Korean Drill Highlights The Genre's Adaptability

Korean Drill Highlights The Genre's Adaptability

It's here to stay...

Drill is a genre that needs no introduction. Originating in Chicago around 2010, it is a genre with a heightened sense of individuality. Raw lyrics and pronunciation paired with slower bass heavy beats make up the majority of tracks. Speaking of crime, gang culture and poverty, drill has become an international genre that has bases in Australia, Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands. In Britain the drill scene cropped up in South London, before spreading across the capitol and beyond, now becoming one of the most prominent rap genres in the country. The international spread of drill has reached new peaks with drill inspired tracks now starting to be released in Korea.

Drill is a genre for the underrepresented, creating a space to discuss hardships that many from a privileged standpoint would be unable to relate to. The international reach of the genre displays its impact and malleable force of the music. Within Korean drill the lyrics differ, now reflecting on the society within Korea.

The introduction of trap and early drill is evident in rappers such as Keith Ape, especially in his track ‘It G Ma’ released in 2015. The slower tempo combined with the aggressive production suggested a shift in Korean rap. Following his success within Korea, Keith Ape began performing in the US which gained similar traction, leading to an influx in drill inspired beats. The influence of Keith Ape’s music is evident in many rappers today, his lyrics focussed on self-assurance, wealth, and violence.

The lyric “Don’t forget my name, never forget my team / If you forget our name, you’ll lose your ear” demonstrate the adaptation of the genre, as Keith Ape includes cultural references. Although Ape’s sound would not necessarily be considered traditionally ‘drill’, it did introduce a more aggressive style of rap that was previously not in the mainstream. This transition allowed other rappers to experiment with a different sound.

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Earlier this year a clip of rapper Blase participating in entertainment show Show Me The Money went viral as he rapped in the style that many recognised as drill. Performing his track ‘Peace Out’, Blase captivated the show’s audience and judges as he displayed a sound unfamiliar within the mainstream industry. His delivery appeared cocky, as he strutted across the stage. It stood out and created a buzz around the unfamiliar genre of drill.

Blase emulates more conventions that are found within British drill. Using colloquialisms such as “roadman” and projecting a similar style, the British sound is extremely evident. Yet it is important to note that Blase is not exactly copying British drill, there is a clear difference. Blase appears to be combining different elements of underground music. Dancehall, bass, and jungle are all evident in his music. The seamless blending of genres alongside the deep vocals acts as an addition to drill enhancing the personal aspect of the genre and making it individual to Korea.

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Korean drill appears to still be developing and finding its own sound. Blase is collaborating with rappers who are considered a lot softer such as pH-1 yet is using elements within drill to elevate already existing sounds. This may be due to a slow introduction to drill, but it could also be explained by the inclusion of more mainstream hip-hop sounds that are commonly found in Korea.

Drill as a genre has gained connotations – often incorrectly – with gang culture, and associated violence. As a consequence, drill has run into issues with police and authority figures, with a UK crackdown removing certain drill tracks from YouTube due to their impact on the streets. Yet these connotations aren’t as evident in Korean drill music; indeed, a heavier emphasis seems to be on wealth acquisition. Within the first few seconds of rapper Changmo’s track ‘Swoosh Flow’ the lyrics “I have a lot of money real '' create the thematic tone that appears on the rest of the track.

On another song featured on the ‘H1GHER: RED TAPE’ album entitled ‘The Purge’ Jay Park focuses more on poverty saying, “Rebellion running through my veins / Seeping out my pores / Steal from the rich and I give to the poor''. The focus on concerns such as socio-economic issues conveys the power that drill has compared to other music genres. Drill provides a platform to criticise and respond to social/cultural issues that may otherwise be considered taboo. Within UK drill this could be aimed towards the government or the police for example. But within Korea it appears to currently be focussing on wealth, the difference between each country’s drill scene only confirms the immense power of this singular genre.

The expansion of drill within Korea demonstrates the versatility of the genre. Even at the beginning of its journey, there was a clear difference between what was considered American and British drill. The genre is adapted to represent the cultural setting. Drill as a genre is flexible and available for interpretation, it is something that is personal and clearly portrays a strong motive. Its aggressive sound and hard-hitting lyrics as well as the delivery emphasise the real-life issues that are being spoken about in the music. Drill has embedded itself within rap, even influencing modern pop culture. Its international reach proves the powerful momentum of drill and its influence.

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Words: Abbie Aitken

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