While drill music started in Chicago and really began to take off as a subgenre in 2012, thanks to Chief Keef getting national looks, the drum and hi-hat-heavy sound has been reworked across the globe. U.K. drill shares some creative aspects with grime, borrowing a lot of the flows, but using local slang and faster-paced beats than the genre's Midwestern origins. Drill from Brooklyn and, later, the Bronx is like a blend of both original sounds of the subgenre ffrom Chi-Town and U.K. by emulating (and outright using) their peers across the pond's production and telling the goings-on of the street in a very specific way.
Outside all the dissing and airing of real-life beefs, drill has taken over in New York City. The Big Apple's newer acts have included artists like the late Pop Smoke, Fivio Foreign, Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow of Winners Circle experiencing solid success as their music continues to get recognition. XXL sheds light on more of the new names coming up nowadays, with all except Chicago's PGF Nuk originating from the New York area.
Any conversation about drill's recent explosion amongst NYC youth is incomplete without naming Kay Flock. The energy-packed young Bronx rapper has been making a name for himself over the last year, one snarling verse at a time. His 2021 single, "Is Ya Ready," was visceral and loomed large, showing a pretty new rapper mixing the near war cry nature of drill with stark threats and jump-through-the-screen energy. The video for the song is just under a year old, but has 32 million views. Kay Flock was riding high off all the momentum he was building (and he was by far the biggest Bronx drill rapper), but then it all slowed a bit due to his legal issues. He was arrested for first-degree murder last December. Things took a left turn at the worst possible time.
Kay Flock's legal troubles didn't end drill in the Bronx or Brooklyn, but it was still a shot to the genre's hold over the city that never sleeps. There are plenty of acts from the city who are making noise. Brooklyn's 26ar, who just released the new project Flyest Oota, was a recent participant in XXL's The Break. Eli Fross is Winners Circle's youngest in charge. The Bronx's Sha Ek also has some buzz in his corner. The ladies are taking their rightful spot within drill as well. Lola Brooke and Connie Diiamond, from BK and the X, respectively, are rapping circles around anyone they need to. New York City has a burgeoning scene on its hands and its longevity lies in the hands of the artists keeping it alive.
Check out the artists below and catch up on some of their tracks to add to your playlists. These are the 10 drill rappers to listen to right now.
Nudged into music by his close friend and fellow Bronx drill rapper B-Lovee, Kay Flock's distinctive gravelly voice and explosive energy quickly grew huge in the New York rap scene. From his breakthrough moment with 2021's "Is Ya Ready," to his biggest song yet in "Shake It" featuring Bory3000, Cardi B and Dougie B (no relation between the latter two), it's been quite a ride. Unfortunately, Kay Flock was arrested and charged with first-degree murder on Dec. 23, 2021, for a shooting that occurred just seven days prior. It was alleged that Kay Flock shot and killed a man in Harlem. The rapper is currently in jail as his team continues to release new music like the July release of "Brotherly Love 2" with B-Lovee and Dougie B.
B-Lovee rose to prominence alongside Dougie B and Kay Flock when their song "Brotherly Love" blew up last year. The Columbia Records signee was one of the first BX drill rappers to dabble in "sample drill," where artists use beats that sample popular hip-hop and R&B songs from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Two of B-Lovee's biggest songs use samples: "My Everything," which flips the 1997 Mary J. Blige hit "Everything," and "IYKYK," his biggest song by far that is a reworking of Wayne Wonder's 2003 global hit "No Letting Go." This past April, B-Lovee dropped the project Misunderstood while summer included the new track "Shottas."
A lyrically skilled and fully confident MC, Lola Brooke is one of the rising names in Brooklyn drill. Her May 2021 song "Don't Play With It" featuring Billy B took off, buoyed by Lola's energy and clever lyricism. It's starting to feel like she's popping up everywhere. "Dummy Ummy," which arrived last December, finds her going hard with the bars.
Winners Circle, the Brooklyn-based rap crew and label consisting of Sheff G, Sleepy Hallow and Eli Fross, have always made their own lane within drill through their approach and beat selection. Eli Fross carries on tradition, making music that doesn't sound like the usual drill tracks because of Fross' focus on rhythm and bounce. He's having fun, and is so matter-of-fact with each bar. "Growing Up Gangsta," his most recent popular song, works off Spanish guitar as he raps about the streets, women and all of his experiences coming up as a youth. Fross doesn't take himself overly seriously in what can be something of a stern subgenre. His approach has been paying dividends. Eli Fross is just a few weeks removed from the release of his latest project, The Golden Child.
Dougie B, Kay Flock and B-Lovee are joined at the hip when it comes to Bronx drill. The childhood friends from the Bronx have all found success in drill as they rise in their respective careers. Their March 2021 collab "Brotherly Love" ran up over 21 million YouTube views, which further increased their buzz. Kay Flock took off first, but Dougie also found room to shine because of his more laid-back, less gritty sound compared to his peers. Now signed to Republic Records, he's currently riding off the success of "Shake It," a Kay Flock song he's featured on alongside Cardi B and Bory3000.
Getting his start in 2019, Bizzy Banks jumped into rap right as drill was taking off in NYC. His first big song that year, "Don't Start," was certainly one of the reasons the genre expanded, as his lyrically focused approach highlighted a different side of BK drill. The track has locked in more than 11 million YouTube views thus far. "Don't Start Pt. 2" was also a success, along with Bizzy's projects, 2020's GMTO Vol.1 (Get Money Takeover) and 2021's Same Energy. Sadly, he was arrested on money laundering, drugs and weapons charges in Hackensack, N.J., via SWAT raid of his home in January. He has remained imprisoned since while dropping his last release in May, the song "Don't Know How to Act."
A Brooklyn drill rapper, 26ar has an ear for catchy songs, even though he's only been rapping for a few years. He got into the game in 2019, with his first song being "Aaron Rodgers," but his 2020 track "Maneuver" was his breakthrough moment. There is a specific kind of ease to 26ar's delivery. Rhyming seems like a natural gift. His current single, "Walk Em," samples Styles P's "Good Times," a sign that he's thinking outside the box. 26's most recent project, Flyest Oota, dropped in late July.
Chicago rapper PGF Nuk's music is something of a harkening to drill's origins. The Midwest native style is abrasive and vivid. The 2021 viral song "Waddup" put him on the map as a result of his delivery. This along with his unique voice being both raspy and higher-pitched have kept eyes and ears in his direction over the last year. "Waddup" was remixed, now featuring his cousin by marriage, Polo G. This version of the track sent it into the stratosphere, with its raucous video cruising past 32 million views on YouTube. Nuk's debut project, Switch Music, arrived in July, and continues to move, pushed by singles like "Button Boys" featuring Big30.
Sha EK is a part of New York City's Bronx drill movement, and one of the more popular young names within it. He initially took off due to his song "D&D" going viral in 2020, and Sha has been making a name for himself since. His energy, clever wordplay and dark sense of humor have kept him afloat in a packed scene. Now a Warner Records signee, he just dropped his single "New Opps" a month ago. Now, he's hard at work on a new project.
Connie Diiamond is a Bronx rapper whose freestyle over Drake's "Summer Sixteen" earned her some time in the spotlight in 2016. More recently, she got a lot of eyes on her for both her freestyle on DaBaby's "If I Want To" last year, along with her performance in an OnTheRadar Radio all-woman drill cypher at the top of this year. Connie is an important part of a burgeoning NYC drill scene that has a litany of talented women who rap within it. Her style is very aggressive, with a technical sharpness that belies someone who loves what she does. She just delivered her new EP, Flow of Forum.