Rap duo Krept and Konan have warned that outlawing drill music could push performers back to a life of crime.
The band were speaking as they launched a new single and short film, Ban Drill, which depict the impact of a ban on an aspiring young rapper.
Drill is a menacing, often lyrically violent subset of British rap.
It came under the spotlight last year when the Met’s top police officer linked it to an increase in knife crime and violence in London.
Police have subsequently asked YouTube to remove about 90 drill music videos which they claim incite or glorify violence.
But Konan, whose real name is Karl Wilson, said “people don’t get” that music can actually provide a route out of violence.
“After the murder of my stepdad, it was music that actually pulled me out of my former lifestyle,” he told The Guardian.
“Before music, there was just jail, gangs and getting arrested. Without music, I do not know if I would be alive today. Best-case scenario, I’d be in prison.”
His musical partner Casyo “Krept” Johnson suggested that criminalising music could rob Britain of a major talent.
“What could happen if they leave these artists alone so they can flourish and become something big?”
“You could have stopped the next Dr Dre. When they were trying to ban [US rap group] NWA back in the day, if they stopped Dr Dre from doing music, there would be no Eminem.”
‘Free speech issue’
The duo’s short film tells the story of an aspiring young rapper Jayden, who discovers a talent for rapping while in prison on drug offences.
Upon release, he channels his energy into music – but when his videos are removed from YouTube, he returns to gang life and ends up being stabbed.
In an alternate ending, his music flourishes, he becomes a father, and is seen performing on stage with Krept and Konan.
The film was premiered at the Electric Cinema in London, followed by a panel discussion on the future of drill music and the effect of legal bans.
Among the speakers was human rights lawyer Jude Bunting, who said the banning of drill was an “important free speech issue”.
“If you have been banned from performing an individual song then you should be challenging that. You should be arguing against that,” he told the audience.
“There will be lawyers who will fight that for free. You shouldn’t take these things sitting down.”
Last year, a west London drill group called 1011 were issued with a court order banning them from making music without police permission.
And this January, two up-and-coming performers – Skengdo and AM – were sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, for breaching a gang injunction by performing their song Attempted 1.0 at a London concert.
The duo, who pleaded guilty, told BBC 1Xtra that their lyrics simply reflected their life.
“We don’t always talk about violence, we talk about solutions, we talk about economic problems, we talk about the repercussions of violence. We cover a whole load of different ways to understand what’s going on,” AM told Twin B.
“When they want to talk about drill it’s always negativity. I don’t want to be seen in that light 24/7,” Skengdo added.
Alongside their new single, Krept and Konan have launched a petition on Change.org, asking the Crown Prosecution Service to stop police from using the Serious Crime Act to target drill musicians.
“Drill may not, technically, be classed as protest music, but the state should think twice before stifling the genre,” said the duo.
“There is a long history of suffering in black music. That collective expression is important, particularly for a deprived and otherwise voiceless community.”
A spokesman for the CPS told BBC News: “We have never prosecuted anybody solely on the basis of their involvement with drill music.
“Making threats to kill or cause serious harm to other people is very serious and clearly we have a duty to assess whether prosecution is appropriate.
“Drill music has been used to help establish association between parties in some serious cases involving gang violence. However, there is a significant difference between artistic expression and a person posting an online video encouraging murder. Every case that is referred to us is considered on its individual facts and merits.”
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