Since Brixton collectives like 150 and 67 paved the way for the sensation that we now know as UK drill, a growing desire to receive the validation of our American counterparts has crept to the very top of the scene. It could be argued, with some merit, that this has proved largely unfruitful so far; whilst there have been several high-profile collaborations between US and UK drill artists, they have often felt underwhelming. There have also been many blatant attempts by current UK artists to ‘Americanise’ their sound and style, yet they have generated little genuine reaction from the wider American rap scene. There is a seemingly unshiftable stigma against UK rap music from the US. All of this begs the question: would the UK drill scene would be better off pivoting its attention to other areas of the world for collaboration, appreciation, and ultimately respect?
Whilst there are of course several exceptions, ranging from reaction channels like International Ferg who aim to bridge the two cultures on a grassroots level, and superstars such as Drake who has shown what appears to be a true appreciation for UK drill, the reality is the average consumer of American drill music doesn’t care about the UK drill scene. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it doesn’t have to be depressing; the UK scene can look elsewhere in the search for genuine collaboration across cultures.
Australian drill music has been the most complete manifestation of UK drill being exported so far, with One Four, Hooligan Hefs, and Kush Mink all successfully putting their own ‘down under’ spin on the genre. As a result, the Aussie scene has received the adulation of many British drill fans, who lauded their authenticity and technical ability.
What many British drill fans aren’t fully aware of, however, is the fact that there are other foreign drill scenes blossoming after drawing inspiration directly from the world of British drill. Ranging from Spain to Russia, the essence of British drill is clearly spreading, having a huge impact on rap music throughout Europe and ushering in a new generation of artists following in the footsteps of modern drill pioneers such as Digga D and Unknown T. These seven artists are examples of the successful exporting of UK drill music, and give invaluable insight into the potential for a future globalised drill community.
Obladaet is perhaps the most artistically intriguing artist on this list, with his technical proficiency allowing him to effortlessly switch between shelling UK drill beats on cuts such as “David Beckham” and “For Mula”. Obladaet has a flair for catching melodies, using his voice in creative ways to create a dynamic listening experience. This skill is backed up by an extensive catalogue spanning the last five years, with an incredibly diverse range of music. Despite only being released very recently, “David Beckham” is the perfect introduction to showcase the appeal of Obladaet to a UK audience. The music video sees Obladaet in London, flashing his drip, driving fast whips, and even randomly vanishing in front of your eyes on a CCTV camera at one point (just watch it). Directed by Crystal Vision and Obladaet himself, it is of very high quality, and reminds me of some of the recent works of Suave, with pristine shots and a great gradient to really make the visuals sharp.
Obladaet filming “David Beckham” in London makes even more sense when you consider that none other than Ghosty produced the menacing beat for “David Beckham”, and the video even offers footage of Obladaet in the studio with Ghosty, a sign of further collaboration perhaps. With such a pristine video and jumpy beat, Obladaet could have got away with delivering an average couple of verses with a played-out hook and it would have hit a million views or so eventually. Instead, he proceeds to shell for nearly three minutes, rhyming his Russian with elegance as he pulls off intricate flows with ease, all the time maintaining a certain intangible charisma and swagger. “David Beckham” is thus not only a curious coming together of British and Russian drill culture, but a triumphant example of collaboration between both scenes to create something which can be enjoyed by people all over the world. Everyone’s favourite rapper in a Deadpool mask, V9, has recently done a remix for “David Beckham” on Obladaet’s recent project, which in my opinion makes it hit that bit harder for the average UK listener. Make sure to check that out if the whirlwind of Russian rhymes is too much for you on your first listen.
Rondososa is another artist who has a diverse catalogue, with the majority of his music being autotune fuelled wave music reminiscent of the sounds of Yung Fume. His most successful song to date on Youtube is “Face to Face”, a remix of the iconic “Exposing Me” beat. Rondo swaps the syrupy sweetness of his usual delivery for an aggressive, hard-hitting performance, clearly demonstrating his ability to switch lanes with ease. The accompanying video is incredibly graphic, with Rondo and his crew touting what appear to be real firearms, draped from head to toe in matching blue tracksuits and hanging out the window of luxury cars. Whilst “Face to Face” certainly deserves the 20 million views it has accumulated, Rondo’s performance on fellow Italian artist Vale Pain’s song “Louboutin” is a better introduction of Rondo’s skill to the UK drill scene. Rondo assertively delivers both his chorus and verses, leaving little doubt as to why he is one to watch specifically within the drill scene. Complete with sharp visuals and viral-worthy dance moves, “Louboutin” ticks every box required to have a smash hit in the UK drill scene, once again begging the question of the type of position Rondo would have in the UK scene as a native.
Rondo has made the largest strides out of everyone on this list in terms of breaking into the UK drill market, with his recent release “Movie” both featuring Central Cee and sporting accompanying visuals shot in London. No other rapper on this list has secured a feature yet with a prominent artist in the UK scene, especially not someone of the current influence of Central Cee. The fact Rondo has, therefore, speaks volumes to his ambition within the global drill scene, as he is clearly focused on increasing the scope of his fanbase. The song “Movie” itself is by no means an underwhelming crossover to the extent that so many US-UK collaborations have proven to be; instead Rondo and Central Cee both deliver star-quality performances, with Rondo tapping into his trademark syrupy, autotune lathered approach for the chorus before switching to an aggressive, yet equally, captivating verse, before Cench comes through with one of the best verses of his career so far.
It is rare you hear Central Cee rap with as much conviction and fire in his belly as you hear on “Movie”, further contributing to the feeling of this link up being special and a real global moment. Currently sitting at just over 2 million views after a month on Rondososa’s own channel, this song appears to foreshadow the potential for future UK and European linkups. Filmed by London native Suave, and with the beat produced by Italian producer NKO and Toronto local RicoRunDat, “Movie” really is the ultimate showcase of the potential for UK-driven global drill collaborations.
Skinny Flex is a rapper from Barcelona making big waves in the emerging Spanish drill scene with his relentless flow and charismatic delivery. Originally from Morocco, the 24-year-old has demonstrated time and time again his innate ability to find unique pockets of flows on hard-hitting drill beats, ensuring you’ll bop your head to his music despite it being in Spanish. One of the most intriguing things about Skinny and the wider Spanish drill scene is the number of syllables that they manage to fit into each line. Whilst British drill rappers can often be accused of attempting to cram syllables into their lines to a fault, Spanish drill rappers on the whole, but especially Skinny, seem to do so with ease. Examples can be found within tracks like “3 Reales” and “Sin Presion”, in which Skinny manages to maintain a seemingly never-ending flow for the duration of the track, with no concessions made regarding his clarity or delivery. Similar to OBLADET, Skinny is able to use his voice in unique ways to add sprinkles of flair at particular points of the track, separating himself from your typical, standard drill rapper.
I was lucky enough to speak briefly to Skinny’s management over Instagram, and they expressed their desire to take Skinny out to the UK when it’s possible to do so. I asked specifically what type of collaborations he would like to make happen, and his number one choice was Unknown T; an unsurprising choice when you take into account both artist’s penchant and ability for rapid-fire flows and vocal inflections. If “3 Reales” and “Sin Presion” are not enough evidence for you of his worthiness to work with some of the best in the UK drill scene, check out Skinny’s most recent release “Jordan Manchás” featuring fellow Spanish driller El Patron 970.
Freeze Corleone is a Parisian local who has been making music since his debut mixtape in 2011, titled “A la recherche de la daillance” or In search of dalliance. Starting off with sounds more associated with traditional rap, Corleone has evolved at a staggering rate over the last few years, becoming one of the biggest, if not the biggest, rappers in France. What is even more intriguing to the UK drill world is the fact that Corleone has experienced this explosion in success due to his adoption of rapping over drill beats. Drill as a genre has given Corleone the platform to realise his potential as an artist, meaning at the relatively late age of 28 is Corleone only really starting to come into his prime. The fact that France probably has the richest heritage with regards to rap culture out of all the countries on this list makes his achievements even more impressive; operating in a scene full of talented and established rappers Corleone has managed to stay relevant and refine his skill set, an achievement worthy of praise and acknowledgment. To date, Freeze Corleone’s most successful song is “7 Sur 7”, a trap banger by fellow French rapper Koba Lad. Corleone’s feature on the track is a showstopper; from the first word he utters the listener is with him, as his ice-cold presence on the mic and more than stellar technical ability combine perfectly with the slower beat.
Corleone’s music offers a snapshot of drill culture in the Parisian streets, with music videos shot in his local areas and his lyrical content consisting of a combination of threats to the opposition, flexing designer clothes and jewels, and of course, boasting of his ways with the ladies. Interestingly enough, not every beat Corleone raps on exactly mimics the sonical approach of UK drill beats, with the absence of the iconic sliding 808s being the clearest example of the subtle differences present. Perhaps the most pertinent example of this slight distinction is Corleone’s “Colours” freestyle, which is a classic UK drill beat in every sense other than the 808’s, which are much closer sonically to the booming 808’s employed by the Atalanta Trap movement throughout the 2010s.
One reason for this nuance may be the presence of genuinely talented French producers in the drill scene. Much like their British predecessors who took the Chicago drill sound and put their own unique spin on it, French producers seem to have done the same. Producers such as Flem and M.O.I have been instrumental in crafting what is evolving to constitute a unique French Drill sound. Will French Drill reach the influential heights of UK Drill? Who knows, but with rappers like Freeze Corleone emerging as genuine superstars, it is impossible to deny this possibility.
Hailing from the Amsterdam suburb of De Pijp, 73 are producing some of the most harrowing drill music in Europe at the moment. If you are a fan of the notoriously gritty drill that emerged out of London in and around 2017, then listening to 73 is a must. Replicating the raw nature of both the audio and visuals, 73 presents a lifestyle devoid of the flexing and designer of artists like Freeze Corleone and OBLADET, instead focusing on threatening their rivals and asserting their dominance of the Dutch streets. As is a common theme with artists throughout this list, 73 are able to use their own language to add a unique Dutch flair to the drill genre, whilst still ensuring that the combination of the flow, beat and delivery create an undeniable sonical experience for the listener which reflects what made UK and Chicago drill so exciting in the first place.
The most famous 73 song is “De Pijp”, a homage to their local area in south Amsterdam, which is currently sitting at just over 4 million views; no mean feat for a drill song in a country of only 17 million people. The song itself is an absolute banger and serves as a great representation of the Dutch drill scene at its best. 73 members T.Y, Stackz, and VK combine to great effect, with effortless chemistry over a hard-hitting beat combining to create 3 minutes of pure enjoyment. There are moments in this song that demonstrate the endless potential of the internationalisation of drill music, with the Dutch language offering interesting and unique opportunities with regards to flow and delivery. In a very similar way to Skinny Flex of Spain and OBLADET of Russia, 73 are able to use their language to create a distinct drill sound; one which very much feels rooted in the UK, but still has its own unique cultural flair.
Since “De Pijp”, 73 have not repeated this scale of commercial success, with their most popular release since being “YO”, another street banger that is currently at 2.3 million views. Fans of the breakneck flows and energy of “De Pijp” will not be disappointed, with that feeling of the 2017 London drill wave once again being tapped into.
Shooter Gang is a group out of Denmark whose brand of aggressive, drill influenced rap has asserted them as maybe the most exciting example of drill culture being exported to Scandinavia. Wearing masks that appear to be directly inspired by the iconic silver mask of Brixton legend LD, Shooter Gang paints a vivid picture of the gritty streets of Denmark. What makes Shooter Gang so intriguing to a British audience is the combination of drawing clear inspiration from UK drill culture, whilst still embracing their own culture; ensuring they create a song which could exist in the world of UK drill, whilst still being unique in its own right.
To date, Shooter Gang’s most successful song has been “Sinaloa Stil”, which is currently at just over 3 million views; for context there are 5 million people in Denmark in total, making this achievement even more impressive. The UK group who I’m reminded the most of when watching Shooter Gang is Country Dons; from the presence of typical drill motifs in the visuals like designer clothes, stacks of cash, and foreign cars, to the bouncing rap instrumental which compliments their aggressive delivery, there are clear similarities.
Shooter Gang have other very successful songs outside of “Sinaloa Stil”, with “Mask På” sitting at nearly 3 million views in its own right, demonstrating they cannot be labeled one-hit wonders. Shooter Gang are clearly destined to keep growing and growing in popularity, so make sure to keep an ear and eye out for future releases.
Last but certainly not least is Marin, a rapper from Albania attracting international attention in his own right with the release of hits like “Meek Meek”, which uses the now-iconic “Exposing Me” instrumental. It shouldn’t be surprising that Albania is producing genuine talent within the drill scene, especially as there is such a well-established Albanian presence in the current UK drill culture. Combining technical flows with charisma and undeniable confidence, Marin has clear potential to reach international acclaim, a journey which his multicultural comments section below his videos seems to indicate has already begun. Released in October of 2020, “Meek Meek” is currently at 11 and a half million views, a number that will only increase as its impact continues to spread globally.
What is particularly exciting about Marin though is that he has demonstrated this star power again since “Meek Meek”; his January release of “Blitz” is nearly at 6 and a half million views to date. “Blitz” illustrates his potential outside of the drill genre, with Marin swapping the aggressive but magnetic flows of “Meek Meek” for a much more melodic approach, which still feels influenced culturally by UK drill but is certainly in a different sonical world. Halfway through the video for “Blitz” however, the beat changes to yet another menacing drill production and Marin demonstrates once again his ability to shell on a hard beat. Clearly, Marin is not tied to one genre or sound, which bodes well for his future as an international artist, known not just for his ability to destroy drill beats but also his skill in crafting soothing melodies.
Be sure to check out our feature showcasing some of the hardest drill tracks from other parts of the world right here