The Sun claims drill music is ‘fuelling violence’ on the streets of London, but not everyone agrees

The Sun logoand Siddique Kamara
Glen Black

After the death of rapper Sidique Kamara, the Sun has published an article blaming UK drill – a subgenre of rap – for “fuelling violence on the streets of London”. But it’s not as simple as that, as musicians and MPs have pointed out.

Whipping boy for social ills

Kamara was stabbed in Camberwell, London, on 1 August. He was part of UK drill group ‘Moscow17’ under the name Incognito.

In an article about the case, the Sun suggests UK drill is “fuelling violence on the streets of London”. It goes on to cite claims to support this, including:

  • Chicago, the birthplace of drill, being one of the most violent cities in the US. (It’s not.)
  • Glorification of violence in drill lyrics.
  • Feuding gangs that have recorded songs insulting each other.

The suggestion that UK drill is responsible for growing violence has become a common claim in recent months.

In April, former home secretary Amber Rudd called for music videos glamourising violence to be removed from social media. And in May, chief police commissioner Cressida Dick told LBC radio:

Drill music is associated with lyrics which are about glamourising series violence – murder, stabbings. … Most particularly, in London we have gangs who make drill videos and in those videos, they taunt each other.

Dick called for social media companies to take down such content. YouTube appears to have complied, removing 30 music videos later that month.

Music has a long history of being the whipping boy for social ills. UK drill is the latest in the spotlight. But it’s an excuse to turn away from the real causes of violent attacks.

Talking back

MP David Lammy pointed this out following reports of Kamara’s death, tweeting:

Blaming music lets those in power off the hook and means they can avoid facing up to home truths about generations of entrenched and systemic inequality.

DJ and freelance journalist Ian McQuaid highlights cuts to youth provisions as integral to the rise in violence:

And rapper Akala says that violence linked with UK drill starts not with music but with class inequality:

He had previously highlighted Glasgow as an example of high violent crime rates without “rap music, black folk or *yardies*”:

Whilst in April, UK rapper Guvna B told Sky News that:

I feel like drill music is an expression of art and my main issue with focusing on drill music is yes the lyrics are really horrific but it’s still a byproduct of a root issue.

Social equality organisation The Equality Trust explains that the link between economic inequality and violent crime is well established. One of Dick’s advisors, police assistant commissioner Patricia Gallan, has made the same point. And Tottenham-based activist Stafford Scott pointed towards social cuts and the way the issue has been framed in the media.

Front-page aesthetics

Making a minor subgenre of music the whipping boy for serious and deadly crimes makes for good headlines. Since May, the Sun has published a huge number of articles linking UK drill to violent crimes. Other papers such as the Daily Mail have done the same.

This narrative that a minor subgenre of music is the cause of an explosion in murders and violent attacks turns a blind eye to serious social problems. Crucially, it ignores social problems that affect working and underprivileged communities the most. But highlighting and suggesting solutions to structural inequalities doesn’t look as good on front pages as blaming young Black men and the music they make.

Get Involved!

Watch the short BBC News documentary Drill Music: Is it right to blame the genre for violence?.

– Read more at The Canary about social inequality and the Sun.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/YouTube

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