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UK rapper Drillminister talks long-term plans to curb knife crime and political hypocrisy

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Balaclava-clad drill artist Drillminister made headlines with his appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, where he was brought in to discuss his single ‘Political Drillin’, in light of the rise in knife crime in London.

UK drill rapper Drillminister worked with Channel 4 News reporter Symeonn Brown to shine a light on the hypocrisy of Parliamentarians calling for drill music to be banned for its supposed link to knife crime and violence, particularly in London. The production, 'Political Drillin', is a typical drill track that uses direct quotes from MPs and politicians in its lyrics, including those of Labour MPs Jess Phillips and Clive Lewis, Tory MP Anne Marie Morris (who dropped the n-word for good measure) and George Osborne. The track touches on the threats, violence, and bullying that frequent the house of commons every day, and has been viewed across social media by millions.

One of the main things that shocked viewers with Drillminister’s GMB appearance was that he hid his face, wearing a camo balaclava, becoming the only person in recent memory to have been so bold to don the bally on live TV. Drillminister gave his reasons on the show, but told us more about how his decision is based on those he cares about most.

“It’s two things really. My expression of my music is first and foremost, this is how I express myself, more focusing on the music than on my face. Secondly, I’m not gonna lie to you, a lot of our heroes from our backgrounds, when your face is exposed and you’re saying the truth, you don’t last too long. It’s one thing going against what they’re trying to label us, as gang violence, but when you’re going against the Home Office and the government that’s a next thing, you can get your whole family involved. It’s not just a protection of myself, it’s everybody that I care about, it’s deeper.”

How strange it is that certain members of Government, and society, claim there to be a huge problem with violence in the hood, and yet this artist is afraid of those same people harming him. “That’s it. Plain and simple. We have stop and search starting last week. We have serious issues down here, I can’t just be putting myself out there fully, almost killing myself.”

One of the most serious issues facing young people like Drillminister is knife crime - which according to recent research from the BBC - has been on the rise since 2014. In London, for every 100,000 people in the capital, there were 137 knife offenses in the last year. Separate figures from London Major Sadiq Khan's office show that young black and minority teenage boys and men were affected most, both as victims and perpetrators. 

Sadiq Khan has implemented more police stop and search procedures across the city; a measure that Drillminister believes "is not the way forward, because if it was, then it would have worked in the 80s or in the 90s." He continues: “This is what always happens. We live our lives just like any other community, all of a sudden there’s a problem with the government, maybe money-related or they don’t know where to place the blame and so we get the blame. All of a sudden: stop and search, little 13-year old kids are getting pulled up off the street."

Instead, Drillminister believes in a long-term solution, something that he believes would be far more effective than Khan's short-sighted stop and search programme. “The government first and foremost has to retrain the police. And when I say that I don’t mean the old arse farts that have been there for 10-15 years. I mean the new academy, the lower ranked officers who are on foot patrol, these people who are gonna be in contact with the public the most. A lot of these officers are brought from other places where they don’t live. You can be an officer from Kent, but you’ll be stationed in Peckham. So, when you’re in Peckham, you’re not used to seeing this many urban people in one collective place. So, you’re just putting them up against the wall and spreading their legs because you’re not used to seeing so many of them. It’s hostile for you, that’s what these officers are feeling like - they don’t know how to identify a normal kid in a tracksuit going to college from a yute selling drugs: as far as they’re concerned, it’s the same yute.”

As well as investment in the young academy police force, Drillminister champions the raw, intense power of urban music. “The second thing is to invest in music. Music is so important and so successful, so why isn’t the government taking initiatives to make a big investment in that, to make a difference? Why not take these stars from these drill scenes and put Loski on some school tours to show that you can make it out of these schools? Because they’re more concentrated on the negativity, rather than rah there’s bare kids dancing on Snapchat to this guy’s song and they’re not out there doing a fucking madness.”

“Support the right people. They say community leaders, but really when they say community leaders they really mean ‘a mate of a mate’.  It’s always a mate of a mate, down in the hood we know that too well. It’s always some guy from the National Lottery or something, some guy nobody knows in the area, he’s bringing kids from outside the area to use the facilities and nobody from the hood goes there. We’ve seen it, it shuts down after 8 months, the government says it didn’t work, but these times nobody knew it was even on.”

One of Drillminister's most profound comments on GMB, that saw a lot of topical discussion on Twitter and Facebook, was that ‘anything associated with the hood gets stained’. Citing a recent interview with Dele Alli, Drillminister told us how Alli said he 'used to roll with gangs', but he 'turned his life around' to become a professional footballer.

"I’m not judging him saying I know man like that, but I know you weren’t mashing no work, and they’re making that out in the papers like ‘he made it from a bad area and he’s become a professional footballer’. But why do they have to throw a stain on where man came from? Why can’t he just be a professional footballer from that area? That’s always the narrative: to throw stain on where man came from to show ‘yeah he’s here now but what he came from is not acceptable’. So, what for the people he grew up with that never made it to a footballer? What are they? Just trash? Because they’re still in the same hood with the same hoodlums?”

Drillminister's ultimate goal is to empower young people positively, looking past negative portrayals of them in the media, primarily through the arts. “We have a hub in London, Digital Holdings. This is where a lot of the drill and rap talent comes from. This building is a self-funded place. Corey Johnson runs it, he doesn’t own all the artists but a lot of the big acts in drill all come from this building, which he has funded himself for over 10 years. That’s the only hub that exists. He’s not taking money from anybody else because he knows that once you start taking them man’s money, them man own you. So, we’ve become our own independent title.”

“We want to set this up all around London and England. In this building they have a film studio, where Mixtape Madness and Behind Barz gets filmed, Link Up TV freestyles are filmed here, GRM Daily, Daily Duppy, he basically puts on for the whole scene. No government funding, nothing.”

In order to put into place serious, long-lasting change, Drillminister is aiming for the cabinet: “I’m gonna be going up for the mayor elections in Greenwich next year. After that if I’m successful I’m gonna try and take it through to the cabinet. I’m not taking the piss this year. 2019. The people are so sick of the politicians in charge, they’d rather vote for a man who speaks the truth in a bally than a man who exposes his face and lies. I’m taking this real serious. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I should be sitting down with Sadiq Khan.”

“I’m doing everything! I’m running for elections and doing music - I wanna be the first one to do it. I was the first person to wear a bally on TV, I wanna be the first person to do this.”

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