New York’s Drill Rap Radio Scene
Amid the heightened national conversation surrounding gun violence, New York’s drill scene has been drawing fresh attention. The city’s rappers grew up amidst trap music’s mixture of no-holds-barred realism and aspirational escapism, distilling the conflicting pressures of their neighborhood into a distinct rap subgenre that has become known as drill rap.
The ominous beats and blunt lyrics of the genre speak to major societal issues, while shedding light on what happens when communities are left without lifelines. During its brief run in the mainstream, drill pulled back the curtain on a forgotten group of people, and it gave them a platform to share their stories.
Drill rap is a genre dominated by slow, Trap-music-esque beats and incredibly blunt lyrics that describe the harsh reality of life in impoverished neighborhoods. This combination is what makes it unique. Rappers in this scene aren’t talking about the violence to sound cool or project a tough image; they’re doing it because it’s their reality.
Unlike most other hip-hop genres, many of drill’s mainstays have been born and raised in the city, primarily in the Bronx or Harlem. These artists have been able to rise through the ranks thanks to YouTube, which allows them to publish their work and build a fanbase at scale. Many also have active relationships with local media and are a frequent sighting at popular clubs or bars.
In addition to building a fanbase, these rappers are often able to use their music and platforms to bring resources to their community. For example, some have partnered with Philadelphia-based nonprofit City of Dreams Coalition, which works to connect residents to jobs and other opportunities. Others are bringing attention to the issue by hosting block parties and giving performances at their local churches or schools.
Amid all of this, the artists are facing an uphill battle. Despite its popularity, the genre is still not well understood by many outside of the urban core, and some have begun to criticize it for promoting gang violence and other violent behavior. In a recent interview, the group YTB’s Shawny Binladen explained that these criticisms are rooted in fear and ignorance.
YTB is one of the most influential New York drill groups to rise in the past year, with the release of its double-platinum single “My Everything” and its XXXTentacion-sampling followup, “Being Honest.” But while these songs are undoubtedly big hits, they also mark an important turning point for sample drill, as the producers of these tracks started to lean heavily on the classic sliding basslines and manipulated vocal samples that distinguish the sound. YTB’s success has been an inspiration to a new generation of artists, including rising stars like Kay Flock and Ice Spice, who both began their careers with sample drill. They’ve since found more space to explore their own styles, while remaining true to the genre’s roots. drill rap radio