Since 2019, the UK has witnessed increases in knife and gun crimes among young people with over 78 knife- related deaths in the capital alone. The worrying increase has led to the demonisation of these music genres, with the police and media turning their blame towards the artists as instigators of the problem. However, this is not actually the case.
UK Grime began in the early 2000s and Drill, a derivation of Grime, began growing in popularity since 2012.
These music genres have seen many artists rise to fame from very humble beginnings. What we are witnessing within these genres is the creation of a bright future for their artists. The music industry has been removing artists from the streets and encouraging them to turn their energies towards more positive directions. The music industry has even allowed artists to create opportunities for other young people like themselves. A perfect example of this can be seen through Stormzy’s creation of a scholarship for young black Cambridge students.
However, one must discuss the circulations of some Drill songs and artists who have been linked to actual violence. The main case highlighted by the public and used to demonise the genre, is that of rapper commonly known as M-Trap — who was given a life sentence for stabbing a 15-year-old to death. However, as Drill artist DJ Bempah noted during an interview, if violence is what artists are witnessing in the environment around them, then it is what they will portray in their lyrics. Changes are needed to remove violence from the streets in order for artists to change the tone of their lyrics. Crucially, it is not the case that every artist from this genre embraces violent behaviour. However, the few that have been flagged by the media has contributed to the genre becoming blacklisted.
I say, it is about time we stop removing facilities and opportunities from our young people, especially young people of colour. Attempts to censor music whose artists are predominantly black will only create further divisions between these groups and the Government. Instead of policy-makers searching for the factors which have turned young people to the streets, resulting in a spike in youth violence, they are predictably blaming the same communities who are deeply affected by it. But what they should be doing is supporting them. It is not possible, nor is it fair for middle-class politicians to make decisions regarding working-class communities without their consultation. If done without first speaking and reaching out to these communities, without proper attention to detail, policies created may be insensitive and counterproductive.
The police’s censorship of the West London Drill group 1011 has seen a rise in the popularity of their songs within black and ethnic minority communities. Further attempts to police this genre will create a situation where the police lose all possible influence on the message being spread. Instead, Drill and Grime music should, and could, be used as an avenue to reach young people through what artists release.
An alternative proposal should be considered. We should not blame the entirety of the music genre for the spike in violence, to the extent of policing it. Politicians and police officers need to work with these artists, educating them on the impact of their lyrics on impressionable young people and bringing them on board on the campaign to reduce the violence we are witnessing on our streets. Recently, Rapper Yizzy created a music video illustrating the ‘horrendous reality’ of knife crime as he plays a stab victim. Yizzy’s video is only one example of how artists can be used to spread a clear and impressionable message. For many young people, having their role models discourage gang mentality and violence, will have a better chance at decreasing their inclination to commit crime.
Politicians need to stop blaming and must start listening. The weapon needed to reduce violence lies in the hands of the same people they seek to censor. Grime and Drill is not the enemy and it can help in the fight against knife and gun crimes — we just need to learn how to use this genre for good.