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Licence To Drill: RV's Rico Vondelle Mixtape
Denzil Bell , April 22nd, 2021 07:52

In the new mixtape from North London's RV, Denzil Bell catches a glimpse of the future of drill

Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate has become notorious as the site of riots in 1985, following years of racial tension between the police and the mainly Black residents of the area. It was also the home of Mark Duggan, whose death at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers was the catalyst for further riots throughout the country.

The 1985 Broadwater Farm riots were sparked by the death of Cynthia Jarret, an Afro-Caribbean woman who died due to heart failure during a police search at her home (she is also the grandmother of UK rap artist, Scorcher). A demonstration outside the local police station erupted into violence with barricades erected and riot police called in. Fast-forward twenty-six years, the 2011 England riots came about from the death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old British man, who was shot and killed by police in Tottenham, whilst they were attempting an arrest, on 4 August 2011. He is also the father of OFB UK drill rapper, Bandokay.

Some people would say Broadwater Farm is the concrete jungle. But I would say it’s a breeding ground for stars: birthing UK drill stalwarts, like Headie One, Abra Cadabra, Bandokay, and Double Lz – as well as RV (aka Jordan Townsend), whose mixtape Rico Vondelle has just been released.

Growing up in this boiling pot of the streets and music, RV went hard on the roads and ended up in prison from the age of 18–22. But when he came out, he put on a mask and became the rapper, RV Pochettino, one of the head honchos of the OFB (Original Farm Boys) crew which the aforementioned artists are a part of, and now widely seen as one of the leaders of the UK drill movement.

He teamed up with his guy, Headie One, and they became a force to be reckoned with in the scene, dropping bangers such as ‘Jugg’, their Link Up TV freestyle ‘Behind Barz’ and their breakout hit, ‘Know Better’, which dropped at the beginning of 2018. But just after this song, he unfortunately went back to prison for a year. For RV, this one year was longer than the four years he did before, because he finally had a career to live for. So, when he came out, he made a change, determined to focus on his music career.

In 2019, he released his mixtape Savage and put himself back in the upper echelon of the UK drill scene. After heating things back up in 2020, he now drops his latest tape, Rico Vondelle.

Speaking on the project, he says that this is his most vulnerable work yet. He raps about his time in prison, taking his mask off and making a change to lead a better life for himself and his son too. On songs like ‘Back to Back’ with Headie One, we see him go back to the masked bandit, harnessing a gritty energy and utilising the dark production to spew lyrics filled with violent mantras. Whereas, on ‘Moonwalk Slide’ we see him going for more of a mainstream sound, connecting with established artist, Chip, and upcoming star, Backroad Gee.

Outro ‘New One’ sees RV bare his soul, touching on topics such as loss and the trials and tribulations of street life. For me, this is where the future of UK drill lies. He is also very vulnerable on ‘Held On’ featuring MORGAN, where he goes for a sweeter R&B vibe. On that song, he speaks about his other half and how she makes him better. It’s a side that UK drill artists don’t usually show. But the more honest artists are – and we as consumers are – the more people will be geared towards the sound.

For the scene to grow, experimentation is key. Here we see RV exploring other sonics, such as UK rap and R&B. Even if he does ascend out of the drill sound, I feel like this will only help to evolve the sound and take it into the stratosphere – as well as the musicians that reside within the scene. We’ve seen it with artists around him, such as his crew mate, Headie One, who is probably the most experimental of them all, as we see him using abstract, electronic sounds with Fred again.. on their collaborative project, GANG.

Loski is another UK drill artist who began just making that genre, but as he developed and got signed to Sony, he also delved into other sonics such as Afrobeats and dancehall – even managing to see chart success with these records.

Another trend we see, are these artists making creative use of social media to promote their singles. UK drill artist, Digga D, is one of the main proponents of this movement, as he utilises TikTok heavily to promote his music, creating viral dances such as those for his song ‘Chingy (It’s Whatever)’. In a similar way, RV utilises Twitter heavily, keeping his supporters laughing with entertaining and witty tweets. “And u lot wanted me to change my name to Rv Mourihno” he tweeted, to numerous cry-laughing emojis, as Spurs manager José Mourinho (successor to RV’s namesake Mauricio Pochettino) ended his Premier League career on Monday.

With all these various pillars, I feel like the UK drill sound has a bright future. As long as there is room for experimentation, growth, and vulnerability, I can see this genre continuing for a long time yet.