Drill is now Australia’s most popular form of hip-hop.
The nihilistic derivative of trap music that originated in Chicago, and was then adopted in London, is now being used by young Polynesian-Australian and African-Australian men to rack up millions on millions of views online.
So, what is drill?
Drill can be defined as a sub-genre of rap music that was created by young black men in Chicago during the early 2010's. The music features violent lyrics that paint a grim picture of life in a marginalised class. Its production is heavy, thunderous and relies on a maximalist wall of sound approach. The popularity in the United States began to wane during the middle of this decade, only for its success to be replicated in the United Kingdom by young black men in London.
It has also been the subject of public outrage, critical derision and censorship by law enforcement.
Drill has now made its way to Australia. Young Polynesian-Australian and African-Australian men have re-purposed those Chicago and London sounds and influences for modern Australia. The music made by these men is a new frontier for Australian hip-hop.
Its a viral success story.
Acts in the scene are shooting from absolute obscurity to internet virality within months. If you have not already taken notice, now is the time to sit up.
Here are four acts to watch out for in Australia’s burgeoning drill scene.
ONEFOUR is Australia’s flagship drill group. The Western Sydney outfit released their breakout hit ‘The Message’ this year and it already sits at over 5 million views both on YouTube and Spotify. A “reaction video” to any one of their new songs easily racks up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Their music is aggressive, celebratory, intimidating, energetic and infectious.
Hooligan Hefs breakout hit ‘No Effect’ is confusing. It begins as a drill track. The video reads a drill video (a group of boys are dressed in black with many wearing face masks). The lyrics are drill lyrics (“no surrender, no retreat”). But at almost two minutes into the song, the beat begins to build before dropping into a sound that recalls the Melbourne shuffle. It is a striking switch-up that blends the sounds of a street genre with the sound of my high school during the 00s.
The HP Boyz
The HP Boyz always look like they are having a lot of fun. They are the easily the most playful of the drill groups in this list. Take the video for their breakout song, ‘Engineers’. The boys smile throughout. They smirk at their own lines. They use a money phone (perhaps the first use of a Australian money phone in popular culture). Pair that playfulness with a well written hook and a bouncy beat and you have a hit.
Before the “Poly-Movement” of 2019, before ONEFOUR dropped ‘The Message’ and even before Vice wrote an article on Australian Drill. There was 66Records. The Melbourne based label emerged in 2017 as a home for rappers from African Australian community but received (arguably undeserved) notoriety as a result of public altercations in 2018. ‘Free Da Guyz’ by duo MTS is probably the closest evocation of the original Chicago sound to be reproduced in Australia. It features all the hallmarks of early drill luminaries such as Fredo Santana or Lil Reese. Dead pan delivery. Ominous, loud production. It is a great homage.
Whether you love it or hate it, Drill isn't going anywhere anytime soon.