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Crowd during Unknown T's headline show (2019) by Laura BrosnanTRENCH
UK Drill emerged as a dominant force in Britain. Shrouded in controversy, the genre's rise is unstoppable.
D Double E watching YouTube videos at Jamakabi's music studio by Laura BrosnanTRENCH
With incendiary raps, visuals and tracks pointing to gang culture and violence, the domineering sound scared the British establishment to the extent that the artists themselves have become targets of censorship, from suspended prison sentences to video removal from YouTube.
But in 2023, the sound and scene endures, now firmly knitted into the fabric of Black British music. No longer restricted by its murky, haunting underground origins, UK drill is taking new forms as a phenomenon in the mainstream.
This is owed to a colourful cast of artists each playing their part to increase the genre’s visibility, test its musical boundaries and take the sound to the future.
West London's Central Cee is the tour de force of present-day drill, utilising a charismatic rap style with deft samples to become a chart topper and the industry’s favourite British rapper.
Bringing a lighter touch to drill music, his 2022 single "Doja"—which nods to Gwen Stefani and Eve's 2001 hit, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"—reached all corners of the world. While 2023 No.1 single "Sprinter", alongside Dave, stands out as one of 2023's biggest international hits.
K-Trap at one of his first UK drill gigs opening for Loski in 2018 (2018) by Laura BrosnanTRENCH
Unknown T in his local estate in Hackney. (2021) by Laura BrosnanTRENCH
Unknown T is one of drill's most captivating characters, a legitimate star as adept at producing a smash like "Homerton B" as he is merging drill with R&G on "Throwback”.
Unknown T resting during a shoot on his local estate in Hackney. (2021) by Laura BrosnanTRENCH
His instantly recognisable voice and flows have allowed him to stand out from the pack as one of the UK's premier artists off the strength of drill music.
Outside of the metropole of London, Manchester-born newcomer Nemzzz has a unique approach to drill, utilising the danceable rhythms of Jersey Club in his music in addition to a dynamic vocal delivery to fit the occasion.
Digga D performing at Reading Festival (2021) by Kojo DwimohTRENCH
Heavyweight names like Digga D and K-Trap have been steadily building on their legacy with chart-topping hits that still hold weight on the underground. Drill OG Blanco, once part of pioneering crew Harlem Spartans, is almost a maverick within the genre in his approach.
Sonically, he fuses sun-kissed Brazilian Baile funk with drill’s ice-cold tones to slow the tempo down, while his acrobatic rap style is proficient for all manners of production.
Repping for the ladies, Teezandos is not one to scoff at either. Her energetic lyrical style fits like a glove with drill’s thumping hi-hats and sliding 808s and she is genuinely one of the most exciting artists to watch in a genre full of them.
In one form or another, these artists–alongside a whole heap of emerging talent–are carrying the baton for UK drill, and will do so for years to come, proving that the sound's ceiling is as high as was ever predicted.