The Drop: The Best UK Drill of January 2020

The Drop returns with new bangers from Stormzy, Traumz, and more.
By    February 4, 2020

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Ethan Herlock switched from Nike to Reebok, ha.

Stormzy – “Disappointed”

I can’t wait to tell my grandchildren how Stormzy said he’s the King of Grime to a Grime pioneer over 808Melo’s “Know Better” all because a rapper from Coventry didn’t want to pay 15k for a beat. All while sipping some tea and billing a zoot. This is why I love Britain.

TeeZandos – “Slender”

There’s a Lord’s Prayer at the beginning, but you’ll start to realise – this is not for the SPAC Nation Aunties that speak in the Lord’s tongue without fail during the Church Sermon. It’s for the bando babies with a fascination with the Satanic. Fitting amongst rare selection of Drill rappers like A6 and Young Dizz who embraced the bludgeoning nihilism of drill to its extremities through extremely violent or tongue-in-cheek references to the Devil. TeeZandos found her footing quickly: “Fuck being normal, I want to be the oddest one” she proclaims in her break-out single “Need Focus” that caught praise and a bit of heat (because The drill community has to draw a line somewhere I guess.) In “Slender,” TeeZandos proves she can still be in her bag on her terms with eyes watching her, as she continues to spin any drill rapper out of their red bottoms with her vertiginous delivery and quasi-satanic bars that cement her place as a rising, albeit unorthodox starlet in the drill scene.

Yxng Bane – “Gang Shit!”

I feel like there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing artists regardless of genre reach a consensus: UK drill beats are the perfect canvas to chat shit with your chest. Don’t ask me why. I’m sure research on this phenomenon is being conducted right now as I type this column. Yxng Bane now belongs on the list of non-drill artists who just go ape shit and start confessing all types of violent crimes as if they’re being interviewed by DJ Vlad.

Yxng Bane, the Custom House-based artist blew up after remixing Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You “into an Afro-swing banger that went in the “music for motives” playlists of every teenager in Britain in 2017. However, “Gang Shit” feels more of a war-cry than a manufactured club anthem aiming to hit charts: There’s no auto-tune cooing, but instead there are lyrics about shooting up niggas; There’s no more flirting with the girl of his dreams, instead it’s video vixens twerking while Yxng Bane dances like a Pop Smoke in very tight Louis Vuitton. It’s the aggressive younger cousin of Froze and as equally, another solid demonstration of Yxng Bane’s flirtation with numerous genres and sonics.

Traumz – “The Lift Freestyle”

I’ve been trying to write about more regional rappers in this column and Manchester has loads of rappers, but most of them are either spitting on 5ive Beatz throwaways like Robbahollow or taking a shot towards the pop-rap avenue like Aitch. Which is of course, perfectly fair, but it wouldn’t kill them to spit on a drill beat. That’s why when Traumz, one of Manchester’s underrated rappers took part in Tim & Barry’s “The Lift,” I had to write about it. We can all buss jokes about the north’s crumbling transport system, over-reactive Manchester United fans, and why they call dinner “tea-time” but Traumz’s experience of living in the North of the Border is riveting, gutter-heavy and dark that shows us that life in Manchester isn’t just reconstructions of Shameless.

Vintage Drop: CB – “Take That Risk” 

This Vintage Drop is a two-parter, focusing on the careers of CB and Young Dizz, two iridescent Drill rappers’ that fell from Drill royalty to incarceration and public scrutiny. This month will focus on CB’s Take That Risk, a loosie that quickly became synonymous with “crud” Drill and soundtracked the ongoing feud between the two East London rappers.

Risks are part and parcel in the lives of drill rappers. The thought of death or spending your life dormant in jail cells looms over your head constantly and if it doesn’t happen to you then it might just happen to your blood. When I talked about (Y.)OFB’s Frontstreet two months ago, the debut mixtape revealed itself to be a chapter in the careers of Bandokay and Double Lz, both rappers at crossroads of potentially having to re-invent themselves amongst the trial of SJ in the midst of accelerating stardom. Well, this month, SJ was sentenced for 21 years for murder.

Of course, everyone (and by everyone, I mean UK Gossip accounts and its herd of locals on Instagram) pondering about why drill rappers would throw away their music career (SJ was offered a 150k record deal during trial) for any discernible reason like for “clout,” or “for the mandem” or “[insert very myopic deduction].” But essentially for those who haven’t picked up a wap, shot food, forced to navigate life with extreme caution; it’ll always be a jarring discourse that will run itself to death in circles especially if we don’t listen to their stories. I started to think about about the unspoken ethos of the “Risk” for the rappers that document their lifestyle and nobody else chronicled that “Risk” with as much as fire and clarity than East London’s Lekan Akonijsi, stage name, CB.

CB, also known as Crackity Blacks/Cowboy Woody came onto the drill scene with a consistent work rate in 2017-2018 as he shelled an (all deleted/re-uploaded) Tim Westwood Crib Session, “Mad About Bars” and dropped loosies like “Take That Risk” that launched CB into a rarified hegemony of drill rappers that represented the old crud drill rap, the sort of drill music that was circulating around when LD was called Scribz and Stickz was uploading mixtapes on DatPiff. Having drill fans on r/ukdrill judge what’s proper “drill” is cancerous and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but their concerns felt justified by the commercialisation of drill and it’s why CB was quickly respected. 

While Big Shaq performed heightened caricatures of the Roadman and fell into a record deal with Island Records, CB was putting rambo blades in chests in “Take That Risk”; while Russ was “Gun Leaning” to the charts and Poundz was teaching white folk how to do the Opp Thot dance; CB was burning his clothes in “Talk On My Name.” CB’s dark and brutalistic music was an ouroboros that felt like a blast from the past for the fans who wanted that old-school crud but it was felt refreshingly nascent when conveyed through the perspective of this bally-wearing, yay-slinging rapper. It’s especially maddening when you realize he was 20 years old throughout his onslaught of horror-ish soundscapes.

“Take That Risk” being uploaded (and then deleted and then re-uploaded) around October 2017 where the re-upload hosts an earnest 310,000 views but its influence escapes metrics and numbers, including when Rapman included the song in the trailer of his directorial debut, Blue Story — a film centered around the lives of two teenagers pulled in by the destructive gravity of postcode wars. It’s probably no coincidence that Rapman chose “Take That Risk” to soundtrack the rugged environments of the Big Smoke as the stylistic traits that made CB into one of the hardest Drill rappers are present in “Take That Risk.”

His gravelly voice that sends chills down your spine against the cinematic bass-heavy M1OnTheBeat x MKThePlug beat that could shatter windows if played too loud, the direct, uncensored disses, the rhetorical drill-formulaic use of “How Many Times” (let’s be honest: CB did it the best.) The grotesque story-telling wouldn’t feel out of place in a James Wan script.

And better for worse, CB did live up the lyrics he remorselessly conveyed: “How many times did I beg my friend again and again / To drop me that stick? / I got it and he saw what I did / Since then it’s never left my hip.”

On the 26th July 2018, CB was arrested with three other affiliates after a tumultuous and long car chase. Along with three other affiliates of the 7th, they embarked on a ride-out against other East London rivals (6th/Anyone Can Go & Custom House) but were spotted by armed police noticing the stolen black BMW driving down the wrong way on a one-way street in Forest Gate. During the chase, officers noticed CB wearing a clown mask and starting to wave a sawed-off shotgun and the police started shooting back.

Eventually, the police caught them with a fake license plate, a zombie knife, a hunting knife, an axe, a machete, a sawed-off shotgun and two lock-off knives. During the court trial, they showed the body cam footage showing the car chase and you could hear the gunshots firing off. In a trial that seemed pretty much over before it started, CB was sentenced to 23 years in prison after being found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent. He was only 21 years old at the time of sentencing and although the youngers of the 7th such as Y.CB, YB and Yanko, who are all like proud apprentices of CB (Y.CB even dons the same scarf CB used to wear) and embraced his intense disregard for anyone who wasn’t one of them. 

While in prison, CB dropped his debut mixtape, A Drillers Perspective, a collage of previously-released songs (“Still Lurking,” “Talk On My Name,” “Everyday,” “Take That Risk”) and unreleased tunes (“The Things,” “Still Wavin’.”) A 16-track odyssey inside the rugged mindset of the Driller that doubles as a swansong for the imprisoned rapper and also as one of the most striking portraits yet. When we discover a growing Drill rapper choosing, well, gang culture instead of a potentially successful music career, it all boils down to this recurring aspersion that CB imposes onto his opps: Are you gonna take that risk? Almost as if he’s asking himself that question on the eventful night in July last year when he hopped into the passenger seat of the stolen BMW, for the CB’s and SJ’s, it’s always going to be an answer that defies the logic of the layman.

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