Last year we had Afrobeat and Amapiano, and now drill seems to be making its way back to centerstage. Outside of its polarizing subject matter, the samples, hi-hats, snares, and synths are undeniably infectious. This genre evokes energy we were accustomed to hearing from underground artists in New York, Chicago, and the UK. Even though the genre literally spans across the world, with the help of heavy hitters like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Kanye West, and J. Cole, the genre is continues to gain mainstream recognition.
Nicki Minaj is no stranger to the genre. She has a verse with one of the most notable faces of Brooklyn drill, the late Pop Smoke, on the hit “Welcome to the Party”. Minaj collaborated with another influential Brooklyn artist, Fivio Foreign on their song, “We Go Up”.
With Nicki repping south side Jamaica, Queens, the two bring that New York energy, packing the streets with locals and luxury cars for the video. Before its release, Minaj told fans via Instagram this song was not going to make the album. She released a snippet, as per the Barbz request, and it quickly became a viral sound on TikTok. In a recent interview with Hot 97, Fivio Foreign stated that he and Nicki have been trying to collaborate for years, so when this track finally worked, they ran with it. These songs always come with a crutch, but we are glad they eventually make it to our screens and playlists.
Fivio Foreign has been busy putting out his own album and consistently dropping features. He joined the City Girls for “Top Notch”, the Miami duo’s introduction to drill music. We got their bars full of IG captions and reasons why they are ‘top notch’. Months before this collaboration, Fivio created the new NYC anthem with Kanye West and Alicia Keys, “City of Gods”. And of course, it’s drill.
A fellow New Yorker, Cardi B hopped on Kay Flock’s “Shake It” alongside Dougie B and Bory 300 – all representing the Bronx.
In true drill music video fashion, we see Kay Flock and the neighborhood filling the streets cut with scenes inside the corner store. Cardi’s energy and red bandana hair left fans reminiscing about her early raps like “Red Barz”. Instantly pleased with the track release, they asked for more of “this Cardi”. Why can’t she be both? Cardi is embodying duality, dropping this feature around the same time she appeared on Nickelodeon’s “Baby Shark” series. The rapper posted a voice note to Twitter, sharing her wariness to do any drill song because it brings up unwanted feelings from her old lifestyle. Her current focus is being a “good person” and “good mother.”
High-profile mainstream artists participating in drill seems to be more complex than hopping on a trending beat. Street culture is a constant in hip hop bravado, but it is graphic, amplified, and detailed in drill. Artists like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B are now far removed from the lifestyles that drill highlights. It can seem oxymoronic to include mainstream artists in the sub-genre so rooted in the underground. However, labels and creatives alike are always looking for the next hottest thing, and drill fits the description. The big names can popularize the movement, benefitting the forerunners of drill music both in fame and finances.
BIA and J.Cole collaborated on “LONDON” a nod to UK drill, where they trade verses celebrating UK culture and colloquialisms. Supermodel Leomie Anderson has a couple of appearances in the visual, giving the track the South London seal of authenticity.
While the ‘mandem’ are definitely in the video and we hear a couple of gun bars, it’s not the typical drill song. It feels like a BIA song with UK drill influences. Both BIA and Cole play with camera angles and cadences while rapping essentially about visiting London and their shopping habits. J.Cole and BIA expressed their respect for each other on Instagram when promoting the song. J.Cole revealed he was also skeptical to hop on the song. Not for the same reasons as Cardi, but for fear of messing up his “favorite song” at the moment.
Though the genre has been around for years, drill has its periods at the forefront of hip hop. Prominent names like Pop Smoke, Gherbo, and Central Cee are center stage for the genre. As J.Cole, Nicki Minaj, City Girls, and Cardi B dip their pens in and release tracks so near to each other, could this spell out another wave of drill music? The mainstream artists get to challenge themselves in a style they aren’t accustomed to. Then drill artists gain recognition for their lifestyle and musical skills. Seems like a win-win. Who was your favorite mainstream artist to tackle the genre?