Emerging from Chicago in the early 2010s, the subgenre of hip-hop known as drill music has become a creative channel for rappers worldwide to chronicle violence, drug abuse, and gang activity in their communities. But some argue that drill artists are not just confronting violence, they are glorifying, perpetuating, and profiting from it.
A panel of rappers, activists, and scholars explored a range of views on the issue at a recent talk hosted by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research and led by Elizabeth Hinton, associate professor of history and African American studies at Yale University.
“People around the country are dancing. Dope. I’m thinking, ‘You all dancing on graves. People are dying,’” Grammy Award-winning rapper and Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT Lupe Fiasco said about the popularity of drill.
Dee-1, New Orleans rapper, activist, and Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at Harvard’s Hiphop Archive & Research Institute, agreed. He recalled the time one of his slain students was memorialized by family and friends at a funeral with music glorifying violence. “In a way, we’ve become too numb and too desensitized to the literal words that are being spoken in this music.”
The media is partly to blame, Dee-1 said. He called out music website Pitchfork for publishing an article titled “The Exploitation of New York Drill Hits a Disturbing New Low,” despite being the same publication that ranked the top 11 songs “that define Chicago Drill.”