The Drill Bit is your monthly dispatch from the world of drill where we dig into artists making waves and the developments within the scene as they happen. This month’s feature is an interview with Offica who talks about the changing perception of drill and the evolving Irish identity.
If your ears haven’t yet been pierced by the thudding 808s threatening to propel a new breed of Irish rappers to stardom then you are missing a trick.
Drill music is having a genuine moment in Ireland and if you were to trace how the sound arrived on our shores you’d have to take a flight across the Atlantic to Chicago, the birthplace of the genre before to getting the redeye back to the murky backstreets of London.
From there the sound would blow across the water to small towns and cities across Ireland where the core tenants of the genre would still prevail, but rather than residing in southside Chicago apartments that became synonymous with Chief Keef it’d live amongst the flats of Dublin and the council estates of Athlone.
With Drake recently hopping on drill instrumentals, simultaneously we are seeing other artists running away from many of the genre’s original tenants.
Drogheda’s Offica represents a growing movement of artists drawing from drill sonically, but rather than recounting stories from the underbelly of the city they are bringing a surrealist undertones. With a number of tracks sitting on one million views plus, collaborations with artists across the water and a legion of fans desperate to know the face behind the Naruto-inspired mask, Offica finally dropped the veil last week on ‘Mask Reveal‘ on GRM Daily.
We spoke to the burgeoning artist about why he decided to forgo an anime-inspired sense of mystery for emotional connection with his fans and how his music has not even reached its final form.
How were you introduced to music, was your household musical?
Basically when I was in school for my leaving cert I was studying and I used to get bored and I would take out a pen and paper and would start writing lyrics and I would rap it out to my boys on a drill beat and they said it was cold. But I wasn’t taking it seriously at all cause back then I was playing football for Drogheda United, my local club. Just for the craic, the boys had a studio session and I laid it down and that’s when I started taking music seriously.
What were you listening to at the time because there’s definitely a musicality to some of your stuff that isn’t always present in Drill.
Yeah I won’t lie I don’t listen to drill a lot like that. I’d only listen to popular drill songs, I wouldn’t know a lot of drill artists if you know what I mean. I’m more into hip hop, I love American music as well and I also listen to afrobeats.
With the KSI collaboration was that something you were excited to do and wanted to do?
Didn’t expect that at all, for him to say he wanted to be on a drill beat that’s crazy. Obviously the original ‘Naruto Drillings’ came out and he heard it, then all of a sudden they were like KSI wanted to be on it. He had a show up in Dublin and we said since he was here we’d shoot the video.
Your music is very visual. There’s definitely an added dimension to what you are doing, and with a lot of people dismissing drill as monolithic were aiming to ensure you weren’t lost in the crowd straight away?
Yeah basically I like drill beats and obviously a lot of people say that drill promotes violence so I just wanted to be mainstream with it and I knew the only way to make money through drill is to make commercial drill tracks. I’m also planning on doing stuff that is not drill at all.
How much freedom did having the mask give you? Was it an issue of using it to grow your confidence without people knowing who you are or was it purely an artistic choice?
In fairness people from my town, they all know what I look like. My decision to take off the mask was for shows. It would be hard to perform if I had interviews, it would be hard to get the mic on me and everything. I also wanted people to see my personality behind the mask because people are like, “aw there’s no facial expressions in music videos”.
Like I could get away with just swinging my arms in music videos but I want them to see more. That’s really why I decided I needed to take it off… It was mad hard to breath in as well [laughs].
I’m still going to wear it sometimes it was just to show people who is behind the mask.
How much do you enjoy the fanfare and memes in the comments section below videos around it all?
Whenever I drop videos I tend not to look at the comments, my friends will let me know what is going on if you know what I mean cause I don’t like to get too worked up about stuff like that. But yeah I’ve seen some comments where people don’t like it, some people do. But at the end of the day if the music is good the people won’t care really.
Going forward are you planning on staying in Ireland?
Yeah 100 per cent. I go to college in Ireland as well so I’m planning on finishing college in Ireland as well so yeah I’m not planning on moving anywhere just yet.
Does it bother you that there isn’t as much support from the media here or do you think it’s not needed because you have such loyal fans on the internet and on other platforms?
I’ve been getting a lot of support from people living in Ireland, but I wouldn’t say the media in Ireland is big about it, but the people in Ireland support a lot.
I’d actually interviewed the producer JBJ recently and it seems like there is a real movement in Ireland that is being often overlooked, what do you think about it all?
I feel like we deserve to get more radio play, like my track ‘Skiddibop’ was played on the radio a lot you know what I mean, but I feel like Ireland needs to invest more in its artists because there are a lot of artists out there that are really good but need that extra backing and support.
Do you think maybe part of it is something to do with the fact the Drill isn’t associated with being traditionally Irish? It isn’t exactly guitar music in the corner of a pub.
Yeah, but we need to accept the fact it is growing a lot in this country. In America Pop Smoke was using drill beats, but in a unique way and it wasn’t really to promote violence and his songs were getting mainstream. When people talk about drill beats they think about violence, but it’s just a beat.
I’ve seen Headie One work with the likes of Jamie XX recently and we are getting a glance at one of the possible directions people could take the sound. Alternatively you have talked about wanting to have that mainstream appeal, how does drill make that viable?
So what people are doing now is using drill as a pathway to where they want to get because it gets you a lot of recognition… A lot of people are using drill to increase their fan base and eventually they go into more mainstream music which is what we are seeing from the likes of Headie One and other UK artists.
It’s a really interesting moment for the sound, I’m not sure how far it’ll go, but we’ve even seen Drake jump on a drill track.
With that in mind are you trying to bring more pop sensibilities to drill rather than just the common tropes of violence and other things traditionally associated with it?
Yeah I’m trying to get as big a fan base as possible and to do that you need to go into different genres. Like I said I’m trying to do afrobeats, hip hop and different sorts of things. I wouldn’t classify myself as a drill rapper I just use drill beats.
What’s the next step, because you have said you want to stay in Ireland, but how viable is it to get where you want to be by staying in Ireland?
Even before all this I’ve been in and out of London, I’m constantly on the move and i feel like if i can stay in Ireland and constantly be on the move then there is no rush on moving.
Watch ‘Face Reveal’ below: