An Introduction to UK Drill

Dark, sundering, sliding 808s, complex, syncopated hi-hat structures, foreboding minor scale melodies and violent lyrics are the hallmarks of the British rap subgenre known as UK Drill. A sound that has cemented its place in UK popular culture as the sound of the streets, the youth and, increasingly, the UK top 40 charts.

A Brief History

Nascent UK Drill emerged from the UK Road Rap (The UK’s own brand of gangster rap which took off in the 2000s) scene and was inspired by its namesake Chicago Drill, as gang members-turned rappers found kindred spirits in their peers on the other side of the Atlantic who were living, and rapping about, a lifestyle they could relate to.

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Harlem Spartans
Headie One

Marrying Authenticity with Success

Part of the success and growth UK Drill has to be attributed to how personal, relatable and authentic it is. As the scene was growing, fans realised that rather than inaccessible pop stars living in their gated mansions with social media accounts managed by a PR firm, UK Drill rappers were teenagers and young men living on the same government housing estate as themselves, often responding to them personally through private messages on social media.

Digga D and his crew CGM before he got signed
Digga D in the music video for his track Woi

UK Drill Essentials

Below I’ve listed 7 tracks I think exhibit the energy, emotion and vibe of UK Drill at its purest while also being influential on the scene. There are countless tracks that deserve to be on here but I had to narrow them down somehow. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist with many more tracks which you can find here.

Ben is a half-Northern Irish, half-Chinese, Fourth Culture Kid based in Singapore, who has written for Discovery Channel, WWF and Asian Food Network.