Keeping It a Bean: The Evolving Beat of NY Drill Rap

New York has the captivity to make and break a record in a matter of minutes.

Having DJ Funk Flex drop a bomb on your record was a staple of having a hit. Having your song play on the radios in NYC was the landmark of having made it in your rap career for some. NY artists have always had the ability to create music and lingo that steadily takes over the world.

New York drill has solidified its status as the dominating sound in rap right now. Thanks to the success of Ice Spice drill rap has quickly become a national phenomenon.

Ice Spice in her “Deli” music video.

Even though Bronx drill has its influence from Brooklyn drill, it has rerouted its direction and paved a new lane for producers and artists alike. The spirit of the Bronx has always been at the forefront of what hip-hop came to be. The Bronx’s trendsetting styles have been what New York rap was known for.

Young Bronx drill artists like B-Lovee, Kay Flock, and Sha Ek have all been climatic for the explosion of drill’s signature sound. With the movement achieving commercial success having Cardi B jump on the remix for fellow Bronx rapper Kay Flock’s “Shake It” The rate of commercialization of drill was an inevitable force to be reckoned with since last summer and it has shown no signs of having an expiration date.

Cardi B and Key Flock during the “Shake It” music video in The Bronx.

Historically speaking, Bboy dancing has its roots in the Bronx which goes to show the long-lasting ingenuity of the Bronx culture. Drill rap has also given rise to a dance style known as “getting sturdy,” which can be witnessed in just minutes of scrolling on TikTok. This innovative footwork, an evolution of the “Woo Walk,” has gained prominence. TikTok has played a significant role in popularizing this dance craze, with its catchy moves attracting viral attention and shining a light on drill’s impact around the world. This promotion of dancing in the music has helped overshadow the often negative connotations associated with drill, emphasizing the positive aspect of bringing people together through dance under the drill culture. The fusion of these worlds—the streets and dance brought forth a harmonious synergy that breathed new life into drill. The drill music scene combined with social media has desensitized cruel lyrics to become a backdrop for catchy dance music.

Bronx drill is an evolution of the Brooklyn drill sound with similar production staples. Its players have also succumbed to similar negative circumstances that have been associated with rap life. Has the bass-heavy production become the precursor for arousing tensions and provoking violence within the inner city?

Since its introduction New York drill has raised a bundle of pointed questions. When does rap have real-life implications?  When does music motivate violence? A lot of times there is an underlying responsibility on the artist for the content they produce. The majority of drill lyrics have become a repetitive spew of the same recycled phrases. The lack of diverse creativity has fall victim to the rewashing of beats and dumbing down of lyricism.

The once bubbling, now the New York drill scene is deteriorating under the rustic coat of Gotham City. By what of lately has been a pollution of diss tracks and songs mocking the dead, that has left many wondering what is left of the substance that drill rap holds. What initially flourished as a medium to illuminate the hidden facets of social depositions has, over time, transformed into a semblance, a disillusionment of lyrical authenticity. It has become a simple formula of emulating gun sounds and connotative smoking of dead “opps” bar after bar. Creating a wave of Youtube copycat replicas that lack diversity or ingenuity. Mixed with gang life under tones this sets the stage for a dangerous real-life tragedy to play out with drill music being its soundtrack.

What began as a beacon of inspiration within the realm of hip-hop, designed to ignite the passions of youth and elevate entire communities, has undergone a profound transformation. This evolution has given rise to a culture now fueled by the potent energy of drill rap videos, intermingled with the disheartening trajectory of misguided youth. The stark reality is the majority of these rappers getting a couple of hundred thousand to millions of views are still in the projects.

New York City’s drill scene is a canvas muddled by the consequences of stained incarcerations and gun violence. A somber truth unfolds – many of its celestial figures have been ensnared by the heartrending grasp of gun violence or entangled within the legal clutches of the NYPD. Earlier this year buzzing drill stars Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow were among 32 alleged gang members charged in a 140-count indictment. Back in November 2021, Sheff G was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in connection with a traffic stop arrest earlier that year. Bronx native Nas EBK who is prevalent in the drill scene was also arrested this year in connection with a fatal shooting in Times Square. An eloquent embodiment of the stark truth mirrored in the very essence of their music.

Sheff G, the drill rapper whose real name is Michael Kyle Williams, is escorted while handcuffed by detectives at Brooklyn Criminal Court on May 16, 2023. Photo by Dean Moses

Many of the drill rappers who were pivotal in the creation of Bronx drill have fall victim to the ghastly climate which the music portrays. Notable Brooklyn drill pioneer Bobby Shmurda says he’s not interested in making drill music anytime soon.

Has drill rap been sabotaged before its peak? The potential for self-sabotage lies in the narrow outlook that could emerge, eclipsing the genre’s ability to evolve and broaden its artistic horizons As the genre navigates this delicate balance, only time will unveil whether its true potential has been compromised or whether it shall rise above the shadows of self-sabotage,

Bronx drill has its birthplace in the Bronx and over time the subgenera had moved to other areas, leaking into the tri-state over the last few months, with New Jersey producers revamping the drill drums into their own Jersey club beats. Lil Uzi’s “I Just Wanna Rock” produced by Newark Jersey club producer Mcvertt has fast-tracked the Jersey club appeal to the mainstream. This may be the piggyback that drill might need though. An adaptation of a dance style birthed in the streets and brought to the clubs. The new wave of drill has shifted a once scorn trajectory to a brighter future.


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