Every year, the music scene starts from scratch and we see up-and-coming artists build on the work of their predecessors. New, exciting elements come into play, such as multiple branches of a particular sub-genre sprout and the emergence of various, different artists. In this instance, I shall be focusing on U.K. drill, a sub-genre that has accumulated global recognition yet is still in its infancy. There are many heights drill can be taken to across the world, the question is who will further the sub-genre and dominate the streets and commercial world as the year unfolds? These are my U.K. based picks for the top ten drill artists to watch in 2021 and beyond.
Kicking off this selection will be DoRoad, a U.K. rapper who has been on the scene since 2018 and was featured in Loski’s debut mixtape Call Me Loose. Unfortunately, DoRoad’s promising rap career was delayed by a two-year prison stint, which led to the hype surrounding his name dying down. However, his explosive return to the music scene has resulted in features on Frosty, Sleeks from Smoke Boys and Carns Hill’s mixtapes. DoRoad’s solo discography is growing with his recent track ‘It Was Me’ gaining less than half a million views in a month. DoRoad’s refreshing yet skippy flow will catapult him among emerging rap talents in the U.K.
(67) PR SAD
Next up is PR SAD, a young, prospering drill rapper emerging from U.K. drill pioneers, 67. Despite having a small but growing catalogue like DoRoad, it is clear that PR SAD is ready to take the baton carrying 67 forward to their former glory days. His Plugged in with Fumez and Next Up freestyles clarify why he is next up in the drill scene. PR SAD’s authentic grittiness and hard-hitting bars are reminiscent of the drill that was emerging during the early 2010s, definitely an artist to watch and someone who clearly understands the sonic roots of drill.
Coming straight out of the 98s, a newly formed drill collective whose members include the likes of KO and V9 is wordplay’s newest magician DA. Recently releasing his first solo song ‘Couple of Times’ after his collaborative debut mixtape Class of 98s, we are seeing a huge level of consistency in the quality of music produced by this budding artist. While comparisons are not always the best measure of other people’s talent, it is nice to hear similarities between DA and KO, the latter is described as Drilliam Shakespeare, a reference to the playwright, William Shakespeare. DA’s carefully structured wordplay and punchlines are admirable since he was introduced to the scene in 2020, a newcomer who has an abundance of talent that is accompanied by ground-breaking visual concepts. DA is one to watch.
(Active Gxng) 2smokeyy
Active Gxng’s 2smokeyy has to make this list as he has been consistently churning out great quality drill bangers. Appearing on the U.K. rap scene in 2020, newcomer 2smokeyy has been praised for his distinctive voice and his specific beat selection it is evident that he is an artist to watch. Songs by 2smokeyy such as ‘Corn’ and ‘Knock Down Ginger’ have particular samples and violin strings that show him branching into a more melodic drill sound that is juxtaposed by the realities he faces on the roads he raps about. It is clear to see 2smokeyy and the new drill collective Active Gxng are making themselves known.
OFB’s Izzpot is a new addition to the star-studded drill group, but he has managed to prove his talent in his short but impactful career, he knows how to make his presence known among widely adored co-collaborators Double Lz and Bandokay. The masked rapper knows how to deliver carefully structured lyrics to complement his usual dark drill beats and flow effortlessly. Izzpot has a bright and memorable musical journey ahead of him beside the other established members of OFB.
Trills & Screwface
Hailing from Birmingham, I have decided to select Trills and Screwface in a joint position as drill’s flagbearers for this year and beyond. Both young talents are heating up the streets of Birmingham and showing the rest of the U.K. that drill is no longer a London centric sub-genre. Their distinguishable accents make the listening experience enjoyable and different from the London accent that is usually associated with drill. Their debut collaboration ‘Birmingham City’ pays homage to where they are from and shows that the drill sound is permeating multiple pockets in the U.K. In this instance, it is clear Trills and Screwface who have been releasing solid tracks are ready for the drill baton in Birmingham.
(TPL) Jojo & Omizz
Jojo and Omizz hailing from North London collective TPL are a formidable duo to watch out for in the U.K. music scene. They are consistently getting better and have managed to gain a buzz around their name while dropping well-known drill songs like ‘Philly Don’t Dance’. Their most recent song ‘Skrr Reverse’ has shown a huge improvement in their evolving sound, which has been mixed and mastered better than their previous releases.
(Zone 2) Kwengface
Zone 2’s Kwengface has managed to break away from the rest of his collective and sustain himself as a standout artist. His jumpy, rhythmic flow and energetic bars work with the grittiness he raps about exceptionally well. Kwengface is a rapper who explores beyond the drill sound too, collaborating with afro-fusion artists like Hardy Caprio, Ms Banks and ZieZie shows the masked rapper can work with multiple genres and will be an exciting artist to watch in 2021 and beyond.
Gully who is also associated with Zone 2 (but is not a Zone 2 member) is a young rapper whose energy precedes him and provides a fun, youthful side to the drill subgenre which usually is known for its dark, nihilistic content. His debut mixtape Take Me In is a strong start to Gully’s very promising career in the music scene. His choppy flows, catchy ad-libs and entertaining lyrics show his ability to make bangers, especially this early on in his musical journey.
I cannot mention drill flagbearers without mentioning the most exciting newcomer who is Teeway. Hailing from south London, Teeway emerged onto the music scene in 2018 after featuring on OVO Sound’s TopBoy soundtrack with ‘Feeling it’. Known for his intricate storytelling which is detailed like no other and his rhythmic cadence, Teeway is truly a force to be reckoned with. The drill sound can be repetitive, yet Teeway manages to breathe life into this sound with refreshing flows. ‘Private Ryan’ was a drill anthem in 2020 that dominated the airwaves for some time. He released his debut EP 5th Chapter which contains hip-hop and drill elements, displaying Teeway’s lyrical ability and his music career beyond U.K. drill. it is evident that Teeway as a rapper is capable of longevity and is carving a lane for his specific sound in the drill scene.