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If Only You Knew: Grime & Drill For April Reviewed By Aaron Bishop
Aaron Bishop , April 27th, 2021 07:57

Aaron Bishop selects his highlights from the UK underground scene including projects and singles from names such as DC, Central Cee, M1llionz and Enny

It is a well-known fact that London is the birthplace of grime and UK drill. For years London artists have served as the gatekeepers of the scene and the main beneficiaries of the music industry and all it has to offer – money included.

But more recently we’ve seen a changing of the tide. Over the last five years we’ve seen the likes of Manchester’s Bugzy Malone and Aitch, Northampton’s Slowthai, Nottingham’s Young T & Bugsey and Coventry’s Pa Salieu all achieve monumental success, both in the UK and overseas and that’s only a few examples.

Young T & Bugsey won ‘Song Of The Year’ at the MOBO Awards for ‘Don’t Rush’ which took the world by storm, spent six weeks in the Top 10 and even saw multiple remixes including with American rap star DaBaby. They have also recently been nominated for a Brit Award. Slowthai was nominated for a Grammy Award in the ceremony just gone, while Pa Salieu followed in the footsteps of Stormzy to perform on the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, making his American Television debut.

The surge in regional acts making their marks can in part be attributed to the rise of streaming. People no longer have to wait for tastemakers or those in positions of power to dictate what’s hot but instead can discover artists on their own. The emergence of social media platforms such as TikTok also must play a part as challenges and crazes can propel a songs popularity as was the case with the aforementioned ‘Don’t Rush’.

Having a wider variety of voices can only be a good thing. People from outside of London have their own experiences and their own stories to tell. Some of it may overlap with what is going on in the capital but we can’t have a UK scene without influence from the rest of the country. Furthermore, the talent and personality a lot of these acts bring only enriches the quality and overall level of the industry and paves the way for more rounded points of view and unique perspectives from a greater pool of talent.

It wouldn’t be an outrageous prediction that the biggest rapper in the country in the next five years could conceivably not be from London. Birmingham’s M1llionz could be a shout at the rate he’s going, but regardless it is indeed an exciting prospect. The wealth of talent across the UK is there for all to see and only growing. While London was once the alpha and omega when it came to the UK rap, it can only be a good thing that the scales are now tipping in a more balanced way.

M1llionz - ‘How Many Times’ feat. Lotto Ash

The star power of Birmingham is on full display in this 0121 linkup between drill golden boy M1llionz and Lotto Ash which sent the timeline into a frenzy. The Afroswing and drill fusion comes courtesy of TSB who handles production duties as the heavy bass emphasises the grittier elements of the track alongside the smooth. While not a distinct departure from what we’ve previously heard from M1llionz, the track does serve its purpose in showing off new elements to his sound. Shot in Port Royal, Jamaica, the Chauffeur-directed video sees the pair embark on a heist adventure where they find themselves in clubs, driving sports cars, surrounded by models and of course, getting money. Like he did with previous single ‘Badnis’, M1llionz teases another track at the end of the video, likely his next single as we edge closer to the release of his highly anticipated debut project.

Central Cee - Wild West

Capitalising on the hype and buzz he’s built up over the last twelve months, West London’s Central Cee had a lot to live up to when he dropped his breakthrough mixtape Wild West last month and it is fair to say he didn’t disappoint. The project peaked at number 2 on the official charts, narrowly missing out on the top spot, but still succeeds in presenting a cohesive body of work that has marked his rise and issued a statement to any lingering doubters. Over 14 tracks with no features he spits about his experiences and his thoughts both past and present from the things he used to do for money to his dreams of moving his mum out of the hood. Known to many as a drill rapper, many long-time fans will know that his sound has changed multiple times over the years and his versatility is on show throughout. With samples ranging from Bob Marley’s ‘Jammin’ to Foreigner’s ‘Cold As Ice’ and nods to the likes of Dizzee Rascal in his bars, he lays foundations for further exploration of different sounds in the future. Having only been out for a month the mixtape has already accrued over 100 million streams on Spotify alone cementing Cench’s place as a mainstay in the scene.

Billy Billions - ‘Tizzy’

The emergence of drill supergroup #98s was one of the highlights of the scene last year with their breakout project Class Of 98s marking them out as potential superstars of the genre. Made up of ten of Hackney’s best and brightest up-and-coming drill artists — including the already established Unknown T, V9 and KO, alongside newer names like Stally, Mazza, Billy Billions, Jimmy, DA, Hitman and Alchubbino — each artist had their time to shine on the project. Having already started this year with the Groundworks Cypher, it seems as if each member is ready to define themselves as artists individually before the next group project. Step forward Billy Billions, one of the standout performers on both the tape and the Cypher, who has released his first single of the year with ‘Tizzy’. More of a vocalist than a barrer, he combines both to devastating effect accompanied with visuals courtesy of The Director Ali, which amplifies the storytelling nature of the track which describes his unruly behaviour with his crew who make an appearance as an interrogation goes left.

Enny - ‘Same Old’

Enny burst onto the scene towards the end of last year with her breakout track ‘Peng Black Girls’ featuring Amia Brave leading to a remix with none other than Jorja Smith – whose label she is signed to. Since then she has gone from strength to strength, performing on Jools Holland and being booked for festivals. Aiming to build on that early success she is back again with her first offering of the year in ‘Same Old’. While ‘Peng Black Girls’ tackled colourism, ‘Same Old’ explores themes like gentrification and social media. Taken from her forthcoming EP, the video sees the South-East Londoner roaming the streets with a laid-back delivery that allows the focus to be placed on her words. The track premiered as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World on BBC Radio 1 showing the esteem in which she is held. All eyes will be on Enny when the project drops later this year.

DC – In The Loop

Anyone who follows my writing knows what a big fan of DC I am – he was the first interview I ever conducted. His latest is In The Loop, without a doubt his most complete body of work to date and confirmation that his star is only continuing to rise with every release. The ten-track project is his first in two years but is also his most personal. Facing his demons head-on he explores the trials and tribulation he continues to face, from growing up in Greenwich, South East London to acknowledging his habitual weed use. All of this is presented through the lens of a journey on Southeastern railway. His musical partnership with producer TSB seems to be a match made in heaven as he takes the reigns on the majority of the production while the only feature is by Knucks who appears is on a highlight track ‘Bobby & Rowdy’. DC has always had bars and flows, but this project brings out more of the person and is a side that is sure to be explored in more depth on future releases.

Russ Millions x Tion Wayne - ‘Body’

Russ Millions and Tion Wayne are almost like cheat code to chart success. It’s been two years since the pair collaborated on ‘Keisha & Becky’, which is still spoken about today. Now they’ve combined once again on ‘Body’ earning themselves another Top 20 hit in the process. Both artists have projects coming this year, with Russ revealing his album is ready and includes a song titled ‘Baby Shark’ after the nickname given to him by Stefflon Don. It remains to be seen if a remix to ‘Body’ is on the way, but given how the ‘Keisha & Becky’ remix blew up, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was.

Izzie Gibbs – Alchemy

Hailing from Northampton, Izzie Gibbs may not be the most well-known name to mainstream UK rap fans but is a rapper whose lyricism is his greatest strength. Armed with an array of flows and a raw untameable energy his previous work has seen him tackle everything from trap to grime, while his latest six track EP is a project of two halves. The first half sees him in full rap mode with subtle drill elements introduced throughout while the second half leans more towards his trap tendencies complete with Auto-Tune. Predominantly produced by K1, Izzie is in his bag throughout with confidence ramped up to the max, hungrier than ever. Features include appearances from Joe Trufant, NN DER and Narxxy who all meaningfully add to proceedings.

Big Zuu x D Double E - ‘Variation’

Big Zuu has perhaps been more known as a cooking and radio personality than for his music of late. But linking up with the legendary D Double E on ‘Variation’, he lets us know that he still has bars for your head top at any moment. Produced by Joker and Sir Spyro, the song is an upbeat drop that sees the London lads enjoying themselves and feeling the vibes and well as some cameos from some familiar faces. Talking about the track Big Zuu said, “I’m gassed to be releasing a tune with D Double E. He’s a legend in the game and doing a tune with him has always been an ambition of mine. I think ‘Variation’ will be loved by all the core grime heads but also fans of other genres can enjoy it because of how catchy the chorus is. I’m so excited for everyone to hear it!”

Knucks - ‘Los Pollos Hermanos’

Knucks is known for his smooth delivery and laidback style over jazz-infused, expertly sampled productions. This is exactly what he delivers on ‘Los Pollos Hermanos’. Fans of Breaking Bad will get the reference to the restaurant owned by elite villain Gustavo Fring. This is not the first time the North West Londoner has referenced popular television shows and movies with ‘Big Kahuna’ and ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ also appearing in his back catalogue. If anything, it shows that he’s tapped in and working hard – attested to by his lyrical prowess on the track.

Ghostface600 – 'Shmokey'

Ghostface600 is not a name that you see mentioned a lot on the timeline but regardless of that, his numbers suggest that he is doing bits in the rap game. Based in South London, he has accumulated millions of streams across two mixtapes and operates in the trapwave arena often occupied by the likes of Yung Fume and DBE. While those artists may be a lot more polished at this point in their respective careers, Ghostface600 still has the raw energy of the streets and that is shown once again in his latest drop ‘Shmokey’. The video shows him in his ends, posted on the block, while lyrically he lets us know what him and his boys are on and why they’re not like you. Mixing bars with the melodies he finds a perfect sweet spot over piano-laden production which drives home the message in his bars.