The Drop: The Best UK Drill of February 2020

The Drop returns with new joints from John Wayne (not the actor), Poundz, and more.
By    March 5, 2020

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Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to Ethan Herlock.

John Wayne (Johnny Gunz) – “Don’t Get Got”

“I go by the name of John Wayne but you might just know me as Gunz,” The UK rap veteran says on his comeback song after nearly a decade of sporadically releasing music. John Wayne is a far-cry from his previous alias, Johnny Gunz. Gunz was flamboyant and unpredictable, pulling off La-La-La ad-libs like a prepubescent girl in a children’s book, making references to his strap loving R&B because it loves singing, all bookended by an authority that made fans and rappers laugh with him, not at him. 

A presence like Johnny Gunz’s doesn’t come often in the scene so when he came back with “Don’t Get Got,” it promised a return and documented Wayne’s exercising with the polished sonics of UK drill. There’s no more La La La’s runs or helium-swallowed “Nah” ad-libs (the streets need that though) but that energy is instead proliferated through his humorous bars as he fits punchlines within the blink of an eye. Wayne is also the Yang to Gunz’s Yin. A glimmer of maturity arrives as the Brixton-bred rapper gets older, sneaking in a bar about loving his daughter along with skengs and P’s. “Don’t Get Got” shows the UK rap veteran testing the waters of UK drill, the same way he did with John or Johnny, even if it means distancing himself from his scattershot flow and giggly snarls for a bit — but it’s still as equally dynamic as his ‘10 days.

Tantzz – “Glory”

If there’s one thing niggas love listening to, it’s rappers with a distinctive, bassy baritone. Just take a look at Headie One, Frosty, Giggs, Dutchavelli or Snap Capone.  You can add London-born, Manny-based Tantzz to that list. Tantzz’s is one of the hidden gems in the Manchester Rap scene and Glory is a short freestyle that underscores the arching worry of seeing a friend struggle to deal with past traumas, the disappointment of a girl breaching your trust. Separating from his contemporaries is the profound grit and observation where those lessons are being manifested into his way of thinking: “I told Mumzy pray for me / still shining, they hate to see.” All he wants to do is make P and ghost, and when fame thrusting you into the light feels like a bullseye target on your back, that’s an endearing goal within itself.

Poundz – “Smooth Criminal”

Watch the first 50 seconds of this music video and realize you’re witnessing the most compelling piece of film-making since Taxi Driver. Afterwards, listen to the rest of the song and ponder why you’re living in an universe where a 22-year-old drill rapper from South London condensed one of Michael Jackson’s career-defining songs just for a background ad-lib about beating. 

Meekz, M1llonz, Teeway, & Pa Salieu – “Year of the Real”

One of the founders of British music discovery platform Mixtape Madness, Bills came through like Simon Cowell when he linked up four rising talents and curated one of the hardest posse cuts released this year. On paper, it seems like an A&R picked some names randomly out of a hat. However, its genius is that this shit slaps. Nobody lets up in the MKThePlug’s and Sapphire Beatz playground made out of a stuttering bassline and murky synths; the visuals are a mazza and every artist declares something. Meekz finally spits on a drill beat and inevitably gets a wheel-up; Pa Salieu sends a middle finger to all the mandem who called him a carbon copy of J Hus, jettisoning the sleek, laidback flow for a vicious stop-start pace; M1llonz is collecting cheques and guest verses with his velvety and eternally relaxed voice, and Teeway shows us how criminally underrated he is with his incinerating verse.

Fizzler – “Minimum Wage”

Nobody else can weave the soul-draining topic of minimum wage jobs into a banger like Fizzler. It’s cathartic for the youts working minimum-wage jobs who can relate to the horrors of seeing your mum stress out about bills; Fizzler turns that ire into building blocks for a presence in the nascent genre that’s getting harder to ignore. Pushed by Moves Recordings and produced by the Enfield’s beatsmith B-Kay — who does what he knows best — chopping up vocal samples with the rhythmic nuances of an early Cairns Hill and tweaking Fizzler’s thunderous flow with earth-shattering 808’s and bass slides. Fizzler hasn’t clocked out of the studio since he blew up with his “Next Up” Freestyle a couple of months back – 2020 will hopefully show the South London younger continue that streak.

Vintage Drop: Young Dizz – “Drill & Repent”

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 Young Dizz, a rapper whose career thrived off notoriety and backlash.

Criminals and confessions strangely seem to go hand in hand. Michael Corleone, mentally torn apart from his sins in The Godfather, breaks down during an impromptu confession with a Pastor. In Bruges, an Irish hitman goes to a confession that doubles into the crime scene of a double-murder and in BBC mini-documentary series: Escaping Gangs: Death, Jail or Redemption, Young Dizz, born as Isaac Donkoh sits opposite Pastor Tobi Adeboyega, founder of SPAC Nation during an interview, who ponders on one of Young Dizz’s nicknames: The Devil. Young Dizz, dripped in designer, sighs his aquiline lips as he forms a weakened smile and replies: “Obviously, I got shot and stabbed.” He goes on, sluggishly, “People always ask me, “Why are you always so angry?” I’m pissed off man, 24/7.” 

The documentary presented Young Dizz’s journey from conflicted rapper towards potential ex-gang member/SPAC Nation beneficiary as the Beckton-bred rapper unpacks his feelings stemming from the traumatic incident. Unfortunately, it’s one of the few profound moments of the documentary that paints Young Dizz as anything besides a monolith.

Escaping Gangs is a BBC mini-documentary that centers itself on a former gang-member turned SPAC Nation Pastor called Kevin, who attempts to scout gang members to help provide them a way out of their lifestyle. Formerly a member of the 6th (Beckton/ACG – Anyone Can Go). Kevin appears in Young Dizz’s Karma’s a Bitch, throwing up a 6 sign, representing the south of East London Borough, Newham. During the filming of the documentary, it provides a bit of context that Young Dizz is currently facing a charge and wishes to leave the gang life, but is unable to leave unscratched. 

The prevalent issues, such as the inescapability of gang culture, trauma, death, incarceration and the pinning of drill music as the scapegoat, aren’t challenged at all. It’s accentuated by the shallow framing that attempts to treat those deep wounds with evangelism, Range Rovers, Louboutins, and a disbanded Drill group called Hope Dealers who used to hold King James’ Bibles like handguns, dress like BKChat members and sound as if they strictly grew up listening to 28s and Christian Rap. By the end of the documentary: Young Dizz never wrote that verse for Hope Dealers as he got slapped with 12.5 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to kidnap, false imprisonment, blackmail, GBH and preventing the course of justice. Shortly, after months of backlash and whistleblowers (one of which includes TK MadMax, the de facto ringleader of Hope Dealers) exposing the machinations of the cult-like SPAC Nation, the church was investigated following allegations of fraud but was subsequently dropped (whatever they did, they deffo did that shit.)

In November 2019, a few months later, Young Dizz was yet again the focus of another mini-documentary series titled The Met: Policing London — which goes in excruciating detail about the horrifying case, where Young Dizz and five other affiliates of the 6th, all aged between fourteen and sixteen set up a sixteen-year-old in Barking. They allegedly kidnapped him and indulged in a torturous ordeal that involved forcibly cutting up the victim’s hair, stripping him naked, beating him with a metal pole and making the victim call his parents and demand a ransom of £1,500. His most recent song, “12.5” is an diaristic entry from the controversial rapper, facing the brunt of his errs head-first.

While “12.5” is part confession, part commentary on the machinations drill rappers face in a crooked judicial system, it’s also partially a subliminal sent towards North London rapper MoStack. “Drill and Repent” is the prelude to those sitting epiphanies when he was the self-knighted Prince of the 6 riding through Beckton’s ubiquitous gas-holders and slightly dilapidated suburban housing, while making deliverymen throw up gang signs. “Drill and Repent” is the adrenaline rush as he reminisces about his vignettes with sardonic detail that goes from 0 to 100 without any warning. He’ll joke about getting a Lucozade on an opp block, to recalling making a victim drink acid, or even referring to the 6th as the Kidnap Squad — an ominous foreshadowing on the demise of his music career. As acts of violence and gore are bread and butter in drill, others glossed it up or kept a straight-face. Listening to Young Dizz always felt like he was giggling about the shit he did even after he left the booth. His misanthropy should’ve distanced fans and tastemakers, instead, it was the magnetic pull.

“Drill and Repent” wasn’t an anomaly. Listen to his guest verse on Streamer’s “Smokey Things” (deleted and re-uploaded on LinkUp TV without his verse) where he spends the first seven bars mocking the death of a 14-year-old and the mother-in-mourning. Or listen to “Conspiracy Squad” where he promises death to anyone with the answer of a nod. While the poster boy of the 7th, CB crafted bangers effusing screwface braggadocio, the Prince of the 6’s music was dangerously nihilistic with a sparkle of fantasy. CB called himself the personification of “Death” while Dizz was fascinated by notorious frontmen: chaotic vigilantes like the Joker (Young Dizz opens up “On The Mains” with a scene from The Dark Knight) and to Dons of Italian Mafias (one of the last frames of 12.5 is an animated Young Dizz posing as Scarface.)

As early as 2014, Young Dizz utilized genres that supplied appropriate canvasses to express his enigmatic upbringing: from Old School UK Rap (“It Gets Deeper”) to trap (“Cold Nights”) and Road Rap (“Stains”). If you listen closely, you can hear those influences: the proud and conflicted love for Newham as Young Dizz shouts out Beckton/The 6, that love-hate duality seeps through the music of Newham-based veterans such as Morrison, Mover and Trippy Trapz, his Mansa Musa-esque obsession for possessing money that was cultivated by the champagne-popping raps of Blade Brown (I can’t think of another candidate other than Young Dizz who would tell us to kill ourselves if we can’t make $100K in a hundred days.) 

Collaborating with the likes of Headie One, RV, A1 From The 9 (fka Rage), KO and the late Showkey, he released a Mad About Bars, Tim Westwood Crib Session and a BlackBox freestyle. Young Dizz became a stalwart who helped popularise a lyrical off-shoot of Drill that especially wasn’t designed for the Radio. And its lifespan continues to thrive through its successors: we see it when Zone 2 dropped “No Censor” that went viral because they mocked their dead opps with a Sonic the Hedgehog sound effect, or 1011 referencing to the late Teewhiz in nearly every song they pushed out during 2016/2017 or NPK (Northumberland Park Lane) popularizing the “put in a spliff” idiom that penetrated its way into Black British vernacular. 

Nervously so, there’s a growing demand for hearing rappers voice their actus reus and mens rea with chilling remove and, in a climate where it is extremely convenient for The Media and The Metropolitan Police Service to paint drill music as proof of life that UK Drill was responsible for a London bleeding itself dry from a growing knife and gun crime epidemic. Young Dizz’s music was jaw-clenching, psychopathic and confesses his darkest sins and traumas on wax. . It was also a perfect scapegoat.

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