British rapper M1llionz’s “LAGGA” takes a U.K. drill tune global with a music video shot in Nairobi, Kenya. Released in September, “LAGGA” represents an in-road to U.K. drill for those who may be unfamiliar with the surprisingly influential style. M1llionz, whose real name is unknown to the Internet, is a rising U.K. drill rapper from Birmingham, England. He has a penchant for fast-paced, patois-laced U.K. drill tunes backed by heavy 808s — and his style is representative of the current global wave of influence returning to the United States.
For those unfamiliar with U.K. drill, it takes its primary influence from the Chicago Drill scene of the early 2010s. Think of the likes of Chief Keef, who crafted hits like “Love Sosa,” “Hate Bein’ Sober” and “I Don’t Like.” Drill is a very gritty and violent subgenre of hip-hop. Its artists often call out their opposition and speak of their lives as gang members. Drill takes its influence from trap beats and is a modern evolution of the gangsta rap of the ‘80s in reaction to the increasingly commercial and cleaned-up direction of rap as a whole. Drill is not highbrow music — it’s not Mozart or your mother’s Stevie Wonder. If you listen to music to be transported to a soothing and peaceful place, drill — regardless of origin — may not be for you.
U.K. drill as its own unique sound developed in London and spread to other parts of the U.K. London delivered its own spin on the gritty gangster tunes from Chicago with its unique instrumental sound. A good description of the sound comes from a Capital Xtra blog post, which emphasized the “fast-paced, hard-hitting beats” paired with “melodic basslines,” leading to a completely different sound from “the slower, more measured drill rap from across the Atlantic.”
The U.K. drill sound has actually come back to fuel the current boom of New York drill. American artists like Fivio Foreign, Sheff G and the late Pop Smoke have all found success with U.K. drill beats. A sound that came from Chicago and then developed in London is now central in the rise of a new age of New York rappers — don’t you just love the Internet? Even Drake has hopped on U.K. drill beats on 2020 releases like “War” as well as “Only You Freestyle,” a collaboration with British rapper Headie One.
Although U.K. drill has a couple of loan slang words from the U.S. from when the sound came over — like the use of “feds” to describe police, despite the lack of a federal government in the U.K. — it has developed a lingo mainly based on London slang. A lot of London slang borrows from Jamaican Patois. Someone unfamiliar with the slang may miss some references and clever word play — however, it’s easy to decipher the meanings of some words after a couple listens to drill songs.
The same slang can be seen in M1llionz’s work — including throughout “LAGGA.” Even the word “lagga” is Jamaican patios for “stupid.” Lyrically, “LAGGA” is a typical boastful rap song. M1llionz speaks of how dangerous he is and how intriguing he is to women, saying “I got more trust in this kitchen stabber / The gyaldem say the lingo's madder / She said, ‘Ayy, where did you get that grammar?’ / Lagga, Lagga, Lagga, Lagga.” In this excerpt from the song, M1llionz both talks of how he places his trust in his knife and talks of how gyaldem — women — love the way he and his mates speak.
So how does a British rapper of Jamaican heritage end up in Nairobi, Kenya? That was the work of Teeeezy C, the director of the video. He explained in his interview with Keziah Wenham-Kenyon of Crack magazine that they chose to set the video in Kibera, Nairobi — Kenya’s largest slum. He had previously shot in Nairobi and established connections that allowed them to shoot in Kibera.
“From my previous trip, I knew of certain areas within Kibera and when coupled with a local crew with local insight, we were well and truly at home,” Teeeezy C said in the interview. “I think this is also a key component in the authenticity of the video, nothing was forced, and the chemistry of the team was powerful.”
Unlike typical U.K. drill videos, which are monitored by British law enforcement and regularly taken off YouTube at the request of said law enforcement, there are knives and guns in full view. There are also many pickup trucks and dirt roads, which are not very common in urban Birmingham, England. M1llionz is obviously trying to get across to the viewer that he fits in with the real gangsters no matter where he is — using an environment that clearly juxtaposes that of his home easily gets that across.
Teeeezy C employs a lot of medium shots and cowboy shots, which is appropriate for this wild west-type environment. When he does zoom out for full shots, it's usually to show a procession of pickup trucks carrying platoons of heavily armed young men who act as hype men. He also expertly uses handheld shots in a way that makes the video feel less like a music video and more like a documentary.
The tune is a fun listen, and the video is wonderfully executed. M1llionz’s success bodes well for the viability of U.K. drill, which has seen many of its artists increasingly finding mainstream success in its home country and across the world. Taking its original influence from Chicago, U.K. drill has come into its own enough to influence drill scenes worldwide, from Australia to France and even back to New York City.