In recent years we have witness the rise of Drill, a new sub-genre out of Rap music, take the music scene by storm. Originating from Southside Chicago, the sub-genre reflected the gritty, violent streets.
Drill music gave birth to many Chicago rap stars like Chief Keef, G Herbo, Lil Reese, Fredo Santana, Lil Durk, Lil Jay, FBG Duck, Lil Bibby and many more. Their influence in the music world brought a new sound worldwide, which led to other countries adopting Chicago Drill and creating their version. The UK is the main culprit in this circumstance. Those from the UK embraced Drill music. However, UK rappers began to turn away from the traditional Chicago sound and formulate their vibrancy with the help of producers such as M1onthebeat, AXL Beats, 808 Melo, Bkay, Yoz Beats, Ghosty and more. This modern Drill made noise worldwide, becoming welcomed by other places, one being Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Drill since 2019 arguably became the face of the sub-genre internationally with the help of Pop Smoke, Sheff G, 22GZ, Fivio Foreign, Rah Swish, Bizzy Banks and many more young talents. The Drill scene in Brooklyn splits into two groups, the Woos and the Choos. The Woos consist of Pop Smoke, Rah Swish, Fivio Foreign, Bobby Shmurda, Rowdy Rebel, Sheff G, Sleepy Hallow, Fetty Luciano, Drizzy Juliano, Dafi Woo and more. Bizzy Banks, Jay Gwuapo & Jay Critch, are affiliated to the Woo and have no alliance with their rivals, the Choo. The Choo includes 22GZ, Nas Blixky, Nick Blixky, Coach Da Ghost, Breezy Blixky, Max Da Demon and more. These two groups have been the front runners of the Brooklyn Drill movement, creating diss songs against each other throughout recent years.
Nonetheless, many people fail to understand that Drill music itself did not transfer from the UK to Brooklyn. Instead, Drill started to take over Brooklyn in 2014 when Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel popped out of nowhere. The first song that sent shockwaves in the music world was ‘Hot N***a’ by Bobby Shmurda. The cutthroat lyricism and the jumpy sound packaged a classic, timeless song that till this day is relished by music fans.
The difference between the modern Brooklyn Drill production and the old instrumentals is the original sound mirrored Atlanta’s Trap instrumentals. Which are similar to Chicago Drill beats as they derived from Trap beats. ‘Hot N***a’ was followed up by Rowdy Rebel’s tune ‘Computers’ featuring Bobby Shmurda’, which led to multiple rappers, including Chicago Drill artists, G Herbo, Montana of 300 and Wooski remixing ‘Computers’. This old Brooklyn Drill sound, including Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel aspiring careers, caused multiple artists to jump on their wave. Their fame also resulted in a short beef between Chicago rappers, mainly Chief Keef and GBE. The speculation behind this drama was Chief Keef and GBE were accusing Bobby Shmurda, Rowdy Rebel and GS9 of stealing Drill music from Chicago, which led to back and forth arguing on social media. However, no violence or diss songs occurred in the mix.
During that period, Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel fame were short-lived due to their incarceration with some of their GS9 members. Unfortunately, leaving Brooklyn Drill with no leader to lead this new movement led Brooklyn to be overshadowed by other cities or countries, especially the UK Drill Movement. The UK Drill music’s booming, exuberant production captivated underground Brooklyn rappers, leading to many Brooklyn artists contacting UK Drill producers for instrumentals, AXL beats being one of the first.
AXL built relations with Brooklyn rappers in Flatbush, Canarsie and Brownsville. 22gz in 2017 was one of the pioneers for formulating the new sound. His tune ‘Surburban’ was one of the first popular songs to use the UK Drill sound in Brooklyn. The vicious lyrics, bouncy vibe and, menacing music video encouraged other rappers to follow this new campaign. Sheff G, a rival to 22GZ from East Flatbush, released a diss song to 22GZ ‘Surburban’ called ‘No Surburban’. Sheff G’s merciless verses, gloomy ambience reflected the rough streets of Brooklyn and encouraged both rivals, including their groups, to disrespect each other through releasing diss tracks back and forth.
The new Brooklyn Drill sound completely took over Brooklyn, with every rapper in the area relying on the UK Drill production. Sheff G, Sleepy Hallow, 22GZ, Nas Blixky and Nick Blixky were the front runners for this movement in 2018. However, the talent mainly resided with Sheff G, Sleepy Hallow and their affiliates as they released multiple enjoyable songs, for example, Panic 1, 2 &3, and Welcome Home. Sheff G x Sleepy Hallow Panic 3 influenced Woo rapper Pop Smoke to join the new Brooklyn Drill wave as he remixed Panic 3 and created MPR, his first official song.
Pop Smoke entering the Brooklyn Drill scene was heaven sent as his career commenced with releasing savouring tunes. His rise in the sub-genre resulted in Pop Smoke becoming the face of the Brooklyn Drill scene worldwide. Pop Smoke’s first project, ‘Meet The Woo’, confirmed the Woo rapper as the face of the Brooklyn Drill scene. ‘Meet The Woo’ reflected the dangerous, brutal streets of Brooklyn. The tasteful production relying on the UK Drill sound matched Pop Smoke’s energy, which led to many music fans drawing towards Pop Smoke. The stand out tune was ‘Welcome To The Party’, which took the music scene by ransom. The track resulted in numerous remixes by big stars mainly Nicki Minaj, Dave East and Skepta. Pop Smoke’s influence globalising the movement brought light to his fellow Brooklyn Drill rappers including his rivals 22gz and the Choo as they received credit for their contribution.
Pop Smoke’s rise to mainstream followed up with Brooklyn Drill gaining awareness. Other Brooklyn Drill rappers utilised this opportunity to cement their place in the mainstream music scene. For example, Fivio Foreign dropped his playful, party song ‘Big Drip’ produced by AXL Beats in August 2019. ‘Big Drip’ made noise everywhere due to being played in parties, clubs, venues, radios and more. The song’s enjoyment caused rappers to remix the tune, such as Lil Baby, Quavo, and remixes from the UK. 22GZ success reflected on signing under Kodak Black. Sheff G didn’t receive the same mainstream treatment. Nonetheless, he still received international attention from Drill fans. To an extent, Sheff G was considered the best rapper, if not one of the best behind Pop Smoke.
Unfortunately, straight after Pop Smoke released his second project, ‘Meet The Woo 2’, the Woo rapper passed away in Los Angeles. Pop Smoke’s tragic death left a hole in the Brooklyn Drill scene for many reasons. One, he was the biggest Drill star on the mainstream level and, no one else has been able to pick up the torch and reach his level of success. Nevertheless, his legacy in the Drill music world remained strong because his work has influenced decision making in the scene.
For example, his relations with the UK scene has encouraged other Brooklyn Drill rappers to link up with UK based artists. Although Sheff G was the first to create a song with a London Drill rapper called Taze, Pop Smoke emphasised linking with the UK for musical reasons. The Woo rapper travelled to London and worked with Fredo, Skepta, Young Adz and more. Pop Smoke utilising the Drill sound strengthened the bridge between UK and US rappers. These actions led to artists from both sides of the sea making tunes, for instance, Fivio Foreign in 2021 connected with M24, Tion Wayne, Digga D and Russ Millions, Drake with Headie One, Future with Headie One, Abracadabra with Dusty Locane and many more.
Even before Pop Smoke’s death, the Brooklyn Drill scene and Chicago Drill Scene formed a surprising link since 2018. However, 2020 is where the bond between the two movements peaked as Chicago Drill picked up momentum because of the back and forth between King Von with O Block against FBG Duck with 63rd. The sub-genre improved the unity between the two cities, which Bobby Shmurda with GS9 struggled to have with Chief Keef and GBE. Although the Drill music played a part in this Chicago-Brooklyn collaborations, the gang ties in Southside Chicago began to spill in Brooklyn mainly because of the Choo movement.
Rappers from the Choo represent the Gangster Disciples (GD), a gang that started in Chicago. FBG Duck and his fellow 63rd people are members of the Gangster Disciple movement. The Woo, including Pop Smoke, have made disrespectful remarks to the GD gang in their music. The first notable song to highlight this collaboration is FBG Duck, Boss Blaze and Nick Blixky – In My Bag, using a UK Drill instrumental in 2018. As Choo rappers were becoming close with Chicago GD artists, this inspired Woo rappers to build bridges with the GD’s enemies in Chicago, notably King Von.
These link-ups took place in 2020 where the US Drill scene in recent years was at its hottest. King Von joined forces with Fivio Foreign to release ‘I am What I am’. Overall, this tune is wondrous mainly due to the grittiness both artists brought to the tune. The track’s dynamic vibrancy manifests the darkness of the Brooklyn and Chicago streets with the UK Drill beat and Chicago type melody in the background. ‘I Am What I Am is debatably one of the best songs from the Chicago-Brooklyn collaboration.
To summarise, Brooklyn Drill has been a powerful musical movement throughout these last years. The journey started under Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel in 2014 but lost esteem because of their incarceration. Their downfall in the scene led to Drill music in Brooklyn changing its sound utilising the UK Drill production. As Brooklyn Drill began to become popular, it birthed a new face of New York, Pop Smoke. His short-lived career influenced the music industry worldwide by building bridges with the UK. His legacy is evident in the recent collaborations between US and UK rappers on UK Drill instrumentals. The Drill scene in Brooklyn also helped create an alliance between Chicago-Brooklyn rappers, which failed to occur under Bobby and Rowdy’s run evident in the GS9 and GBE altercation.