Exclusives 28 September 2021

GRM Exclusive: Has Headie One Redefined our expectations of Drill?

28 September 2021
Headie One

Originally Published: 24/08/19

Drill music was at the fore of the controversy earlier this year, as knife crime in the UK hit frightening heights. In the pursuit of somewhere to point the blame, the mainstream media ran with the narrative that drill music is the root cause, claiming it “dramatically intensified” the beef online. This provided the scene with the spotlight moment it was so desperately looking for, despite it being for all of the wrong reasons.

In the aftermath, the scene was left massively saturated, crammed with rappers that all sounded eerily similar to one another. It was around this time that North London rapper, Headie One, would really start wriggling away from his drill origins, morphing into an entity that simply cannot be confined to one sound.

 Formerly known as “Headz”, Headie One as we know him today emerged as a drill artist a little over two years ago, right beside his close accomplice, RV. The two of them would go on to become a formidable double act regarded by many as the best to ever do it.

As a pair, they are in a league of their own in terms of what they can offer as rappers, but it is Headie’s seamless ability to bounce between flows and his unorthodox melodic approach to drill music that separates them from the rest. The mere concept of Headie One shouldn’t really have worked, in that he appeared to be singing quite brash, gritty drill lyrics in all of his songs.

It was a huge contradiction. His rough aesthetic simply did not match that of your average singing-rapper nor did his melodies correlate with the idea of drill music. On paper, his music may have looked unlikely to resonate with anyone but when you are an undeniable talent like Headie is, it resonates with everyone.

Headie’s artistry ranges from the depths of hard-core drill, right the way up to afro beats, dabbling in near enough everything in between. I must add that these are not measly, run of the mill attempts at ‘trying something new’, they are very deliberate, respected, works of art. It would be unfair and even rude, to try and put him into a box. His most recent body of work, Music X Road is an embodiment of this, showcasing his musical shape-shifting abilities in all their glory.

He flaunts an impressive range of sounds, from the soulful introduction, to a dance-charged interlude, laden with the hip-hop, drill and trap influences he’s renowned for. Headie released a short documentary to accompany the drop of the mixtape, providing listeners with a little more insight into the concept and purpose of the project. Here, he revealed that it touches on the concept of duality, people “changing”, and the way his life is transitioning.

An aspect of his game that doesn’t receive nearly enough praise, is his creative genius; particularly when it comes to his visuals. A little over 7 months ago, Headie’s YouTube channel was conceived. The first video he posted was “18HUNNA”, featuring Dave. This was the first recorded exhibit of his creative powers, stripped of any colour and laced with an array of cool special effects.

Ahead of its release, he dropped an extract from the opening sequence of the video that later became very meme-able content, inspiring a challenge recreated by thousands. Whether it was intended or not, we’ll never know but since then, he’s wowed us with the visuals for “All-day”, “Back to basics”, “Rubbery Bandz” and most recently, “Both”.

What also deserves a mention is the fact he has reached a very accomplished stage in his career, without “selling out”. On several occasions he has deviated from the sound many listeners would identify him by, but this merely an expression of his talents and is even a part of his personality.

A mistake a lot of drill artists make the fatal error of making, is that when they start racking up the views and streams they dramatically change their style to appease the masses in a way that feels super unnatural. Headie is simply the most unique artist to emerge from the drill scene and is a special talent we are unlikely to encounter again anytime soon.  Be sure to check our Headie’s Bricklayer interview right here, in case you missed it.