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The uprising of the drill music subgenre in Nigeria

Nigerian rappers are carving a niche for the drill music subgenre

image showing members of a rap gang doing drill music in Nigeria
Members of a rap crew during a drill music video

If there is one aspect of the African culture that does not fail to muster recognition from the global community, it would be the music. For decades now, music from Nigeria has undergone some metamorphosis while maintaining and sharing stories from the core of the African voice, and drill music is yet another medium to tell these stories.

Notably, Nigerian musicians have been on the frontlines of the major exporters of music and culture. Through exemplary collaborations, Nigerian artists have been able to create a growing fusion of newly recognized genres to the concept of storytelling. One of the notable sub-genres cracking it in the Nigerian music scene in our current digital era is “Drill music”.

Drill music, a sub-genre of trap music that originated in Chicago’s Southside in early 2010, is a music category characterized by dark, violent, and cynical lyrical content, embedded in ominous trap-influenced beats. Artists (usually called drillers) who make the kind of music in this category often belong to street gangs or are influenced by the socioeconomically-deprived neighborhoods where they live in and bank on crime as a way of life for many.

The sub-genre which quickly spread its tentacles to the UK underground music scene also carried over to Brooklyn, New York, and introduced influential rappers such as the late Pop Smoke Chief Keef and Sheff G.

Unlike trap music which involves a lot of autotune, the Drill genre avoids auto-tune and leans towards more expressive deliveries with violent lyrical content and bare-boned quality in tone and language. Drill artists are associated with stone-cold metaphors and clever word plays which favors a technique that resembles unemotional reportage, often underscoring the usual ominous subject matter in focus.

Although drill music in Nigeria is relatively still in its infancy, it is gradually gaining ground among young rappers in Lagos and Abuja. For a community of people who have known hardship, fought against police brutality as part of their daily lives, and often had to “pull the next man down” to climb higher up the food chain, it is no surprise that the Nigerian music scene has birthed its drill genre and is steadily carving a spot for itself in the music industry.

In this article, we’ll spotlight the prime runners leading the pack of rappers who are doing all they can to establish drill music as an official subgenre in the Nigerian music industry.

CHOP LIFE CREW

The Lagos-based label, prominent within the Nigerian rap scene is home to some of the hottest Drill and Afro-grime artists in the country. L.K (El-K), one of the duo of the rap crew appears on several records by almost every existing and aspiring drill artist in the country, is a pioneer and a force to be reckoned with in the Nigerian drill music scene. L.K has been underground for a while now, blessing rappers with verses till he released his single titled ‘lowkey Fm’. He further exhibited his musical dexterity in the crew’s popular “chop life crew (step)” record released earlier in 2020 with label mate Mojo’ and continues on this path of rap.

The intriguing video for this banging record ensures viewers grasp the entirety of the concept of drill in Nigeria. Watch the video below:

JAIYE

This is one name that is constantly synonymous with the drill music sub genre in Nigeria. ‘Jaiye234’ as shown across his social media accounts, is known for his ability to bring his spin of cynical lyrics and nihilistic delivery on the eerie bass-heavy genre. He officially launched his music career in 2018 with the release of his debut single titled ‘Itchin’, which is essentially an introduction of himself and a guide into the depth of talent he’s built in. With follow-up tracks such as ‘proper’, ‘full clip’ and ‘bails’, Jaiye develops his sound, displays his versatility, and continues to reinstate his mark as the number one driller in Nigeria. Jaiye releases music under the thirsty worldwide imprint which is home to prominent associated act Straffiti.

The latest addition to the discography of the ‘if it ain’t sprite, it ain’t right’ rapper is his recent release featuring Chop life crews’ duo— L.K and Mojo, titled ‘Kweng It’. The solid record is a renewed attempt to portray his persona which is influenced by his nationality and experience coming from the trenches.

Watch full video here:

ODUMODUBLVCK

ODUMODUBLVCK pronounced (Odumodu black) is a self-acclaimed roadman who is popular for his distinct appearance and violent style of delivery. Also known by his alias ‘Big Gun’, ODUMODUBLVCK is a drill and afro-grime artist you listen to for the first time and want to know what goes on inside his head. His style of delivery makes you want to watch your back at the sound of his vocals. Always dressed in the distinct Igbo hat (Okpu agu) meaning ‘warriors hat’, ODUMODUBLVCK has been spitting voracious bars since he debuted with a joint tape with Reeplay titled ANTI-WORLD GANGSTARS in 2018.

Lyrics like “Shakabula dey inside my tongue, ODUMODUBLVCK my middle name na Big Gun.” and “how many men I go carry go Jesus? Too many men, idiots”, are some of the numerous bars that make the Abuja-based rapper a prominent figure in the Nigerian drill music scene. Associated acts include Eeskay, Reeplay, and Zilla oaks. His latest album titled ‘Time and Chance’ is an interesting addition to his in-depth discography which is described as a cry and an announcement by the rapper himself. It is an exposé into the revelations of his experiences in life and of those around him which influence his music style.

DROXX

A Lagos-based rapper who originally began his music career as a trap artist, swiftly developed into a drill artist influenced by challenges he had to deal with growing up in the city of Lagos. The rapper may be young by age but is determined to show his growth in his deep-rooted lyrics. Droxx introduced his skills and musical stance with his first official drill record “Officer” as a lead-up single to his debut project —Riot. The release of ‘Officer’ helped mark his transition from simply an “artist” to a “drill artist”.

“Officer” is a track about navigating the brutal police culture, accompanied by a video that displays a rebellious picture of fed-up youths, bandanas over-dyed hairs, and bare torsos.

The EP compels Droxx to share his life’s experiences in more ominous vocals and a storytelling technique to sell the emerging take on the Western rap phenomenon alongside rapper Mo’gunz. Droxx is one to look out for in the #234Drill music scene.

The EP compels Droxx to share his life’s experiences in more ominous vocals and a storytelling technique to sell the emerging take on the Western rap phenomenon alongside rapper Mo’gunz. Droxx is one to look out for in the #234Drill music scene.

PSIV

PSIV (pronounced P-S-4) is the latest addition to the growing drill music scene in Nigeria. The rapper debuted with a single titled ‘Too fly’ in 2018 and kept releasing hard-hitting records in 2019 and 2020. He gained relative recognition with his release in 2020. ‘Gangland’ he calls it, is an outcry against the realities of his life,  the struggle in his motherland, and the fight against oppression and police brutality. The heavy bop is a rendition of blistering lyrics over an ominous drill beat with featured lyrics from South African rapper Espiquet.

Psiv further shares his relentless zeal to seal his name in the growing music scene with a drill project titled Welcome to the 234, an extended play consisting five reassuring tracks highlighting his lifestyle, gang activities and touching on oppression and bad governance.

Listen to Psiv on Spotify

As the drill music scene continues to grow in Nigeria, several rappers are seen making impressions and diversifying their style to fit into the ‘decade’s most important rap subgenre’ as described by Pitchfork in 2019. For a music industry which is famous for its ability to create interesting fusions of external genres with the home grown Afro sound, drill music might just become a rapidly welcomed sound in the Nigerian music scenery.

Author avatar
Arshavin Ephraim
I am passionate about talent and creativity. A writer who doubles as a mental health advocate and part-time relationship counselor.

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