The Drop: The Best UK Drill of March 2020

The Drop returns with new joints from Shaybo, Psychs, and this month's Vintage Drop by Unknown T.
By    April 9, 2020

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Ethan Herlock traded his Gucci belt for an uzi.

Shaybo – “Anger”

Behind all of the scoreboards and designer drip, rage underscores the lyrics of UK Drill; whether it’s political, socio-economic, societal or even just gagging at the sight of a nigga with fake Amiri jeans and a low credit score. Regardless of the reasons, Shaybo — the publicly self-proclaimed Queen of the South  — is the best in tapping into that rage and conveyed it into memorable drill bangers that double as a manifesto for female independence.

There are diamond-in-the-dirt videos of a young Shaybo rapping like a carbon copy Sneakbo in 2011 and throughout the years, she’s honed her on-crud level of confidence and meshed it with her natural ability to craft lyrics that are painstakingly funny; she champions the black female perspective of living in contemporary London. 

I personally think she’s massively underrated and “Anger” shows she has a lot to be angry about it. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things she hates: broke women who can’t handle beef, fighting on camera, getting blood on her Christain Diors, paying for TfL (mood kmt), niggas who can’t get over their ex, and most importantly, broke niggas.

Psychs – “Spreadin”

There’s nothing less surprising about the fact that I heard a better response to a global pandemic by an 18-year-old drill rapper from South London, over a beat that samples Kanye West’s “Wolves” than by Boris Johnson.

Zone 2 – “CENSORED”

Remember when I talked about Zone 2 very briefly in last month’s column? The Peckham-based Drill group got a brief breeze of virality when their scathing diss with YPB (Young Peckham Boys), “No Censor,” circulated around Twitter and even secured an episode with (also deleted) Britain’s DJ Vlad explaining their lyrics. But I can understand why people who listen to UK drill wouldn’t fall in love with them. I’m not trying to moralize – their rapping as a group has improved but honestly, these man are just mean. “No Censor” went viral because it went against the behavior of censoring their lyrics and “Censored,” is a subverted reaction to the virality. But still way too hot for your hands.

Like Pharrell overusing the four-beat count mark all of his beats, “Zone 2” holds tight of its personal habits; the intense hatred for opps (see: Trizzac calls himself the KKK because he hates niggas), a “put in a spliff” reference, and the jittering coin sound effect from Sonic The Hedgehog (see: Snoop’s verse.) It’s machiavellian, mocking, and macabre but there’s a small audience gassed to know that somewhere, on crud rappers, are out here doing the maddest of madness and going into a booth to rap about it so they can upload it on YouTube.

Frosty – “H20”

In 2019, Frosty was on remand when his viral song (the appropriately-titled) “County Lines” was uploaded on an unknown YouTube channel, went viral and even got Kodak Black dancing your drunk uncle at every family barbeque on Instagram Live. When he became a free man, he secured a Fredo co-sign with “County Lines,” a deal with Relentless Records and a writer’s pad from the perspective of a drug dealer who’s seen more white and brown than a baker. 

The South London-based rapper sounds like he grew up on the bars of the stern-speaking Giggs mixed in with the glamor prevalent in Krept and Konan’s discography. His marble-mouthed but lax whispers don’t let up over Traphouse Mob’s SykesBeats and HL8’s airy beat as if he never took off those diamond-plated grills he’s always flexing on us via Instagram. It’s clear that Frosty has more to offer than rapping about sending his younger on the 10:58 AM train to Cardiff Central and or asking why Malis are taking over the town (I’ve heard at least ten songs say the same shit, the discourse is blossoming).

And we don’t know if Frosty will drop a body of work, or maybe just flex his Balmain jeans while dropping (1) tune periodically every now and then but when he’s boasting about asking staff where’s the Chanel store while visiting Paris. It really does counteract the inconsistency.

Vintage Drop: Unknown T – “Homerton B”

In August 2018, I saw a friend I used to chill back when I was sporting a hi-top (at least the fade was fresh.) He shows this rapper that he heard of when he was studying at the University of Leicester. A bone-thin rapper with a voluminous, incongruous timbre that sounds like thunder crashing from the hands of Zeus and the deep baritone mumble mandem try to pull off when they’re snapchatting their wcw. It was a “Mad About Bars” freestyle, a seven-minute feat from a Homerton-born, De Montfort University dropout rapping his ass off with a cadence inspired by Abra Cadabra — emitting the vertiginous flows that Grime rappers in Akademiks tracksuits would spit with ease and oozing with the diasporic sounds that are prevalent in the works of J Hus and NSG. The magic of Unknown T is that he somehow makes it work. “This nigga is hard as shit, apparently, he’s not really about it though,” my friend said.

A week later, his break-out song, Homerton B found itself blaring off the speakers at Notting Hill Carnival, in every bedroom of every young adult who knew about GRM Daily, every nightclub, even the speakers of your plug’s whip during the Summer of 2018. Its impact was as unavoidable as its appearance. It was accessible to outsiders who wanted to dip their toes in UK Drill and possessed an intoxicating hook that had mandem singing Homerton B when they’re from Croydon, Leeds or Wolverhampton. The Homerton B, wasn’t an actual human being, it was a Marlboro Man for mandem who wore Palm Angels trackies, caught whines at carni, drank Magnums and grew up on Council estates.

When the summer of ‘18 ended. it continued to flood the airwaves of the UK, charted into the Top UK 100 without any label backing and became the first UK Drill track to be awarded silver by the British Phonographic Industry. For the Drill collective, HOMERTON 9iners, it gave them a springboard to be listened to: ‘Then Unknown T dropped Homerton B / Peak now, people are bothering me like “K, don’t quit, keep dropping the heat.”’ KO intones on Drilliam Shakespeare’s opener, I Was.

Unknown T, born as Daniel Lena, started as part of UK Drill group 9’iners (Homerton.) His earliest tune, Bop With Smoke showed a glimmer of his preternatural understanding of songwriting, although rote, but combined with his thunderous flow and voice, it was the building blocks for a blooming music career. You can even hear Unknown T perform a snippet of the hook in a now-deleted Homerton’s Crib Session. After the success of Homerton B, Unknown T didn’t let his foot off the gas and released a combo of songs such as “MEAT” (kinda goes in), “Throwback” (which flips a Crazy Cousinz track) and “Leave Dat Trap” (BPI also says you’ve officially gone clear when you have an AJ Tracey guest feature).

Unknown T conveyed the hardships of a Driller with exotic sounds that positioned the rapper as a jack of all trades. 

When it was starting to become clear that Unknown T was emerging from a “one-hit-wonder” to a prolific stalwart, his future and music career was thrown in jeopardy. In July 2019, the 19-year-old rapper was arrested and charged for the murder of Steven Narvaez Jara and violent disorder at a 2018 New Year’s Eve Party in Islington, North London. Two other attendants, Romani Boreland and Mohammed Musse and were also charged with murder and violent disorder, respectively.

Musse, an attendant of the Islington house party was asked to leave the premises because of his incessant groping and subsequently threatened Jara, who was waiting for a friend. Kinga Pawlowska, the host of the party added security provisions for door staff searching attendants of the party and guest lists but the door staff left after 2AM on New Year’s Day. Afterwards, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, a fight broke out and Lena was allegedly seen participating in the fight where bottles were thrown, knives, machetes and planks of wood were brandished and Jara was attacked by multiple people in the brawl and was pronounced dead at the scene. 

We’ve seen talented rappers kiss their careers goodbye when their past catches up with them and despite no definitive proof that places Unknown T at the fight (Lena testifies he was on the balcony during the brawl), let alone, the culprit who delivered the fatal blow (a stab wound to the heart.) It seemed as if Unknown T was close to being added to the list of What Ifs? However, in February 2020, Unknown T was later cleared of all charges while Musse and Boreland were convicted of violent disorder and manslaughter, respectively. 

It’s a tradition for British rappers who beat heavily-publicised cases to drop a Fresh Home song/freestyle and Unknown T did exactly that. (BPI also states that you’re officially on job if you have Snap Capone standing silently behind you in your music video.) The hook is a testament for all the hardships he faced in two years over inky synths and syncopated drum patterns. “I was unknown now I’m back on the scene as a well-known rapper / Damn right, I’m a well known rapper.” Although the hook slaps, it implies that Unknown T was ironically that yout who likes 8 of your tweets before sliding in your DM’s with a Soundcloud link beforehand.

However, the evidence suggests otherwise when Drake bought Unknown T out at the O2 Area during his Assassination Nation tour, gained praise from Dizzee Rascal (who else can rap like that over 140 BPM?) an Universal Music Group record deal – especially it was from the fruition of a buzzer-beater contender for Song of the Summer. 

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