A Guide to San Siro and the Rappers Pushing Milan’s Drill Movement Forward

The housing blocks of Milan's San Siro have been a cultural incubator for music with a new scene turning to the global metropoles of New York, London, and Chicago for drill rap inspiration.
By    November 29, 2022

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Dario McCarty follows the dark money.

Gucci side bags, the rosso e neri of AC Milan soccer kits, billowing Moroccan flags, and crude hand rolled spliffs. These are the trademark visuals that accompany the rapped tales of mobsters and portside drug buys coming out of the San Siro district of Milan, Italy. The neighborhood – more commonly known for being the home of the San Siro soccer stadium where AC Milan plays their soccer matches – is one of Italy’s largest centers of public housing and home to a diverse immigrant community that has become the cradle of a flourishing multicultural Italian drill movement.

In the back half of the last century, for the first time ever, Italy as a country became a net receiver of immigrants instead of a net sender. Immigration from North Africa and Eastern Europe has increased considerably in the last twenty years, and the result has been a time of serious demographic change — the amount of foreign born immigrants in the country today is five times more than it was in the year 2000.

Milan is home to Italy’s fashion and finance industries, making it not only Italy’s economic powerhouse but also its most globalized city. Milan thus is a natural magnet for immigrants, and in the last forty years it has quickly become Italy’s most diverse metropolitan center. Approximately 20% of Milan’s population are immigrants, which is more than double the numbers in any other Italian metropolis.

However, in spite of high affluence in the city’s more well off districts, Milan has exorbitant levels of economic inequality. Although the average and median income levels in Milan are higher than the Italian average, almost one third (30%) of the city residents are at risk of poverty. The Gini index (a measure of economic inequality) for the city – 53.2% – is 15 points higher than the national average – 38.2%.

As a neighborhood, San Siro acts as a microcosm for these economic conditions. The hulking, titanium San Siro soccer stadium and the lavish player villas that surround it in the northern part of San Siro sit like a castle and landed gentry lording over the district. In the southern half, past Piazza Selinunte, the neighborhood gives way to large swathes of case popolari, or public housing.

Overwhelmingly, it is immigrants who inhabit these housing blocks. San Siro is 50% composed of residents of foreign origin, with 84 different nationalities represented. Italy has some of the strictest immigration naturalization laws in the EU, so many of these immigrants remain disenfranchised. Unlike in America where if you are born in the U.S. you are given citizenship, in Italy even if you are born in the country you cannot receive citizenship status until you are 18 — and even then, there are many other arbitrary rules and hoops to jump through designed to inhibit children of immigrants from receiving citizen status.

The result is that many first-generation Italian youth cannot get real jobs as they do not have papers, and coupled with the anti-immigrant racism and discrimination they experience on a daily basis, their life — in the place they were born and call home — is made into a xenophobic obstacle course.

Like many of the other marginalized public housing communities in the world, the housing blocks of San Siro have been a cultural incubator for music. But what is of note is that the immigrant community of San Siro has not chosen traditional Italian music or music from their home countries as a means to creatively express their frustrations — they have instead turned to the global metropoles of New York, London, and Chicago for the stuttering hi-hats and percussive bars of drill rap.

The Italian genre is mostly imitative, borrowing heavily from its predecessors. New York and Pop Smoke’s global reach in particular have been a huge influence, with many Italian artists co-opting the scene’s bass slides, dance moves, and even at times terminology (the term ‘opps’ doesn’t exactly translate to Italian artists’ circumstances – but that hasn’t stopped some from using it). Still, there is something deeply pleasing to hearing flexes of Gucci, Fendi, and Balenciaga roll off effortlessly in the Italian tongue — and, as well, oddly satisfying in hearing threats of violence in the world’s most romantic language.

If you’re on rap twitter, you’ve likely seen something of the genre online. San Siro drill rapper Rondo Da Sosa, one of the few fully ethnically Italian drill rappers from San Siro, seems to go viral every couple of months with commenters seemingly shocked that Italians can make this type of music. Rondo’s absurd, bombastic lyrics of “spaghetti mafia” and crude woo-walking impressions make him a natural lightning rod for attention — his three singles “SLATT”, “Shawty”, and “Louboutin” collectively have almost 130 million plays on Spotify and the rapper is even followed by Drake on Instagram — but the unfortunate byproduct of this is that Rondo’s music has has overshadowed an entire scene that has largely uplifted immigrants and first generation Italians.

With that said, in an effort to shed light on some of these other Italian drill rappers, here are four of my favorite rappers from Milan’s drill movement.

Neima Ezza

Neima Ezza – a Moroccan-Italian San Siro drill rapper who is also a member of Rondo Da Sosa’s Seven 7oo rap crew (named as such due to San Siro’s designation as the 7th administrative district of Milan) – interweaves Italian soccer culture and lore with drill rap for a distinctly Italian iteration of the global genre.

Ezza’s “Ultras” is a chest-beating track in which he threatens to lay hands on those who disrespect him in the same manner fanatic Italian soccer gangs known as ‘ultras’ do. His track “Zlatan” — a pounding drill song dedicated to Serie A soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic — provides an Italianized spin on the phenomenon of American drill artists enshrining basketball players in their songs (see: Chief Keef’s “Kobe”, King Louie’s “Michael Jordan”).

Zlatan, who is one of the best goalscorers in soccer history and the star who helped AC Milan bring their last two Serie A Scudetto titles to San Siro, is a fitting choice. His Muslim Bosniac parents had immigrated to Sweden to flee the violence of the Yugoslav civil war, and Zlatan grew up in Malmo in a public housing ghetto called Rosengard. Money was often short in his family, and they would sometimes go days at a time without meals. Famously, Zlatan stole bicycles off of the street in order to ride the 7 kilometers to his soccer practices.

In a similar fashion, Ezza was born in Morocco but immigrated to Italy and grew up in the case popolari section of San Siro. On the chorus of “Zlatan,” he admits that he too, like Zlatan, grew up “rubando i mezzi” (stealing bikes) and putting on a “tuta” (tracksuit) to go make a living. But now, much like how Zlatan came up through his environment to become a soccer star, Ezza has come up through his own, using his drill music as a vehicle to change his life for the better and make another way.

“Zlatan” is the perfect anthem for the immigrants of San Siro and the drill movement that has elevated them. A famous quote from one of Zlatan’s post-game press conferences comes to mind: “Even if you are different, even if you have a different background and you did not have an easy environment, you can still make it. No matter what you can still make it – I am a living example of that.”

Simba La Rue

Simba La Rue, a rapper of Tunisian descent who spent time between France and Italy growing up, is a global citizen. He raps primarily in Italian, but also sometimes French and even Arabic. His stage name, derived from French, translates to Simba Of The Streets. The escapades depicted in his lyrics know no geographical borders — he’s riding through the banlieues of France, he’s in the middle of Milan’s Duomo smoking a joint, he’s at the port buying a shipment of hashish off of an Arab contact.

La Rue’s delivery as he raps about these exploits is far more Scar than Simba. On tracks like “MASK” and “Opinel” — over production that could be directly ripped from Kay Flock or 22Gz’s hard drives — La Rue raps with a threatening snarl, as though his verses are mustered from behind sharp bared teeth. It is a testament to his ability to pull off this behind-the-microphone persona that on a track like “Opinel” when he raps that he’ll leave enemies with “due buchi poi arrivederci” (two holes, and then arrivederci) it sounds menacing rather than absurd.

The holes La Rue evokes here, it should be noted, are not the typical gunshot wounds intended in conventional American drill. Gun control is much stricter in Italy than in the United States, and illegal firearms are harder to obtain. As a result, knife violence is more frequent than gun violence. The “Opinel” of the song’s title is in fact a French knife brand, and it is this that La Rue is referring to when he growls that he’ll use an Opinel to relieve you of your Fendi belt.

In light of this, it’s disconcerting to report that La Rue, less than a year after the song’s release, was stabbed ten times after an internet beef with another Northern Italian drill rapper Baby Touche went hot in June of 2022. La Rue thankfully survived the attempt on his life and has begun his recovery; he has already posted a triumphant Instagram post in typical drill rapper fashion. Hopefully La Rue will make a full recovery and, who knows, maybe even give us the Italian iteration of 50 Cent’s “Many Men.”

Baby Gang

The music video for Baby Gang’s song “Rapina” – which translates to “robbery” – depicts a balaclava-clad Baby Gang performing a robbery on a train with a rifle. The video is a depiction of real events. In 2018, Baby Gang, who was born in Lecco, Italy to two Moroccan parents but has since found himself in Milan, was arrested for bringing a fake rifle onto a train and attempting to rob its patrons – a crime he says he committed in order to finance one of his first music videos. It is in fact from this incident that the rapper found the inspiration for his stage name: in news articles, journalists dubbed him and the friends with which he performed the act, many of whom were minors, a “baby gang.”

The arrest was not Baby Gang’s first. From ages 12 to 18, there was not a single summer that he did not spend incarcerated. However, Baby Gang’s life changed when in 2019 he was admitted from juvenile prison into Milan’s communità Kayros, a special type of rehabilitative center for immigrant youth in the criminal justice system having trouble integrating themselves into society. Baby Gang credits the center’s head, a priest named Don Claudio Burgio, for believing in his musical career and allowing him to record music while at the center. “Prison is useless,” Baby Gang said in an interview. “Music and a priest saved me.”

Baby Gang’s music melds drill styles from all across the world. Certain tracks – like the 2nd half of “Rapina” – sound like something you might hear in Chicago. Machine gun-esque hi-hats, foreboding bells, and lyrics calling to free Baby Gang’s clique from out the cages. Other songs, like “Shoot” and “King Kong” see Baby Gang hop on production that takes cues from London and New York, his raps consummately riding the beat’s deep, surging bass slides in a manner that would make Pop Smoke proud.

Baby Gang’s music has shaken the room in more ways than one, though. The rapper’s music has become a target for media controversy and xenophobic politicians. Former Deputy Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Salvini – one of the leaders of Italy’s biggest far-right anti-immigrant political party – has made a habit of targeting Baby Gang on Instagram. In one post, he derides Baby Gang’s anti-police lyrics. It’s a tale as old as time — wherever drill has flourished, politicians have used the genre as a scapegoat rather than examine the underlying circumstances the music is an expression of. Sadly, the Italian scene is no different.


Sacky, a San Siro drill rapper of Egyptian and Moroccan descent, didn’t record the music video for “Gennaro & Ciro” in Milan. The rapper, along with the featured Baby Gang and French-Algerian drill artist Lacrim (a legend of European drill in his own right – he’s recorded music videos with Lil Durk and Rick Ross) traveled five hours south of Milan to the city of Napoli to record the video. The location for the shoot: the Vele di Scampia – a titanic set of dilapidated public housing projects that have become iconic in Italian culture due to the deadly Camorra mafia clan wars that have occurred there since the early 2000s. To record a music video there – in essence – is like saying, ‘I’m good in any hood.’

The song’s title – Gennaro & Ciro – is a reference to a popular Italian TV show Gomorrah set in the Vele. The main characters are two young Camorra mafiosi named Gennaro & Ciro who vie for control over the Vele housing projects and the Camorra empire. Where American rappers might call upon the mythos of Frank Lucas or Scarface’s Tony Montana for their punchlines and bars, Italian drill rappers have their own set of mobsters to idolize and roleplay as: Sacky and Baby Gang are the Italian rap world’s Gennaro and Ciro.

The song is not Sacky’s only successful collaborative effort with other rappers that feature on this list. On Baby Gang’s “Bimbi Soldato” he raps an eruptive and fiery verse that would be enough to make the Vesuvius blush. It adds just the right explosive pop to Baby Gang’s comparatively more grounded delivery. On “Lo Sanno”, Sacky and Neima Ezza trade bars back and forth with the cool concision of two pro soccer players in a passing drill. Sacky has an innate ability to bring whatever is needed to just exactly match whoever else is on the track with him – it is this versatility and instinct that makes him a gratifying addition to any drill song.

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