Chicago’s Drill Music: An Honest Portrayal Of A Vicious Cycle Of Violence

The violence in Chicago has many layers.

One of those has manifested itself through YouTube music videos of rappers threatening each other with violence.

And the mayhem due to the videos has become so widespread that some local rappers have had to flee from the city to escape imminent danger. 

 What happened to me is just a regular day in Chicago. I got hit three times, Chicago rapper J Da Kidd, recalled after he was recently shot. 

 J blames the citys subgenre of rap music called Drill Music, which is known for violent lyrics and ominous baselines. Drill Music was popularized by Chicago rappers such as Chief Keef, Lil Durk and King Louie, who was shot in 2015 after appearing in a music video called, Put The Guns Down.

The Drill Music scene took off in 2012, the same year the FBI named Chicago Americas most dangerous city

J, who grew up in Washington Heights on the citys Far South Side, told The Shadow League that he recently left Chicago for Atlanta. He also said that he couldnt say much about his shooting since the case is still ongoing.

I see a lot of attention seekers. A lot of people who come from nothing and its real f***** up right now. They rap what they see, J said. The city is kind of bad. I had to get up out of here. Its going to take everyone who started the Drill scene to fix it. Drill music has a lot to do with whats going on. People are trying to be bigger than what they are. Social Media plays a big part in that. Nobody wants to be a bigger person. They want to make themselves known.

One of the citys most infamous rap beefs that played out online was between Chief Keef and Lil JoJo.

Back in 2012, Joseph Coleman, aka Lil JoJo was murdered while riding his bike. Months earlier, he released a diss track where he came after Keef and his associate Lil Durk. In the video, JoJo shows off a multitude of guns. He also uploaded a video of him and a friend taunting one of Chief Keefs associates. Coleman had long feuded with a Chicago street gang called the Black Disciples, better known as BDs.

Chief Keef – I Don’t Like ft. Lil Reese

Pre Order Music video by Chief Keef performing I Don’t Like. (C) 2012 Interscope Records

And to show how complex this type of violence is, another Chicago rapper, JayLoud, a friend of JoJos, was murdered in December of the same year while wearing a Lil JoJo hoodie. On JayLouds Twitter account he often used the #BrickSquad hashtag, which Chicago Police say is a reference to the Brick Squad faction of the Gangster Disciples, another Chicago street gang. 

In a now taken down YouTube video, Jay Loud stated, “We know them and they know us, let’s get it. Smoke ’em like some dope when we roll up.”

Many Chicago rap artists have noticed how YouTube videos can potentially put them in the crosshairs of potential rivals.

The crowd makes everything worse, I realized early in life that if you pull somebody to the side in private and discuss your grievances it can actually be resolved because nobody is as tough in private as they are in front of a crowd, said Chicago Hip-Hop artist Mic Terror. People show out for the crowd and feel like you are trying to embarrass them and then they feel the need to prove themselves and on social media potentially thousands of people just seen you get called a bitch by somebody else and you don’t want to appear weak in front of thousands of people so you retaliate.

Chicago rapper Gzus Piece echoes Mic Terrors sentiments. But he believes the conflict over the videos comes from a historic place. 

 I feel like it’s actually more comparable to African tribe music to be honest, it’s like I’m making music for my tribe. This is the story of my side of town and in that story a lot of times it involves bringing up real shit that actually happened and people start to get offended you know, Gzus Piece said. Because sometimes when you start talking about real street talk and things that involve gangbanging,dead people and other personal things by shorties who aren’t trying to be at all articulate, people get touchy feelings, get hurt and then it becomes. man you just gon them talk about us like that.

Keep in mind when you in it you’re not only representing yourself, youre representing generations of people who have died, been locked up and everything else to represent these mobs and areas. So shit gets real touchy [laughs].

J Da Kidd, whose group is called Forever Lit,  wouldnt go into who was involved with him getting shot. But he says the shooting didnt need to happen, while saying it was a famous rap group.

Its about being famous and getting attention, he said. Thats lame. Its already out there. They know who they are.

From Nina Simones Strange Fruit, to N.W.A.s F*** The Police, to Kendrick Lamars We Gone Be Alright, our community continues to use music to tell a story that some journalists wont tell, or are completely unaware of. 

SWAGG DINERO x JOJO “HAVE IT ALL” shot by @flyty773


Drill Music in Chicago is polarizing. Some blame the sub-genre for some of the citys violence, while others perceive it to be a cry for help along with being an honest portrayal of life in Chicago. 

I tend to subscribe to the latter. Chicagos systemic issues are rarely talked about in the way that they should. Segregation, redlining, food deserts, poverty and lack of infrastructure and access to upwardly mobile resources in Chicagos Black communities has long led to the heartbreaking violence were sadly seeing here. 

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