Police in New York have arrested 20 suspected gang members, using lyrical content from their drill videos to provide evidence of some alleged members’ apparent criminal activity.
The Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark has announced that 20 people have been indicted on charges over various crimes as part of what is called “Operation Drilly”.
According to a press release from the DA, those arrested are accused of participating in 32 crimes ranging from shootings and stabbings, and are said to be part of the G-Side/Drilly gang. Many of the alleged gang members are part of the local drill music scene.
“If you YouTube some of their videos, you can see that they call people out directly,” Deputy Chief Jason Savino of the NYPD Gang Suppression Unit said in press conference (via News12 New York).
“They make fun of incidents of individuals that have perished prior to gunfire, opposing gang members. And a lot of the times what we’ll see, immediately thereafter, is a little spread of violence. And that’s what we saw predominantly throughout this case.”
The charges include conspiracy, murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment, assault, attempted assault, and grand larceny. The crimes that some are facing charges on include a 2019 knife attack on a CUNY Prep student, a July 20 murder of a 24-year-old and a shooting at a Target store in 2020.
“These defendants allegedly engaged in dozens of acts of violence, including murder and attempted murder, over the last three years, with the most recent just a few weeks ago,” Clark said.
“The defendants allegedly committed multiple shootings, some in broad daylight, killing two people and injuring innocent bystanders. These defendants terrorised residents of the Fordham/Bedford Park neighbourhoods who were forced to run for their lives as bullets flew.”
The New York drill music scene has seen pushback from Mayor Eric Adams, who in February called for the removal of drill videos from social media.
According to an NBC New York report that same month, shootings the year to that date were reportedly up 37 per cent in the city versus this same period in 2021 – an average of nearly four people shot every day.
Drill artists and rap culture experts told NME, however, that they believe there’s an agenda behind Adams’ call to ban the genre.
Matthew Allen, who covers music for Black culture news site TheGrio, told NME that he felt that Adams’ reaction to drill music came off as “another example of people condemning Black music and rap music in general”.
”Anytime somebody tries to spotlight music as what’s wrong with society that’s nothing more than gaslighting and trying to deter from dealing with the real problem,” he said.
Allen added that he felt that Adams should use his platform to get to the root of problem in the city’s communities, instead of focusing on the music.
“That culture existed before the music was created,” he said. “If you want music to have an aura of positivity and self-respect then you have to change the culture from which it derives from. If drill rappers are rapping about gang violence and specific shootings and specific people it’s because that’s what’s around them.”
Recently, figures in hip-hop and beyond have protested the use of music to prove guilt in court. A proposed bill called “Rap Music on Trial” is in the works with the backing of Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Big Sean and more rappers.