The Future of U.K. Rap: Drill and Drake's Helping Hand

Rap fans watch history in the making everyday and watch it pass them by. In 1991, Tupac fans had no clue the legacy he would leave in rap. Aubrey Graham fans watching his G-rated flow on Canadian show, Degrassi, would be shocked to see the same person as the current face of rap. Southside Chicago residents in the 2010s have been living in this history in the making thanks to Chief Keef’s pioneer of Chicago drill. Since we've got our fingers on the pulse of the industry, however, we're here to remove your rap FOMO and keep you up to date with rising artists. Here's a look into rap future.

67, a U.K. drill group. Picture by David Townhill.

The rap industry is on the cusp of a Big Bang thanks to the United Kingdom. The future of rap will be led by the country, starting with their blossoming drill scene. Drill, a subgenre of rap, has come a long way in a short time. Originated by Chief Keef in the Southside of Chicago, fostered by Drake, reinvented in Brooklyn by Pop Smoke, and finally brought to the mainstream eye with TikTok, the subgenre is bursting at the seams, itching for international attention. This upcoming explosion will not only bring U.K. drill to an unparalleled level, but its ashes will certainly influence the U.K. rap scene. Evolving at such a rapid pace, it's only a matter of time before drill gets the world's undivided attention.

The U.K. rap scene has followed a similar progression as the United States. Following in our footsteps, they had their emcees, b-boys, and gangstas. The genre’s success began in the 80’s but didn’t seem to last an entire decade. As the music scene took a different turn in the U.K. during the 90’s, the infant rap scene went underground, developing a new sound through the influence of other genres and relinquishing ties from American rap. This underground scene became an important mark on the genre’s short timeline as it was given a chance to grow before truly reaching the public's eye. Young and upcoming, this genre was impressionable, taking cues from afrobeat, reggae, EDM, and more. Subgenres quickly grew from the new genre, creating more diverse sounds and allowing them to grow. But as time went on, only two genres seemed to matter under the larger umbrella that was U.K. rap: drill and grime.

A perfect storm allowed U.K. drill to grow to its current potential. Around 2010, the U.K. rap scene was still in its infancy, still working on fostering new genres with influences from Youtube and other new social medias. On the other side of the world, Chief Keef was perfecting his craft and pioneering the drill style. The U.K. rap scene, as impressionable as it was, integrated Keef's work seamlessly and allowed it to influence cultural and political standing. With drill gaining more popularity across the pond in New York as well, both eventually overshadowed Chicago, the first city introduced to the subgenre.

Chief Keef, 2013. Picture by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

While heading drill in Chicago, Chief Keef's popularity increased exponentially overnight, but left an impact. Years after his influence, in 2018, Pitchfork named drill as "the decade’s most influential subgenre." Even so, the U.K., which nationalized drill more than the U.S., didn't see the same success. The genre is yet to hit its peak in global popularity. Still, one rapper decided to test the first follower theory and branch out to support the subgenre.

The U.K. rap scene first took the global stage thanks to Drake. His appearance on British rapper Dave’s “Wanna Know Remix” in 2016 was his first attempt at making the genre popular in the U.S. The track, however, never truly got the attention it so deserved.