For as long as the entertainment industry has existed, so have people that insist on blaming it for corrupting the youth. Teenagers engaging in acts of violence? Blame it on Marilyn Manson. Blame it on Grand Theft Auto. Blame it on horror films, on Eminem, Slipknot, Gangsta Rap, Rave music… the list goes on.
The latest scapegoat in the firing line for a moral panic is the UK Drill movement. Over the past month or so, the mainstream media has decided that this form of rap music is directly responsible for the recent surge of knife violence and subsequent gang-related killings in London. Newspaper The Times has taken a particular exception to Drill music, publishing a series of articles over the last two weeks claiming ‘murders and stabbings plaguing London and other cities are directly linked to an ultra-violent new form of music sweeping Britain’. These Times articles evidence this claim by pointing towards the fact that on two occasions Drill music videos have been used as evidence within murder trials. Now, don’t get me wrong, Drill music is defined by its violent lyrics – no one is denying that. But, to claim that this music is directly responsible for the increased violence in the capital is ludicrous.
Drill music, much like a majority of hip-hop music, is about putting your reality on a record. These artists come from impoverished areas, areas that have been plagued by violence for years – well before Drill music rose to prominence. Drill DJ Bempah put it simply this week, on BBC’s Today programme, explaining that “if that’s what you see in your environment, as an artist, that’s what you portray in your lyrics. Yes, music can glamorise [violent crime], but it can’t force your hand to commit those actions.”
Furthering DJ Bempah’s point, these cases of Drill artists being involved in violent crimes should be judged on an individual basis, to tar an entire genre of music with the same brush due to the actions of a few is naïve. The bottom line is that both the government and the police are blaming this music because it’s easier than trying to tackle the complex social issues that are really at the root of this issue. If these people spent less time lambasting working-class black men for making music and more time speaking to people that live in these troubled communities, dealing with a violent reality on a day to day basis, then we might be somewhat closer to solving the issue.
You only have to look at Drill artists like 67 or Section Boyz, who are now massive international stars, to see that this music can be used as an escape from drug dealing and gang life – seeing these artists prosper is surely going to have a positive impact, inspiring people to do as these artists did and pursue a legitimate career in music.
To ban this music, as the police are attempting to do, would do nothing but cut off one of the only legitimate avenues to make something of themselves that these young guys have – that’s obvious, isn’t it?
Rapper Abra Cadabra summed the situation up perfectly in a recent interview with The Guardian, saying “targeting musicians is a distraction. The cuts that affect schools, youth clubs, social housing, benefits, are making life harder for the average person living on or below the poverty line in this city. There are people doing mad tings, not because they want to, but because the situation has forced them to.”