Digga D free! A rare interview with the most influential British rapper of our time


To understand the importance and appeal of Digga D, one needs to understand the British iteration of exercise music as a social phenomenon. The sub-genre first exploded on Chicago’s South Side in 2011, a place often described as one of the most racially and socio-economically segregated in the world, where gang violence has claimed the lives of many. countless people over the past 30 years. His torch was carried by a 16-year-old called Chief Keef, who understood that by using YouTube and social media to share haunting self-directed hood videos online, he could provoke his rivals from a distance while gaining an audience. of hip-hop. fans around the world looking for an authentic window on America’s most infamous city.

Keef became a superstar overnight; by mid-2012, it was among the hottest properties in hip-hop. Drill exploded due to its addictive hyperrealism to viewers, shock value, but it also flourished through a fearless, native and masterful mastery of technology. Instead of the Silicon Valley coders, it’s poor African-American communities demonized in the Chicago projects proving they were ahead of the curve. “Being a drill rapper involved thinking about how to get into the filter bubbles and headphones of middle-class white kids on YouTube,” Forrest Stuart, a sociology professor at Stanford, who spent five, told me. years researching drilling in its founding neighborhoods to write its latest book, Ballad Of The Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music And The Power Of Infamy, when I visited the city in 2019 to research the roots of the borehole.

The Chicago borers were pounding to lethargic, hoarse rhythms. In the early videos, the gun chambers usually point to the camera lens and the lyrics unveil the daily violence and showboating of its creators with both real and exaggerated bravado. The creation of the genre redefined the power map of American rap. Out of nowhere, Windward City’s most feared teens have suddenly taken the crown of Atlanta, after the decade of south-central domination that forged the modern descendant of hip-hop, trap music.

In 2014, drill pollinated online in Brixton in south London, where rival bands such as 67 and 150 began copying Chicago-style raps and videos, spitting to the same slow rhythms over the center’s daily sustenance. -City, with lyrics that barely deviated from dark and violent tales of life on the roads. Within a few years, the style has spread throughout London, giving voice to the most disenfranchised groups of predominantly black British men in the forgotten pockets of the capital.

It also accelerated. In 2017, British drill instruments began to develop their own impatient British fidget. Over time, their hybrid sound has become an alchemy of global black musical culture: the snare loops of influential Chicago producer DJ L, themselves inspired by the black church groups of the city’s South Side. ; The deviating basslines of the British garage and grime; the catchy rhythms of soca and Afrobeats; the hard-hitting lyricism of London road rap. The British exercise represents an era in which the musical subculture converges not by geographical proximity, but by digital sharing and cultural relativity. Thanks to the success of thousands of competing MCs across cities seeking to make online drama noticeable in their lyrics, but also to convert therapy and catharsis of storytelling of their hidden lives into a potentially lucrative career path, UK Drill took control of youth culture.

In 2018, the exercise began to be blamed by commentators, politicians and police overnight for the outbreaks of serious youth violence in London and beyond. I have advocated since then, in journalism, academic research, political advocacy in the Houses of Parliament, and my book, Cut short: youth violence, loss and hope in the city, that if the music is not trivial, it is above all a reflection of our social and technological reality. Those who properly listen to hip-hop in all its forms will know that even when violence takes center stage, it is rarely portrayed without acknowledging pain, tragedy and loss. Drill rappers refer to the trauma of life on the road, the stress and fear of looking over their shoulders, as much as they show or provoke. “It does not glorify violence,” said Brixton MC and the British exercise creator AM, when we recently spoke on Crack Magazinepodcast of. “It exposes violence.” We will make more progress in seeing popular music among young people as an opportunity to engage with the next generation and transform lives that would otherwise be lost to a failing neoliberal system.


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