Drill, a subgenre of trap, already a subgenre of rap, emerged out of Chicago’s South Side in the early 2010s. In the 12-ish years since its birth, drill has found an audience, and indeed eager artists, around the country and the world. The UK drill scene, for example, has been in the news in that country as a result of what its critics describe as extremely violent lyrics. Now, there are burgeoning drill scenes in Australia, Ireland, France, the Netherlands and New York.
Needless to say, New York, notably including Brooklyn, has a proud hip-hop history. It’s also important to note that scenes quickly stagnate if they aren’t freshened up if too much reliance is placed on legacy, no matter how great that legacy is. Names such as Fab Five Freddie, Biggie, Wu-Tang, MC Lyte, Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes – this is rap royalty. But we all get old, and new generations need their own heroes.
Brooklyn isn’t short of fresh blood. But when it comes to new scenes, nothing has caused familiar levels of controversy like drill. It’s aggressive, raw, harsh and real. In many ways, it’s a natural evolution for the music that was commonly referred to as gangster rap.
Take rising local drill star Bizzy Banks. Speaking to us by phone, Banks said that he’s effectively been rapping for his entire life. But it wasn’t until 2019, and the “Don’t Start” single, that things got serious. Since then, he’s made it his mission to keep the quality of his output at a consistent level. Ironically, “Don’t Start” was a solid, hold-nothing-back, start:
“N***a think he hold weight until I burn them calories, Couple shooters be with me, Call up Black we go 50 for 50, N***as spinnin’ all until we get dizzy, N***as politickin’ talkin’ bout Bizzy, Bitches callin’ me and sayin’ they miss me, I don’t got no time for no hickies, I just want the quickie, So slide off them vickies, Can’t fuck with a b***h if she friendly.”
Clearly Bizzy Banks, and drill rap in general, isn’t for everyone. But like all of the best rappers, indeed like all the best songwriters period, Banks is a storyteller. Sure, there are elements of bravado there, but Banks is essentially recounting what he sees and lives as a Trinidadian-American in East New York. The precise subject matter, he says, can vary.
“It really depends on the beat that I have,” he says. “When I hear a beat, I automatically start thinking of lyrics. I describe my sound as very swaggy. I’m very descriptive, without giving too much information, y’know?”
Banks says that he views drill as simply a sub-genre of rap, something real and legitimate.
“I believe it’s a legit genre of rap because of the years it’s been around since like 2012,” he says. “I feel like from then to now, it’s legit. It’s stuck around.”
It certainly has. From the early Chi-Town days involving the likes of King Louie & Bo$$ Woo, Shady, Chief Keef and Lil Durk, to what is going on in Brooklyn right now, drill is very much alive and it’s offered an undeniable shot of adrenaline to the East Coast scene that even a global pandemic couldn’t stunt.
“I feel like it’s a good time,” Banks says. “Even the pandemic gives us all this time to really connect with the fans and promote everything. See what’s going on.”
Banks’ new single, the follow-up to last year’s GMTO, Vol. 1 (Get Money Take Over) mixtape, is “Bandemic,” specifically about the pandemic.
“I just called it the ‘bandemic’ because it’s like even though we’re going through this crazy time, a lot of people are not able to make money because of their job or the situation they’re going through,” Banks says. “For me, my life that I’m going through, I call it a ‘bandemic’ because even though it’s a rough time I’m still able to make money and have fun, do the things I like to do.”
Banks holds nothing back on the new tune, telling us that it’s very representative of the material he’s currently working on. It’s always the case, he says, that his newest song is the best song for a newcomer to listen to.
“This shit ain’t gon’ stop (Facts), Uh, fuck on any thot, They let my shooter out the box, Yeah, you know Molly on the rock (What? Uh), These n***as know we don’t play, This shit no rap money, This designer weed and a bunch of SBAs, This be that trap money, get you slapped money.”
Banks has been working on a new mixtape, Same Energy, having spent a lot of lockdown in the studio laying down new tracks. That’s due later in the spring. Meanwhile, the rapper has been finding other ways to stay busy during the pandemic.
“Lately I’ve been playing a lot of video games,” he says. “I can connect with my young fans a lot more.”
That’s true, so we put it to Banks that a virtual concert on a gaming platform such as Fortnite, much like the recent and incredible visual event featuring Travis Scott, would be perfect for him.
“That sound dope,” he says. “I used to play Fortnite – I kinda stopped and started playing other games. But I saw how Travis Scott did it and everybody connected with it.”
Still, that might be some way off. For now, we can just enjoy “Bandemic” and the GMTO, Vol. 1 mixtape, and look forward to whatever Banks does next. His plans for 2021 are simple.
“Really just staying consistent,” he says. “Keep dropping to keep people engaged. A lot is going on.”
Bizzy Banks’ “Bandemic” is out now.