Photo By The Blup
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.”:
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Written by: @Arriv3r
Edited by: @Whosaria