Crossover rap duo Krept & Konan debuted their highly politicised song-and-film release ‘Ban Drill’ – an unambiguous response to ongoing legal attempts to silence the headline-making genre – to a packed west London cinema last night (June 13).
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Taking the unusual step to commission a 10-minute short film to release alongside their musical offering, the South London pair, who have previously collaborated with Skepta and J Hus, explained it was to combat the misconception that drill songs spark real-life violence.
“[We] really needed to do this as we know how important the situation is. People have a perception of drill music. [They] don’t get it and understand it,” said, Krept, real name Casyo Johnson, at the launch.
“We thought, let’s paint the picture and do it from the perspective of people that are from it. How can you judge it if you’re not from it? [The song and film are] for people to see the effect of what would happen if they banned this music. They could stop the next Dr. Dre. There wouldn’t be no positive youth direction if they banned it.”
Their single features lyrics such as “banning drill’s gonna make the situation worse” and “there’s a knock-on effect for the shit you want to ban/Let me paint you a picture so you dummies understand”, positioning itself as a retort to the police crackdown that drill faces.
Since 2017, when the Chicago-originated genre became popularised in the UK, criminal behaviour orders (CBOs) have been used to prohibit the performance of certain drill songs – limiting what drill artists can reference and banning drill-affiliated groups from certain London postcodes.
Skengdo and AM, two of the biggest names in the drill scene, have experienced the full force of this crackdown. They recently received a suspended sentence for performing their song, ‘Attempted 1.0’, at a sold-out concert in London’s KOKO.
The Metropolitan police’s argument for the banning of drill songs is that they amount to gang-related violence. Yet, in a Guardian opinion piece published yesterday, Konan (real name Karl Wilson) argues that drill music honestly depicts the violence he, and others, have experienced and doesn’t fuel further violent crime.
“Hearing [drill] lyrics didn’t make me want to go out and hurt people, sell drugs and go back to jail. It made me even more empowered to make my life successful in a positive, legal, creative way,” he wrote. “I can honestly say that music saved my life.”
That’s why the pair behind charting mixtapes ‘7 Days and 7 Nights’ turned to Rapman (aka Andrew Onwubolu), who rose to prominence through his YouTube rap-crime series Shiro’s Story, to make a film depicting the people involved in a music genre that the pair feel is unfairly vilified.
Rapman’s short charts the story of an individual who, after dealing drugs and going to jail, begins to experience a better life through drill rapping.
There are two endings to the film. The first features the drill-rapping protagonist’s song being taken off YouTube – the Metropolitan police have previously been successful in attempts to get the video platform to take down drill artists’ music – returning to selling drugs in attempts to support his pregnant partner, and dying after being stabbed. His last words blame the incident on “whoever banned drill.”
In the second version, the drill artist’s YouTube channel becomes hugely successful after one of his songs reaches one million views. It finishes with him playing a show alongside Krept & Konan.
Yesterday’s film launch included a panel debate, featuring spoken-word performer George the Poet, Rapman, Krept & Konan, drill artist Headie One and human rights lawyer, Jude Bunting.
Discussing the different tactics police employ to crack down on the genre, including the failed use of Form 696, which, until recently, required venues to submit risk assessment forms for events with DJs and MCs, George the Poet was staunch in his belief that the drill scene is going to continue to prosper.
“They tried to shut the mandem’s career down but the scene made a mockery of that,” he said. “We’ve never had as much power as we’ve got now. My man [Rapman] has been to Jay-Z‘s yard. We’re here. This movie features so many people from the streets that would have never got a look in otherwise.
“We’ve got a scene, an economy, we’ve got clout, politically. Someone needs to take control, and that someone is going to come from our circle.”
Krept and Konan first rose to prominence for their 2013 ‘Young Kingz’ mixtape, and have five MOBO awards. Their second studio album will be released later this year.