The Ballad and The Bullet: Drill Music and The Black Millennial (2016)


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In 2012, the sub-genre of Drill Music was shockingly different from anything that the Hip-Hop community was used to experiencing from a Chicago artist. For years, the Rap world has been fed an image of Chicago Rappers as being sophisticated lyricists. Artists like Kanye West, Common and Lupe Fiasco come to mind. This, however, is a one-sided image of the duality that the city of Chicago processes.

Yes, it’s true that Chicago is a beautifully intelligent place full of art and sophistication. However, it is also well known that the city has a harsher, more unforgiving side. Since prohibition Chicago has branded itself as the birthplace of “Gangs/Gangsters.” True to this moniker, the city is home to some of the United States’ oldest and most violent street gangs. Yet despite this, few Chicago rappers have chosen to openly accept this side of their culture. In fact, one of the city’s more popular Rappers, Common, went as far to ignore his gang connection until conveniently alluding to The Four Corner Hustlers during a brief Rap beef with everyone’s favorite barber, Ice Cube.

Drill Music, however, changed this.

With the introduction of Drill Music, the often over looked side of Chicago was revealed to the Rap world. From these surprisingly young artist, audiences could witness what it was like for the youth of this city. For the first time, many listeners got a chance to hear about the severity of Chicago’s gang culture, while being amazed by the passion the young creatives possessed.

Yet, the creation of Drill Music did more than entertain the masses.

The astonishment at the artists’ ages paired with their music’s violent subject matter resulted in older audiences beginning to inquire about the youth of this marginalized city. They started to wonder why these children (most of which could barely drive) were so accustomed to death and violent crime. The question of “why/how do they do this?” began to be asked more frequently. This exposure, prompted seasoned consumers to call for a change in the lives of Chicago’s young citizens. That put immense pressure on the city’s government. And due to their marginalized status, Drill artist became the perfect valve for the local and national government to release the heat that they were generating. Chicago officials used the lyrics of the music in combination with their major legal issues, namely the murder conviction of Drill Rapper, Rondo Numba Nine, to convince the public that Drill Music is the cause of the city’s violence. They implemented strict laws that Permited Drill artists from performing. Even going as far as banning Chief Keef’s image within city limits.

While government officials have been taking an extreme approach in hopes to silence Drill artists, they are doing little to change the world that these musicians rap about. Even with the continued restriction of Drill Music, Chicago has still seen more than 700 murders this year, including the 30 people who have died since the beginning of November. The general public notices this. The blatant denial of the youth only adds to the genre’s popularity.

Even though entertainers such as G Herbo, Katie Got Bands, Chief Keef, and Lil Bibby see themselves as just telling the world their story, many young Rap fans view them as prophetic prodigies. The honest subject matter that is present in Drill Music speaks to the common struggles that Black Millennials in America share. Because of this connection, Drill has become one of the most copied styles in Rap. Acts such as DC artist, Fat Trel, and Atlanta sensation, 21 Savage, have homes hundreds of miles away from Chicago. Young MA’s career soared after she created a “Chiraq” remix titled “Brooklyn.” Yet, all have flows and cadences the derive from this sub-genre. In a short amount of time, Drill artists have successfully changed the landscape of Rap by providing a much needed outlet for many adolescents in the United States.

These martyrs, however, have not been so fortunate. Yes, Rap has allowed these young creatives to actualize their potential and secure a successful future for themselves. However, the ignorance of their struggles by the people who could effectively enact change, force them to encounter issues similar to the ones they hoped to evade. For example: in December of 2015, Drill artist, King Louie, was shot in the head while visiting family in Chicago. Louie is one of the more successful Drill Rappers. He has numerous writing credits on multiple albums, including Kanye’s Yeezus. Despite this, he still fell victim to a violent crime. Fortunately, King Louie survived. But, the harsh reality of the situation remains the same.

In an interview with AllHipHop, 21-year-old, G Herbo, explains why violence is so habitual in Chicago.

“We had just landed, I ain’t gonna lie, (my friend) was just saying that 17 people were dead this weekend in Chicago, 41 injured,” the rapper recounted in regards to one of the deadliest weekends in the city’s history.
He then went on to decode Chicago’s actual issue. “But the real problem with Chicago is there is no leadership,” Herbo described. “There’s a lot of potential leaders, but no ‘leadership.” There’s no one who wants to be hands on and not stop the violence, because that’s impossible, but impact a violent person and change they mind.”

This lack of care, at not only the communal, but governing levels of Chicago is the root of the plight that is present in Drill. Yet, as witnessed by the continual violence, these stories are being ignored. Chicago’s consistent violence is a direct result of misrepresentation and the lack of true leadership that G Herbo describes.

Similar to journalism, Rap is a discipline that documents often overlooked events and presents them for the world to see. True to this, Drill Music tells an unearthed story about the city of Chicago. However, Chicago is just an emphasized microcosm of what the Black youth of America experience every day.

This is why Drill Music is so popular.

It is often said that the art that is consumed is a direct reflection of the consumer and his/her community. Well, throughout the country Black Millennials are becoming desensitize to violence and violent crimes. This is not because our media “glorifies” it. It is actually a byproduct of being forced live among it. In pure Hip-Hop fashion, Drill Rappers documented this truth and effectively conveyed it with a voice that not many possess. Their aggressively harsh lyrics are received by the youth because we know that they are synonymous with the cries for help that we all have wept. Yet, the ones in power cannot seem to comprehend this. Instead of trying to decipher the message they, in turn, blame the delivery.

But, the delivery isn’t the issue.

Drill artists have given the world a concrete story. They presented not only a complete description of their culture, but also backed their claims with facts. As journalists, they have done their job. It is now up to us, as the fans of the music, to translate these cries into a plea that the masses can understand. If we do this. If we open the ears of the powerful to our plight. Then, change will undoubtedly be enacted in the life of the marginalized Millennial. This change will allow us, as a culture, to progress leading to us being able to finally appreciate Drill Music.