Analyzing the motive behind a politician’s actions or words can be tricky, for deception is often their one true ally. For every politician elected, no matter how prosperous their tenure, there is a group of people left feeling bamboozled or unnatended. From a historical perspective, it’s clear that politics are about control and the ability to generate waves with one flick of the tongue, which is sometimes guised in the want to build a better all-around community (depending on the politician). A preacher and a politician aren’t too dissimilar, there is a performance aspect to holding office and the theatrics of a reverend/preacher is of good use when dealing with the media. Which is why it’s seamless for a member of the clergy to slap on the title of “activist” and enter the political world.
In the case of New York City mayor, Eric Adams, momentary power doesn’t seem to fit his bill, having held dignified positions of authority and moving on from each for greener pastures, Adams gives the impression of a man with a larger play in mind. New York City is a tough place to govern and win over. If one wants to truly make their mark (and be elected for a second term and maybe more), they must find an agenda and make it their focus mission. For Giuliani, it was the mob and his “tough on crime” stance, for Bloomberg it was the implementation of stop & frisk. Adams may have found his silver bullet with his recent harping on the negative impacts of drill music and the need to keep it off social media and radio airwaves.
While discussing the shooting death of Bronx drill rapper, C-Hii Wvttz, an emotional Adams apologized to the teens’ parents and made plans to meet with civil rights activists including Al Sharpton and state NAACP President Hazel Dukes to pitch his plan to crack down on gun violence. Which all seemed fine and dandy after all, isn’t that what you do after the tragic death of a young Black man? Meet with Al Sharpton. Until Adams pivoted and began to use drill — a violent hip-hop sub-genre in its own right — as the scapegoat for the many unfortunate deaths of Black youth. Adams even went as far as to say that he had never heard of drill music and learned of it from videos his son (who works at RocNation) sent him, claiming he was alarmed by his findings.
Drill music (which gets its name from the slang term for killing someone) derived as a sub-genre from Chicago rappers like King Louie, Edai, Lil Durk and Chief Keef in the early 2010’s. It is composed of threatening lyrics, constant references to gun violence, disrespectful disses aimed at dead rivals and most importantly, gang culture. Once popularized, the genre made its way to New York City. Brooklyn, New York to be specific. Adams, who served as Brooklyn borough President from 2013-2021 watched as Brooklyn artists the likes of 22GZ, Sheff G, Sleepy Hallow, Fivio Foreign and most of all, Pop Smoke (who took over the world musically in the year 2020) reached commercial success while trading insults, threats, injuries and fatalities all on the back of drill music.
The irony in all of this is that the current incarnation of the ever-evolving drill sub-genre derives not from Brooklyn but from the Bronx. This latest version where a pop-friendly record is sampled, sped up and laced with heavy drums, while backed by menacing lyrics has put the Bronx back on the map. With its most recognizable names being the currently incarcerated Kay Flock and Dthang, as well as B-Lovee.
It’s why when Adams says things like,
We are alarmed by the use of social media to really over-proliferate this violence in our communities. This is contributing to the violence that we are seeing all over the country. It one of the rivers we have to dam.
The public stops and rolls its eyes, because this has been happening for quite a few years and prominently in his own borough.
Gang culture in New York has been prevalent since the 1990’s, yet none more so than in the past decade (when social media became a factor). Adams himself comes from an under-privileged background — much like many gang members and drill artists — and was around during the crack epidemic and witnessed the gangster music culture it fostered. While hip hop has always been about reflecting one’s reality, emcees went from rapping like this, to this, to eventually this. As the streets became more menacing, so did the music, as it reflects the anger and angst that comes with growing up in project buildings and crime-infested areas.
Quite honestly, drill music could be the last bit of realism left in the rap game. Southern trap, which was once hip hop’s ugly stepchild has transformed into the main segue into the music industry and drill music may not be too far behind with the mainstream success of several Brooklyn and Chicago drill artists. Yet, as of now, drill is the voice of the streets. It is honest, brave and raw. So much so, that the constant dissing and shooting between rival gangs may be too much for New York City’s bright lights. When a drill artist makes a diss record and is then the victim of retaliatory gun-violence, it comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. The fans and artists alike know what’s to come. Yet, the inevitability of it all tends to make law enforcement look like helpless bystanders, especially when innocent civilians are also affected by these reckless shootings, as they look to the police to put a stop to it.
However, would banning drill music from hitting airwaves change anything? Adams referred to former President Trump’s Twitter ban as precedence but, are the two instances even comparable? Donald Trump is a privileged white man with enough wherewithal to know exactly who he is provoking with every word. Drill artists are teenagers who — for many — have yet to leave their own neighborhoods. Donald Trump had conflict with Russia and the Ukraine. These kids beef with each other because that’s all they know and where they’re from, death and murder are commonplace.
Instead of using drill music as a scapegoat, why not eliminate the problem at its core and focus on nurturing a more positive outcome for the youth. How about focusing on the vast number of underperforming high schools and making sure they meet certain standards? After all, education is one of the things that helped turn Adams’ life around. Schools could even begin introducing trade programs for kids who feel as though their future does not lie in a textbook, exposing them to legal income at an earlier age certainly would pique interest.
Rather, this past Wednesday, mayor Adams met with several drill artists to hear their opinions on the matter and clarify his stance.
They came in with a lot of energy — of, you know, here’s a 62-year-old guy that [doesn’t] understand young people and you want to destroy. And I let them talk and then I told them what I said: That violent people who are using drill rapping to post who they killed and then to antagonize the people who they are going to kill is what the problem is.Eric Adams on his meeting with NYC rappers
And they heard me, and we’re going to be rolling out something in the next few days to deal with this issue. It was a great conversation, and I was happy to have them there.
The antagonizing lyrics Adams refers to have been happening in hip hop for decades, the difference is, rappers of yesteryear were more discreet with their disses, it was an “if you know you know” kind of thing. As we’ve entered the social media era, where anything and everything gets shared publicly, the reality that New York City is fostering youth that have such little regard for human life is a little too real for some and it reflects poorly on its leaders.
Besides, what can one meeting solve when only two of the people in attendance are actual drill rappers (Fivio Foreign and B-Lovee), and none of the rival gang members/ drill rappers who their antagonizing lyrics are aimed at are present? Isn’t that how you come to a treaty, by having opposing factions sit down and come to a resolution?
Nonetheless, this might be a strategic move from the mayor. With his denouncing of drill lyrics and vague rapper meetings, he can give his “hey, I tried” answer the next time a young driller rapper is killed, or he can continue to attack the sub-genre itself, but we’ll all know the problem was never the music. The music itself is a voice for the problems. But then again, the mayor may have just found his long-term cause to hang his hat on.