I’ve learnt so much in the past few years doing music that I can now pass my knowledge and experience onto others. I can help other artists and producers to have a more consistent and knowledgeable journey in the industry.
I will continue to stay positive as my experience goes far beyond what is being portrayed to the country and I hope that people can see beyond the media scapegoating us for the problems in our fragmented society. There’s always going to be negative in everything when it comes to this world but it’s about coming together & making negative situations as positive as they can be and as long as music can be an outlet and a form of therapy to those that create it, then it will always be a positive...”

This was seen as an unprecedented breakthrough in the dispute between the artists and the authorities. Dimzy had spoken words that many had thought but didn’t have the means to express, including many of the other artists that were involved.

With this added momentum, the followed it up with the release of their third studio album “The 6”. Averaging a 3.06/5 rating, it wasn’t up to the standard of their previous releases, but it did its job of continuing the soaring heights and legacy of 67 as UK drill icons.

Cover Art for 67's "The 6"

The hills were saturated with the sound of Drill music, to the point where old school grime legends, like Dizzie Rascal and Double E, donated their cadence to the genre. 67 were seen to be dead in the water, with younger talent like Zone 2 and Digga D taking over the scene. Outside of the music, it was discovered that 67 were still operating county lines, with 16 affiliates arrested and sentenced to a total of 61 years. Main man LD and underrated lyrist ASAP were both given four and half years for their involvement, with LD being released late last year.

“Now Look What These N*ggas Have Caused…”

Itch, real name Chris Kaba, was a member of 674, a “younger” that would appear on some of 67’s releases, including “Drillin Off”, “Needy” and his own track “Bruk It”. On September 5th 2022, Chris died due to a single round fired at him during a police stoppage in Streatham Hill. The vehicle he was driving wasn’t registered in his name and had been previously linked to a firearms incident a few days before.  There was no evidence of a firearm on the person or in the vehicle, which prompted his family to request a homicide investigation, as they felt that had Itch been of another ethnicity, he wouldn’t have been killed. Protests, of roughly 300 people, were carried out outside Scotland Yard, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

To the casual eye, this seems like another case of police brutality, an unfortunately common situation in which a black man is racially profiled. But when properly evaluated, Itch was described to have tried to drive through the police blockade that had formed around him, endangering himself and everyone around him. It can be said that if he was innocent then he would have just gone through the procedure of the police checking the vehicle. But he didn’t and suffered the tragic consequence. I’m not condoning the actions of the police whatsoever, but we as a people need to stop blaming external actors for their reactions to our actions and start to make better decisions and choices. If we want to display to the world that we are “thugs” and “gangsters” by nature, then what else can we expect?

Having said this, the recent controversy with Kanye West (A GOAT of mine, truth be told), has detailed the notion of other races profiting off of the destruction of the Black community. Whilst Kanye’s situation has been messy and problematic, one positive I’ve drawn is that it has shone a light on the importance of a positive culture within a race’s framework. Nothing will change if we don’t change the narrative surrounding our people. I understand past and current socio-economic positions we are in, but the path has been laid to seize the opportunity to undertake something positive for our community.

The proverbial cycle that plagues the black community can be blamed by both inside and outside forces. The lack of accountability within and the envy without. 67 are a prime example of good intentions without altruistic actions. They aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last in the western world before the chickens come home to roost. But like a responsible brother said:

“You know what the most dangerous thing in America is, right? A N*gga with a library card..."

                                                                            - Brother Mouzone (The Wire)

Written by: @Arriv3r

Edited by: @Whosaria

Insight.