With London seemingly in the grip of street violence, its youth afflicted by a series of shootings and stabbings, an increasing number of media reports have identified so called ‘Drill Rap’ as being responsible for the turmoil. But, what exactly is ‘Drill Rap’? The media itself seems unsure, with several top news personalities coming under criticism for their lack of knowledge of this musical genre which can apparently move young people to extreme violence. Viewers of a recent edition on the BBC’s Newsnight, for instance, were left astonished after witnessing a debate on the supposed negative effects of the genre (or sub genre really, if it is a form of rap) chaired by Evan Davis, who defined ‘Drill Rap’ as a form of rap which involves people rapping to the sound of electric drills rather than a beat. “Maybe they also do some dance moves involving electric drills. Cordless ones, obviously,” opined the journalist. “I’d imagine it would be some variation on the ‘robot’, with each dancer holding a drill in each hand and going through some DIY moves – miming putting up a set of shelves, perhaps, or maybe assembling a kitchen unit.” Incredulous viewers then heard another participant in the debate, Tory MP and former Home Secretary Amber Rudd agree with Davis’ assessment, adding that she believed that participants in ‘Drill Rap’ might also involve other power tools in their performance: sanders, jigsaws and electric screwdrivers.
The Newsnight audience’s hopes for a more informed debate were briefly raised when Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, speaking in defence of the genre, claimed to have once actually seen a ‘Drill Rap’ performance. “It was at Olympia, if I remember rightly,” the Labour MP told Davis. “A group of these rappers came on stage and, as I recall, their whole stage act involved them actually assembling a fitted kitchen through the medium of dance. I honestly can’t see how this form of ‘Drill Rap’ would incite violence rather than home improvement.” Abbott subsequently admitted that she might have been confusing her memories of ‘Drill Rap’ with a visit to the Ideal Home Exhibition. Viewers have subsequently blasted the BBC current affairs programme for being totally out of touch with contemporary youth culture, a view shared by many critics. “It’s just typical of how some sections of the media approach the subject,” observed Henry Crickett, Arts Editor of The Sunday Bystander. “Employing ill informed middle aged, middle class commentators to engage in an entirely ignorant mock debate designed to present modern youth culture as something threatening and alien. Worst of all their demonisation of any ‘new’ form of popular artistic expression in order to blame it for all of societies current ills. Clearly, ‘Drill Rap’, even though they don’t actually know what t is, has been chosen as the establishment’s latest scapegoat for the bitter fruits of its own failings. Just like video games, video nasties and horror comics were before it.”
The BBC programme has also been lambasted by other TV personalities, with Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan dubbing it ‘utterly shocking’. “The level of ignorance on display would have been laughable if this wasn’t such a serious issue,” the former tabloid editor turned TV presenter told his programme’s viewers. “For God’s sake, even I know that ‘Drill Rap’ doesn’t actually involve power tools! That’s just ridiculous!” Morgan went on to describe how ‘Drill Rap’ actually had to do with ‘Drill’ in the military sense. “You see, it all revolves around rappers dressing in archaic military uniforms and barking out their rap in the manner of drill sergeants,” he asserted. “All the while dancing en masse like soldiers on parade at a military tattoo. You know the sort of thing – all ‘about turns’, twirling batons and ‘eyes right’.” Instead of a beat, he insisted they’d be rapping to a military band. Indeed, the presenter insisted that he had seen such displays. “It was all drums and bugles in the street,” he claimed. “They even did rifle drills! Obviously, that is the source of all this alleged ‘Drill Rap’ violence – all that emphasis on militarism and guns! No wonder they become ‘Killer Drillers’.”
To further emphasise his point, Morgan further claimed that the violence was the result of rivalries between competing ‘Drill Rap’ gangs – or ‘regiments’ as they apparently like to call themselves. “I’ve actually seen a ruck between two of these ‘Killer Driller’ regiments,” claimed Morgan’s guest on Good Morning Britain, Alan Bowles, a thirty seven year old milkman from Streatham. “One lot, the ‘Hackney Guardsmen’, were dressed all in red tunics and those big bearskin hats, while the other lot, the ‘Seventh of South London’, appeared to be dressed in Household Cavalry gear – blue jackets and those shiny helmets. At first they were just doing all these competitive drills, marching up and down in front of each other, doing right turns and shouldering arms, all that sort of stuff. Then it all turned nasty and the Hackney lot fixed bayonets and charged the South London mob, who responded by drawing these bloody big swords! There was blood everywhere! Eventually the Old Bill turned up and they all scarpered!”
Not surprisingly, Henry Crickett has been as disparaging about Piers Morgan’s explanation of ‘Drill Rap’ as he was Evan Davis’. “If anything, it is even more ludicrous,” he mused in his regular column. “I mean, really, he’s just making it up as he goes along, relying on the fact that his core audience are equally reactionary idiots automatically prejudiced against anything which seems outside of their own narrow experiences. That and the fact that most people watching TV that early in the morning is still half asleep and incapable of discerning whether what they are seeing is real or whether they are still in bed dreaming.” Crickett is most offended by both broadcasters’ lack of basic research into the subject. “Why don’t they just go online and watch some of these ‘notorious’ (according to the press, at least) ‘Drill Rap’ videos?” he asks. “Obviously, in no way could any of those videos be as enjoyable as their middle aged imaginings.” Crickett, however, admits that he himself hasn’t bothered watching any ‘Drill Rap’ videos. “Let’s face it,” he says. “Like most of the people in the media who bang endlessly on about ‘Drill Rap’ and ‘Youth Culture’, I’m just too old for all that shit. The difference is that I’m prepared to admit it instead of bullshitting.”