Block 6: The Rap Devils of UK Drill [Hip Hop/Grime/Drill]

UK drill is probably the latest of the music genres to make the middle class housewives choke on their morning tea, waving flags, demanding it to be banned. A not such a wild guess is that the home and school association already have bombarded the politicians in London with demands of harder legislations on what should be allowed on YouTube and other social media platforms.

Drill is a style of trap that originated in the South Side, Chicago in early 2010. It is defined by its dark, violent and nihilistic lyrical content and ominous trap-influenced beats. A regional subgenre UK drill emerged in London, particularly in the district of Brixton beginning in 2012. UK drill rose to prominence by the mid-2010s and has influenced other regional scenes such as Australian, French, Spanish, Irish, Italian, Dutch and New York drill.

Drill lyrics typically reflect life on the streets, and tend to be gritty, violent, realistic and nihilistic. The British newspaper The Guardian‘s Lucy Stehlik said “nihilistic drill reflects real life where its squeaky-clean hip-hop counterparts have failed”.

Probably the group with highest shock value of them all is Block 6 from Catford, in the South London Borough of Lewisham, England, UK.

The first of their members to put Block 6 on the map musically was A6, with tracks like Skeng 4 Skeng in 2016 (a track credited as A6 featuring himself as his alter ego, Mad A, who wears a balaclava — yes it’s a bit confusing) and his now infamous Bla@ckbox session in 2017.

A6’s guttural, raspy voice and nihilistic, ruthless lyrics (even by UK Drill standards), which he delivers with crushing force, created a small buzz of attention before he went to jail in 2017. He’s serving a 15-year sentence after been jailed for stabbing a man 13 times in an alleged unprovoked attack.

However it’s only in 2020, through the younger members of the group, that Block 6 truly begun to make a name for themselves as a collective in the UK Drill scene.

Notably, Lucii, Young A6 (A6’s protégé), Tzgwala and Ghostface600 have all been making moves in 2020, gaining millions of combined views and listens on YouTube and Spotify from their group and solo efforts.

They mix impeccable beat selection, intimidating visuals and wicked lyricism, mashing together voodoo, devil-worship, drug-dealing and gang beef, to paint a visceral slideshow of occult-infused ultra-violent imagery that would make Alex from A Clockwork Orange blush.

Although there’s no questioning their talent, part of the reason they’ve created such a stir is their penchant for touching on devilish and occult themes.

Take the hook on Lucii’s song Ritz for example: ‘Got war with the pagans, staying equipped / Backing your yank and dipping up pricks / Taking their soul and doing up Ritz [rituals], 666.’ — He happens to wear a devil masquerade mask.

Also the tabloid papers have been up in arms about the lyrics:

If you saw what I did that day in Brookmill Park you’d stay at home
I backed my blade and grabbed his neck
I splashed him down, I felt his bones
Call me a psycho, madman
No regret when I hop out and bat man (Splash)
The jakes stopped me with my mask
I told them I’m just a fan of the Batman (LOL)

Lucii “Ritz”

A6, on his collaboration Teezandos, Day of The Dead, raps, ‘Come on, you really think the devil wears Prada? Cause I’m him and I wear Nike Fleece.

Lucii on Plugged in w/ Fumez The Engineer: ‘I done caught me a case OT with three rambos and it still got dropped (why?) / What you know about voodoo? NFA [No Further Action] next day thank God / Fuck that no, man know I thank Satan, true say it’s blatant I do it a lot.

In a somewhat ironic turn of events, rather than their violent lyrical content being the bone of contention for tabloid media and law enforcement, as so often is the case with the genre, it’s the explicit devil-related symbolism that has brought Block 6 criticism and controversy from UK Drill fans themselves.

‘This is not drill🤦🏽‍♂️ worshiping the devil is not cool it’s just weird’ writes one YouTube user in response to Day Of The Dead.

‘astaghfirullah, the amount of satanic bars in this🤦🏻‍♂️all these are going hell’ writes another in the comment section of Plugged in w/ Fumez The Engineer.

… these commenters should really look into the black metal genre, they would probably cry themselves to sleep after being exposed to those lyrics.

While Block 6 might be the first artists to incorporate these concepts into UK Drill, truth be told they aren’t doing anything new in terms of rap as a whole. Supernatural and occult themes have been a staple of the rap subgenre Horrorcore for decades.

On the other side of the Atlantic, acts such as Three 6 Mafia, Brotha Lynch Hung and early Eminem, to name a few, all made heavy use of the same kind of imagery.

It’s hard to tell if Block 6 are doing what they do as an homage to Horrorcore, if they really do worship the devil, if the whole thing is a shtick or if there’s another reason for it entirely. My guess I for shock value.

Regardless of the intent, whether or not Block 6 will continue down this road and have it translate to sustained success, be it underground or commercial, remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: right now these rap devils are making people sit up and take notice.

The basis for this post is from the blog Ben Lim
with added comments by me.