What is Drill Music: Meaning, Types, Songs & Top Musicians

Music Industry

What Is Drill Music
14 Nov, 2023


Drill music, a subgenre of hip hop that originated in the gritty streets of Chicago, has garnered attention for several noteworthy reasons. Its candid portrayal of urban life, often depicting violence and criminal activities, has sparked debates in communities. Drill music has been enthusiastically lapped up by the youth.

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What is drill music?

An enthusiastic form of music, drill music is a subgenre of hip hop that emerged in the early 2010s, primarily associated with Chicago but subsequently gaining popularity in other centers. Drill music is characterized by its aggressive beats, dark and often violent lyrical content, and a distinctive sound influenced by trap music. The genre’s name is derived from “drill,” a slang term meaning to fight or retaliate, which is a recurring theme in its lyrics.

History of drill music

Drill music emerged in the early 2010s in Chicago and is characterized by its aggressive beats and explicit lyrics, often depicting the harsh realities of urban life, including street violence and crime. The term “drill” refers to street-level conflict or retaliation. Drill music has expanded globally, with variations such as UK Drill. Drill music artists such as Polo G and pop smoke have achieved mainstream success. The genre continues to evolve artistically, addressing a wider range of themes while remaining rooted in its elements.

Types of drill music

Drill music has evolved into several regional subgenres, each with its unique characteristics and influences. Here are some of the types of drill music:

Chicago drill

Drill music first emerged in Chicago. Its gritty, ominous beats and lyrics, which frequently depict the brutal reality of living in Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods, define the genre. Artists such as Lil Durk and Chief Keef were instrumental in forming this subgenre.

UK drill

This type of drill music was invented in the UK, but with a British flair. It’s known for its unique references and usage of British slang. Its popularity has been aided by UK drill musicians such as Headie One and Central Cee, who fuse drill with elements of British urban culture.

Brooklyn drill

This type of drill music, which originated in Brooklyn, New York, has strong basslines and upbeat flows. Pop Smoke and other artists began to represent this style, which frequently highlights Brooklyn’s street culture.

Australian drill

Australian drill is a regional variation of the drill music genre influenced by the Australian urban experience. It features the core drill elements of aggressive beats and explicit lyrics, but it incorporates Australian cultural references, addressing issues specific to Australia and its citizens. As drill music gained popularity, artists and scenes outside of the United States and the UK have adopted and adapted the genre. Countries such as Australia, Canada, and more have their own interpretations of drill, infusing it with their cultural influences.

Characteristics of drill music


The flow of rap in drill music is usually quick-paced and forceful. It frequently has fast delivery and rhythmic patterns that balance the energy of the music, matching the intensity of the beats.


Drill lyrics frequently explore the harsh reality of city living, emoting issues such as gang culture, criminality, street violence, and individual experiences. They provide an honest depiction of the artist’s surroundings and challenges because they are unravished and explicit.


Drill music creation is a crucial component, with its harsh and gloomy beats. Common elements include strong basslines, loud percussion, and menacing melodies. The lyrical content is set in an aggressive and gritty mood created by the beats.

Impact of drill music on society

Positive impact

Drill music has been instrumental in giving marginalized populations a voice, especially in urban areas. Drill music provides a forum for artists to share their stories and experiences, drawing attention to the sometimes harsh reality they must deal with. Drill music gives these artists a creative expression and gives them a platform to speak out on significant social issues. Drill music has made a substantial contribution to the development of language, fashion, and a feeling of community and belonging among its followers, among other aspects of the cultural environment. Drill music has served as a vehicle for both cultural expression and empowerment.

Negative impact

The lyrics of drill music sometimes romanticize or celebrate criminal activity and violence and have sparked concerns about how they affect behavior in the real world. Critics claim that these themes can spread a violent culture, especially among impressionable young people. Furthermore, young drill artists may be taken advantage of by the music industry’s financial interests, which frequently pressure them to uphold a risky image to maximize profits. In addition to having a negative impact on listeners’ and artists’ mental health, explicit content may desensitize individuals to trauma and violence.

Reasons for the popularity of drill music

Drill music’s genuine and unvarnished depiction of urban life makes it highly popular. Drill music appeals to listeners looking for a real depiction of their own lives. Themes of violence, adversity, and street life are culturally relevant and relatable to people in comparable situations. Its popularity is increased by the aggressive and contagious beats with their recognisable strong basslines and percussion. Additionally, drill music has expanded its audience by adapting to other geographical areas. Variations such as UK Drill and Brooklyn Drill have added to the genre’s global appeal.

Drill artists interact with their fans on social media and internet platforms, which increases their visibility. The genre has distinguished fan following in modern youth and solidified its cultural imprint by influencing fashion, vocabulary, and a feeling of identity.

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Seven exceptional drill music songs

“I Don’t Like” by Chief Keef ft. Lil Reese

This track by Chief Keef is one of the pioneering songs of Chicago Drill. The song features a haunting beat and aggressive lyrics, reflecting the harsh realities of life in Chicago’s streets.

B.O.N: by King Louie

“B.O.N” is a quintessential Chicago Drill track by King Louie, known for its gritty lyrics and dark production. This song showcases the unfiltered nature of the genre.

“Know Better” by Headie One

A prominent figure in UK Drill, Headie One’s “Know Better” exhibits the British variation of the genre. The track blends drill’s signature elements with British slang and references, representing the UK’s urban culture.

“Welcome to the Party” by Pop Smoke

Pop Smoke was a key figure in Brooklyn Drill, and “Welcome to the Party” is one of his standout tracks. It features an aggressive beat and lyrics that exemplify the energy and style of Brooklyn Drill.

“Chi-Raq” by Nicki Minaj ft. G Herbo

“Chi-Raq” is a collaboration between Nicki Minaj and G Herbo, delving into Chicago’s drill scene. The song showcases Nicki Minaj’s lyrical prowess within the drill context and highlights G Herbo’s raw storytelling.

“Go In” by Shady

“Go In” is a track by Shady, an artist who has contributed to the Chicago Drill scene. The song features the genre’s characteristic aggressive flow and gritty content.

“Kill Shit” by G Herbo and Lil Baby

“Kill Shit” is a collaboration between G Herbo and Lil Baby, both notable in the hip-hop scene. The song combines their distinct styles with drill’s intense beats and lyrics.

Top drill musicians

Polo G

Polo G is a prominent figure in the Chicago Drill scene, known for his introspective lyrics and emotionally charged storytelling. He has achieved recognition for his ability to convey the harsh realities of life in Chicago’s inner-city through his music.

Pop Smoke

Pop Smoke, from Brooklyn, New York, became a key figure in Brooklyn Drill. His deep voice and energetic delivery set him apart in the genre. He was on a rapid rise before his untimely and tragic death in 2020.

King Von

King Von, also associated with Chicago drill, was known for his vivid storytelling style. His lyrics often depicted personal experiences and narratives from the streets of Chicago, making him a significant voice in the genre.

Central Cee

Central Cee is a UK drill artist who represents the British variation of the genre. His music incorporates British Slang, cultural references, and addresses themes specific to life in the United Kingdom, showcasing the global reach of drill.

Young Multi

Young Multi is a rising artist within the drill scene, with a style that blends the core drill elements with his unique approach. Younger artists often contribute to the genre’s evolution and adaptation.

Fumez the Engineer

Fumez the Engineer is not a musician but a prominent producer and engineer in the drill music scene. His work behind the scenes has been influential in shaping the distinct beats and sounds that define the genre.

Controversies surrounding drill music

Glorification of Violence

Drill music has faced criticism for its explicit lyrics that often glorify or romanticize violence, crime, and gang-related activities. Some argue that these themes can perpetuate a culture of violence and lead to real-life conflicts and criminal behavior.

Exploitation of Young People

Many drill artists are young and originate from disadvantaged backgrounds. Critics claim that record labels and music industry stakeholders exploit these vulnerable individuals, often pushing them to maintain a dangerous image or engage in risky behavior for commercial gain.

Negative Impact on Mental Health

The lyrical content of drill music frequently touches on topics such as trauma, loss, and street violence and can have a negative impact on the mental health of both listeners and artists. Some people argue that drill music may perpetuate a cycle of trauma and desensitization to violence.


Due to concerns about explicit content and potential influences on violences, drill music has been targeted for censorship in some regions. This has sparked debates about the freedom of expression and the role of governments and online platforms in regulating music content.

These controversies are the subject of ongoing debates. Although some people argue that drill music’s explicit themes and representations contribute to social problems, other people state that it serves as a reflection of the realities faced by marginalized communities and offers a means of artistic expression for those who may not have other avenues to share their stories. The impact of drill music varies widely and remains a complex and evolving discussion.

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What is drill music? Drill music is a subgenre of hip-hop characterized by intense beats, explicit lyrics, and a focus on urban life, often portraying themes of street violence and adversity.

History of drill music: Emerging in early 2010s Chicago, drill music is a subgenre of hip-hop featuring aggressive beats and raw lyrics, often portraying urban life, violence, and adversity.

Types of drill music

  • Chicago drill
  • Brooklyn drill
  • UK drill
  • Drill producer/engineer
  • Hybrid drill
  • International drill

Characteristics of drill music

  • Flow
  • Lyrics
  • Production

Impact of drill music on the society: Drill music has both positive and negative societal impacts, providing a voice for marginalized communities and influencing cultural trends, but has faced criticism for its explicit content and perceived links to violence and exploitation.

Reasons for the popularity of drill music: Drill music’s popularity is driven by its authenticity, cultural relevance, catchy beats, and online presence, offering a platform for marginalized voices and connecting with young audiences.

Seven exception drill music songs

  • “I Don’t Like” by Chief Keef ft. Lil Reese
  • “B.O.N” by King Louie
  • “Know Better” by Headie One
  • “Welcome to the Party” by Pop Smoke
  • “Chi-Raq” by Nicki Minaj ft. G Herbo
  • “Go In” by Shady
  • “Kill Shit” by G Herbo and Lil Baby

Top drill musicians

  • Polo G
  • Pop Smoke
  • King Von
  • Central Cee
  • Young Multi
  • Fumez the Engineer

Controversies associated with drill music: Drill music has stirred controversy due to its explicit portrayal of violence, crime, and street life, with critics arguing that it may glorify such behavior. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the exploitation of young artists, the potential negative impact on mental health, and debates around censorship in response to its explicit content. These issues reflect ongoing discussions about the genre’s societal influence and freedom of artistic expression.


What defines drill music?

Drill music is defined by its aggressive beats, explicit lyrics, and themes often centered on urban violence, street life, and adversity.

What are the characteristics of drill music?

Characteristics of drill music include aggressive beats, gritty lyrical content, and a focus on themes related to urban violence, crime, and street life.

What is the difference between UK drill and Chicago drill?

UK drill and Chicago drill are regional variations of the same subgenre. UK drill incorporates British slang, cultural references, and a unique sound, reflecting the UK’s urban experiences. Chicago Drill originated in Chicago and focuses on the city’s challenges. Both maintain explicit lyrics and themes related to urban life.

Why is drill music controversial?

Drill music is controversial due to its explicit lyrics often glorifying violence and crime, concerns about the exploitation of young artists, potential negative impacts on mental health, and debates regarding censorship and freedom of artistic expression.

Who is the most popular driller?

The popularity of drill artists varies by region and over time. At different points, artists like Chief Keef, Pop Smoke, and Headie One have been highly popular figures in the drill music scene, but it’s essential to note that popularity can change rapidly within the genre.

What is the impact of drill music?

The impact of drill music is multifaceted, influencing artistic expression, youth culture, and fashion, while also sparking debates about its potential influence on violence and mental health. Drill music has led to censorship efforts and legal challenges in some regions and has spread internationally, addressing urban issues on a global scale.

Why did drill music become popular?

Drill music became popular due to its raw and authentic portrayal of urban life, relatable themes, and catchy, aggressive beats, which resonated with audiences seeking a voice for their experiences in marginalized communities.

Why are drill rappers criminalized for making music?

Drill rappers are sometimes criminalized for making music due to concerns about the explicit content of their lyrics and their perceived role in promoting violence and crime, leading to legal challenges and censorship efforts.

What is the history of drill music?

Drill music originated in Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods in the early 2010s and is characterized by aggressive beats and gritty lyrics reflecting street life and violence. Drill music subsequently spread globally, with regional variations like UK Drill, and has faced controversy due to its explicit content and influence on violence.

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