• Mamadou Tall

The Fourth Wave of Drill



One of my favorite quotes is "history repeats itself. That's just how it goes." Those were words said by J. Cole in the song "Fire Squad," or well at least that's where I first heard them. The point being that those sets of words have always been true. History repeats; "waves" make a comeback. The resurgence that's the topic here, is that of Drill rap in New York. Most specifically, Bronx Drill.

When the idea of Drill rap was first introduced to me I was in middle school. At that time it was just a Chicago thing with the likes of Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Lil Reese, G Herbo, and Lil Bibby bringing the sound to the world's ears. Classic songs such as "Don't Like," "Love Sosa," and "Kobe," had middle schoolers like myself enamored with the rapping style of Chief Keef and other drill artists from Chicago.

As time rolled by, the urgent buzz attached to the Chicago drill movement slowly died out. Original drill artists such as Lil Durk and G Herbo graduated from making drill music, while Lil Bibby moved up to an executive position. As the first wave of drill swept through the States it began making its way across the Atlantic.

The UK drill scene picked up where Chicago left off, crashing down in the UK and gaining national attention. Similarly to the Chicago drill era, UK drill artists often made headlines outside of their music. They were narrating the lives they led and the things they saw. In most instances there was violence and crime but this is what they were exposed to since children. The circumstances that give drill music its energy are identical between the US and the UK.


UK drill gave us a different sound within the same concept. Not only was the lingo different, so were the accents, and so where the metaphors. UK drill was making noise. Headie One is widely looked at as one of the best drill artists in the UK. His status and skills even caught the attention of one of the biggest artists in the world, Drake. Drake and Headie One collaborating on the song "Only You Freestyle" served as a big win for UK drill and Headie One. Aside from collaborating with UK drill artists, Drake has even drawn inspiration from UK drill in his own music. The most notable example of this is the song "War," where Drizzy uses a UK drill style beat, and flows using some UK lingo. Anytime an artists or genre of rap gets a cosign from Drake it always proves to be beneficial more times than not.

The UK drill beats and flows and cadences left a lasting impression. The drums, the bass, and the mysticism of the piano melodies gave New York City rappers something new to rap over. The third wave of drill landed in New York, most specifically Brooklyn. Lesser-known artists like Bam Bino, Curly Savv, and Dah Dah started to plant the seeds of Brooklyn drill early on. The popularity of these artists remained local for the most part, but the sound would soon take over the city with their contributions to the drill movement.

Sheff G popularized drill in New York with the song "No Suburban." Sheff G would ignite the Brooklyn drill movement, and the likes of Pop Smoke, Fivio Foreign, 22 Gz, and Sleepy Hallow would help put Brooklyn drill on the map.

The aggression, the storytelling, and the beats of these songs made the city pay attention. Eventually, the world would be forced to tune in. Brooklyn drill introduced a new style of New York City storytelling through rap music. It wasn't done over the "boom bap" beats of the 90s. It wasn't with the lyricism and word play of Hov or Nas but it was still New York nonetheless.


On the other side of the city, the fourth wave of drill music popped up; this time it was the Bronx. The Bronx drill movement is currently active. Nowadays it's damn near impossible to roam around the city and not hear someone playing a song by Kay Flock, B Love, Dougie B, or Sha EK. These young up-and-coming rappers picked up right where their predecessors left off. Those mysterious piano melodies still remain. The street politics and disrespect that have long been engrained in drill music are still present.


So what makes this different? I might be in the minority here, but I think the samples being used in these tracks is what really sets the Bronx drill movement apart from the rest. Listen to "What Y'all Wanna Do," by Kay Flock and C Blu and you'll see exactly what I mean. On this track, the beginning of Kanye West's classic song "Power" is sampled. The nostalgia from the sample mixed with the aggressive style of Bronx drill is undefeated.

Better yet listen to "Being Honest," also by Kay Flock, and listen to how the sample of XXXTentacion's "Changes" complements the mood and tone of Kay Flock throughout the song.

Aside from the samples, Bronx dril music presents energy that just screams NYC and the Bronx specifically. Listen to any Sha Ek song, and he might have you ready to punch some shit with his aggressive and angry flows. Dougie B and his hype energy when rapping is very infectious to those listening or whoever he is featured on a song with. This is no more evident than one of my favorite songs, "Turnt," by B Lovee and Dougie B. The energy and mood attached to this song is intense, while the visuals show you that they're just all having a good time with the music. A contrast that I feel pretty much sums up life in NYC.

I have paid close attention to the past three waves of the drill movement. Through writing this piece, I have even learned new things about the history of drill. Drill music is the result of the struggles of inner-city youth. Drill serves as the outlet for these rappers to vent, brag, tell their story. It started with Chief Keef, G Herbo, and Lil Durk in Chicago, and years later, the likes of B Lovee and Kay Flock are continuing to keep the sound alive.


From Chicago to the UK and back to New York, drill music remains prevalent today. Who knows, we might see an uprising of drill in another city or country in a couple years.

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