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An introduction to Irish drill music

Words: Dylan Murphy

Drill music is becoming increasingly ubiquitous across the world. Whether it’s TikTok, TV shows or the charts it’s making its way into popular culture at a rapid pace. Ireland hasn’t been immune to this takeover and we’ve highlighted the essential artists to get familiar with to understand the bubbling underground scene.

Since the boom of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’, the country has become increasingly diverse and it is reflected in its music. Just look at the likes of Rejjie Snow and the burgeoning hip hop scene informed by the island’s storytelling history and the global appeal of a genre that’s barely left a scrap of land across the world untouched.

While traditional forms of hip hop have been making the headlines, in recent years there’s been another variant of rap music that’s been making waves globally from Ireland – drill. If you have been on TikTok you’ve likely heard Drogheda Collective A92’s Plugged In Freestyle. It’s sitting at 26 million views at the time of writing this and their quest to take on the world is only getting started.

A92 aren’t alone in being a homegrown drill act reaching viral status online and with a host of other acts breaking the internet with regularity from places like Athlone and Dundalk, it doesn’t seem like the genre’s grip on Ireland will loosen anytime soon.

If you were to trace how the sound arrived on our shores you’d have to take a flight across the Atlantic to Chicago where acts like Chief Keef and Lil Reese popularised the genre characterized by crashing chimes, bells and harrowing sounds that soundtracked the gang violence of the midwest city.

From there drill took a redeye to the murky backstreets of London where acts like Harlem Spartans and 67 put a colder touch on the sonics. Later, UK producers like 808 Melo and AXL Beats worked with New York acts like Sheff G and the late Pop Smoke and the result was the hugely popular Brooklyn drill sound that dominates timelines today. In a way, the sound came full circle but in Ireland, it’s largely accepted that the UK style is what informs the emerging sound at home.

With teenagers and young adults raised on a diet of youtube freestyles and social media largely running the scene in Ireland, it’s resulted in a forward-facing approach that favours platforms like Dearfach Tv and New Eire Tv over traditional media. It’s these Youtube channels that have hosted many of the tracks that have exploded online. Indebted to their UK counterparts like Mixtape Madness, GRM Daily and others, these channels have provided a blueprint for young Irish rappers to get their music to the masses.

With the scene growing at a rapid rate, it’s impossible to cover every artist, but we’ve highlighted 10 acts in no particular order that’s moves and music serve as an introduction into the bubbling underground of Irish drill.

10

AC-130

Not a huge amount is known about teen drill rapper AC-130. Though this mystique coupled with his lackadaisical flow is piquing people’s curiosities.

This slow burner delivery sounds akin to London trailblazer SL, but with a thick Irish baritone and vernacular. With only a handful of tracks under his belt, the D7 spitter has one of the more distinctive sounds on the island.

9

INK

The anointed ‘Godfather of Irish Drill’ INK a staple of the bustling scene. With authenticity often being a key tenet in rap, there are few questioning INK’s videos in the grow houses and tales of life on the road. Having arguably released the first drill song in Ireland back in 2015 when he jumped on a Chiraq Remix, the masked rapper’s ruthless lyrics and shattering delivery is an unforgettable arm in Ireland’s growing musical repertoire.

He’s featured in Noisey’s documentary ‘The Irish Drill Scene Won’t Be Stopped and his foreboding street cut ‘Bad Intentions’ is sitting on over 5 million views at the moment. One of the most prolific artists in the country, you’ll find his steady stream of music on his own Youtube channel.

8

Reggie

Though still young, Reggie has been on the scene for a minute. A glance through the comments section on any given freestyle or song will be filled with admiration for the “Coldest” drill rapper in the country with fans pointing towards his icy flow and effortless delivery.

His New Eire Flow freestyle was the first in the series and set the standard early for the ruthless brand of sparring that’d take place in front of council estates and local centras across the country’s drill hot spots.

Having stepped away from the limelight briefly to take a break from music, he returned and since has shown a serious appetite to be the best in the country. His protest anthem ‘My Accentis one of the most overlooked cuts to come out of Ireland in the past year and testament to his ability to make thumping hits without compromising his message.

7

Offica

Drogheda’s Offica had the timeline on lock with his anime-inspired anthem ‘Naruto Drillings’. Subsequently, KSI jumped on the remix and his stock has only been rising since.

Wearing a mask, spitting bars about fantasical characters and introducing a lesser seen conceptual approach to drill music, Offica is flipping notions of drill being a predictable genre grounded in cold realities on its head.

Last year, he stepped out from the shadows in ‘Face Reveal‘ in an effort to bring fans into his world and with collaborations with Fizzler, Blanco and more under his belt the sky is the limit for the A92 poster boy.

6

Sello

Drill is undoubtedly a genre in its infancy in Ireland and the beauty of that is the space granted for exploration and experimentation. D22’s Sello is pushing the envelope when it comes to rap in Ireland and his debut single ‘Dublin’ is taking drill into unchartered waters.

While acts like Kneecap have used the Irish language in hip hop, Sello’s use of local slang and clever hopscotching between rapping in English and as gaeilge is an exciting proposition for a sound that’s slowly finding its feet.

5

A92

We’ve highlighted Offica, but it’s worth noting the whole A92 crew is making waves.

The group of seven Irish-Nigerians, namely Offica, Dbo, Ksav, Kebz, BT, Andre Fazaz and Nikz, have gone from local heroes to globally charting phenomenon in a few short months. The release of their 92 Degrees mixtape solidified them as one of the most exciting outfits in global drill music.

It’s worth starting at their Plugged In Freestyle to get a taste for the groups different members. Whether that’s the nippy flow of Ksav or Dbo’s booming foghorn rap style, there’s no shortage of variation in the crew.

4

AV9

Dublin outfit AV9 are showing that the appetite for drill in Ireland is insatiable. Recently hitting the top 20 with ‘Facts’ the crew from the capital features Chuks, Shift and Rose9 among others.

Their no holds barred approach provides an added layer of steel to what might be the country’s slickest group.

3

Skripteh

New Ross native Skripteh marries Ireland’s rich storytelling history with forward-facing drill sizzlers. Finding an early winning combination in his relationship with producer New Machine, Skripteh has sculpted tracks that nod to rappers that laid the groundwork before him without becoming fixated on what is in the rearview.

Often placing importance on technical skills and wordplay, Skripteh provides an accessible entry point for any more hardened hip hop heads.

2

JB.2

Possessing one of the genuinely most unique flows in the game right now, there were raised eyebrows when J.B2 first entered the fray.

The bouncy, jittering delivery often sounds like the safety has been let of a gun that can’t decide if it is semi or full auto and whilst everyone else is trying to make their mind up about the unorthodox rapper, he was busy working on the timeline’s next thumbstopper.

Between collaborations with Russ Millions and freestyles that are part of Irish drill folklore, J.B2 is pushing the boundaries of drill’s sound.

1

Smilez

A prime example of the wave of genre-agnostic artists from Ireland dipping their toes in a pool of complementary sounds, D24 spitter Smilez has refused to be pinned to pigeon-holed to date.

His greatest success has come in the shape of Ireland’s 2021 drill anthem ‘Outside’. Recruiting up-and-comer Youngiz for an earworm effort, the cut highlights the demand for rougher and uncompromising hits, however, keeping his previously more accessible auto-tuned songs in mind, Smilez has potential to push drill in Ireland into the mainstream currently occupied by Central Cee and co.

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