The UK’s drill scene has quickly blossomed into one of black British music’s hottest exports – thunderous basslines, wobbling 808’s and nihilistic lyricism represent the sound of the youth today. In a field drowning in broad London accents, artists outside of London’s earshot have had a typically tough time making a meaningful, lasting impact on the genre.
Birmingham-hailing flow-don, M1llionz, thwarts that narrative. Distinguished by his tongue-tangling flow, frank lyricism and signature tone, M1llionz has carved out his own authentic drill sound that has propelled him to the forefront of drill in less than a year. GRM Daily caught up with him last week, ahead of his eagerly anticipated drill-garage conversion with Bkay to talk all things music.
His breakthrough hit “North-West”, which fell late last year is an ode to his residence of Handsworth – a suburban town and also an inner city, urban area in Birmingham. The relentless, raining drums and shadowy pianos on the production, paired with M1llionz’ bluntly honest lyricism paint an unsettling picture; one he’s been a spectator to since his youth. “It was mad – but only mad looking back. At the time you don’t really know what’s going on” He told me as he harked back to his younger days.
He opened up further “I was born and raised in Hansworth until I was about 8. Then I moved around a lot… bare areas, north Brum, south Brum, London, then back to Hansworth. It was in London that his love for Arsenal football club was uncovered. When further questioned about their current plight, he frustratingly responded “No comment” – exuding a sentiment of dissatisfaction and irritation that the Arsenal fan camp are all too familiar with.
M1llionz’ signature cadence and flow – enriched with elements of patois – stems from his early exposure to Jamaican culture. “Dancehall had a massive impact on me growing up, my mum always used to play it in the house, plus, I just spent a lot of time around yardies. She loved Bounty Killa and Elephant Man, I used to watch all the dances on DVD”. He extends “I wasn’t really around English people that much, that’s probably why with my flows I say some weird stuff”. Although M1llionz’ Jamaican heritage largely dictated these outcomes, his memories paint a picture many of us can relate to, and is testament to Jamaica’s emphatic impression on global culture.
“I been rapping for a minute, but not seriously. I done a few tunes here and there, like everyone else. I wrote “North-West” in jail, came out, recorded it, sent it around on WhatsApp, people were feeling it. I put it on Spotify, then it got a little buzz in Brum so I thought I might as well film a video for it”. Yet another promising rap career born seemingly out of serendipity. “I did the video way after I put the song out. I wasn’t even going to do the video that’s the worst thing, I was thinking what’s the point”. For all the bravado in his music, and his warranted status as the ‘hardest out’ right now, his early doubts are startling.
As M1llionz’ blooming music career enters its next phase, we should assume his life is taking a new shape, as well. I ponder how he’ll adjust to writing songs from an entirely new perspective. He assured us “it’ll be a while before we get there, there’s still so much for me to reflect on”. He affirmed afterwards that he’d be fine when it gets to that stage anyway.
He still hasn’t fully adjusted to his new found fame as a front runner of not only Birmingham’s burgeoning drill population, but the entire UK’s. “It’s mad still, ‘cos I used to try and be lowkey. I don’t really like the attention, like when I’m out – people looking at you for different reasons. But it’s calm, you get used to it init” he says. He elaborated further on his interactions with fans in real life saying “It doesn’t bother me yeah, but it’s just the approach. Some people don’t know how to angle it, so some people are just looking and obviously man’s not used to that. It’s a bit different”. So please, be nice to M1llionz.
As reposed as he remains throughout our conversation, his work ethic is underpinned by a burning desire to keep the fire going for as long as possible. “I wanna keep the buzz going. You see a lot of people come out and make a banger, then you just see them slowly decreasing. I think my ting’s been stagnant – not stagnant in a bad way – but on the same of level” he said before I prompted him into confessing that he’d actually made steady improvements along the way.
He doesn’t deny that there is a competitive element goading him along, too. “You know what it is, if they drop a mad ting I might say “ooo, alright then say no more, I’ll do my ting”. For the other rapper’s man chats to – I don’t talk to a lot of other rappers – it’s probably a good thing, competitive in a good way, nothing too crazy”.
London is not only our capital city but the cultural birthplace and spiritual home of UK rap, drill and grime. And although there are pulsing music scenes existing elsewhere, rappers and MC’s beyond London’s purview are often burdened with the responsibility of ambassadorship for their cities in a way that London-based artists aren’t. M1llionz responded by saying “it doesn’t add any pressure, but I’d rather be in the category of the whole of the UK than just Birmingham, Birmingham’s small init. But in a way it’s nice to know that I’ve made an impact in my city then reached out to other cities”.
Although M1llionz rap career has barely outgrown its infancy, he’s keen on expressing himself artistically beyond the plateau of UK rap and drill. “I’d love to make tracks with Ed Sheeran and Buju Banton, they’re the awkward ones. I feel like I’ll be able to reach everybody else someday” he tells me. Indebted to his Jamaican heritage, he highlights dancehall as an avenue he’s particularly eager to explore. “Y Pree’s” fixation on Jamaican parlance already felt like massive stride in that direction.
Sworn to secrecy, he sidestepped my questions about any forthcoming collaborations and was quick to thwart any expectation of an impending mixtape. “I can’t say that one, but big, big, big, big; that one’s mad” he smirks. He flirts with the idea of being connected to Drake but doesn’t murmur an utterance more than that.
For all that he’s achieved – in such a short space of time – M1llionz’ persona is underpinned by a modest appreciation of all his success. His refreshing take on a debatably monotonous drill sound justifies his position of prominence despite his shallow catalogue of music. And with a drill-garage experiment looming over our heads, we are excited to see just what else he has in store for us. Be Sure to check out M1llionz latest apperance on the Alhan and Poet Show Right here