From the UK to mainstream: The growth or drill and grime

In terms of popular culture, the US has always dominated the market. The biggest film and entertainment companies in the world were founded by the US; such as Warner Bros, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and other subsidiaries like 20th Century Fox, Pixar, and Walt Disney Pictures.

The US is also home to the three biggest music companies in the world. Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group are known as ‘The Big Three’. They’ve signed some of the biggest artist known worldwide, such as Rihanna, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Michael Jackson, Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Mary J Blidge, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Whitney Houston and many more. 

The US has the largest distribution of entertainment across the globe. So as you can probably tell, America has a lot of influence on entertainment culture. But in the past five years, UK music culture has started making a notable impact, to the point where there is now what could be called “a musical integration” with America. In the past 4 years, UK rap music genres Grime Afro beats / Afro Swing and Drill have all made an appearance. 

Grime is derived from electronic dance music. It began in London during the early 2000s and developed out of earlier UK electronic musical styles such as UK garage and Jungle. The music genre is also influenced by dancehall, ragga and hip-hop. Grime typically has rapid, syncopated breakbeats and encompasses an aggressive, jagged electronic sound. Rapping is also an important element in the style and the lyrics are often gritty illustrations of urban life.

Richard Kylea Cowie Jr. who’s better known by his stage name ‘Wiley’ is considered a key figure in the creation of Grime music and is often labelled as the “Godfather of Grime”. Other artists who are considered pioneers of Grime music and it’s attached culture include Kano, Dizzee Rascal, and Skepta. They all started writing and producing at a time where social media wasn’t as popular as it is today. Instead, they had UK pirate radio stations such as Kool FM, Point Blank FM, Déjà vu FM and the most popular one, Rinse FM. 

2011 was the first time we saw a mainstream collaboration between a UK artist and a US artist, which garnered a lot of success. It was back in 2011 when British rapper Chipmunk released the song, “Champion” which featured American singer Chris brown. It was released as a second single from the rapper’s second studio album “Transition”. The song was then later added to the international Deluxe edition of Brown’s fourth album “F.A.M.E.” (2011).

The song peaked at number two on the UK singles chart and became chipmunk’s second highest charting single.  It was a global hit and gained so much attention because it was also broadcasted on American music channels. Chipmunk later collaborated with Trey Songz on the track “Take Off”. Which was released as a third single from his studio album “Transition”. 

Grime only really took off in late 2014 – 2015, and one of the first grime songs to gain a lot of mainstream success was ‘That’s not me’ by British MC Skepta, which also featured his brother JME. The song peaked at number 21 on the UK Singles Chart and is also a throwback to the earlier era of Grime music.

Other examples of major successes for UK musicians in that period included 2015’s ‘Man Don’t Care’ by JME featuring British rapper and songwriter Giggs. Shortly after, ‘Dem Boy Paigon’ followed by J Hus, a British singer-songwriter/rapper who’s been credited for pioneering the genre Afro-swing. He went onto release other singles such as “Playing Sports”, “Lean and Bop” and the most popular, “Friendly”.

On 11 September 2015, British rapper and singer Stormzy released “Shut Up” which was originally released as a freestyle video in May 2015 but gained popularity over the course of that year. 

Grime music was being played all over the UK. Music videos were uploaded onto social media, spreading rapidly across other countries. France, Italy and Australia had their own Grime artists rapping in their language, uploading music videos and Grime cyphers on Facebook and YouTube. Grime at long last had become a trending music genre. 

Drill music derives from trap music and originates from south side Chicago during the early 2010s. American Rapper Keith Farrelle Cozart, better known by his stage name “Chief Keef” is widely referred to as the pioneer of drill music, which has a very distinctive trap-influenced beat, violent rap, nihilistic and dark lyrical content about gangs and inner-city crime.

Drill music slowly progressed in the mid-2012 and into American mainstream music. The subgenre that emerged from it, known as UK drill made its way to London in the early 2012. It was very popular, especially in district of Brixton. 

UK Drill music has only become very popular in the past two years. Daniel Lena, better known by his stage name “Unknown T” is a British Drill rapper and songwriter. His single titled “Homerton B” peaked at number 48 on the UK singles chart back in October 2018.

The song was originally released without a label but its impressive chart performance got him signed by Universal Music Group. “Homerton B” then became the first UK drill to be certified Silver by BPI. In April 2019, Unknown T was one of Drake’s supporting acts at the O2 Arena London. 

Social media played a very big part in the elevation of the UK’s music scene. Social media is the UK’s equivalent to America’s “Big Three”. Its quick, easy to use, cheap, no contracts and it’s available to many. Through social media and sharing media, many have been signed to record labels, landed gigs and featured on each other’s tracks. Through social media, new artists have also started to make an appearance. 

“Performing with an artist from the American market was made a big deal all over social media. It gave the UK so much exposure in the music industry. We got artists like Geko now making music with French Montana, Steflon Don on a track with Sean Paul. Giggs being one of Drake’s supporting acts. D-Block Europe collaborating with Offset. “Jeremiah, 22, CMP Student. 

Words: Sharon Lola

Images: Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash, Simon Noh on Unsplash, Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash, Marcela Laskoski on Unsplash, Alexander Popov on Unsplash, Aaron Paul on Unsplash, Kieron Mannix on Unsplash