In the early 2010s, Chicago brought the rap world a regional subgenre of rap called Drill. It organically produced stars like Chief Keef, G Herbo, Lil Durk, and Lil Bibby. Who were all teens rapping about their ambitions, environment, and their gang affiliation. New York has a recent subgenre whose roots stem from Chicago.
The first-time rap fans ever heard drill music coming from New York was in 2014. Bobby Shmurda’s hit song “Hot Ni***” introduced the world to a different sound from New York. Getting away from the origins of boom-bap rap, this new sound relied on knocking 808s and crime-filled lyrics. With the arrest of Bobby Shmurda and his collaborator, Rowdy Rebel, in late 2014, the drill scene died in New York.
In the summer of 2019, the sound rose from the ashes with a song called “Welcome to the Party” by Pop Smoke. Pop Smoke introduced the mainstream to the updated version of New York drill. It had elements of the United Kingdom’s “grime” music, grittier beats, but very sample-heavy music. Drill beat producers sample 90s R&B classics, rap classics, and even some pop classics.
The parallels between the current New York drill and the early 2010s Chicago drill scene have become progressively apparent. Much like Chicago, the music is heavily gang-influenced. A lot of the music is diss songs aimed at their opposition. Sadly, just like in Chicago, the violence in the music replicates the life these rappers live. During the time that Chicago drill was popular, Youtubers made videos breaking down the lyrics in the songs and matching them with violent events taking place in the streets. Most famously, DJ Akademiks. The same is happening now with Youtuber TrapLoreRoss breaking down what’s happening in New York amongst the gangs and how it relates to the tracks fans hear and love.
The dark side of the two subgenres is how the new stars can’t escape the violence. Some end up in jail while being wildly successful or losing their lives. Pop Smoke was the most successful artist from the NY drill scene but was murdered, similar to Chicago’s Capo, LA Capone, and Lil Jojo. According to Pitchfork, NY drill rap star Kay Flock is incarcerated for a pending murder trial. While behind bars, Cardi B hopped on the remix to his song, “Shake It.” Bringing his popularity to new heights. Just like when Chief Keef earned a spot in the freshman class for XXL magazine in 2013 but wasn’t present for the shoot because he was incarcerated at the time.
Florida A&M alumni Emlyn Desir says that the authenticity of the music made him a fan.
“It’s a real homegrown sound,” Desir said. “It’s different from what every other rapper is doing right now. The beats hard and the rappers aggressive. Its great workout music to me.”
With the sound being so regional, I don’t see it being a subgenre that lasts too long, just like Chicago drill. The artists who want to grow outside the genre will have to reinvent their style. The best example of this is Lil Durk, who reached stardom in the early 2010s but became a megastar in 2020 after shifting to a more melodic sound.
Check out Apple Music’s playlist “The New New York” to get hip to drill artists like Set Da Trend, D-Thang, Dougie B, B-Lovee, and many more.