One in three gangland murders in London linked to drill music, report finds

One in three London homicides in 2018 was linked to drill music, a Policy Exchange report has found.

The report analyses a decade of knife crime data, pointing to the role of drill music, social media, revenge attacks and a failure of police strategy in the rise of gang violence.

Analysis by Policy Exchange found that of the 41 gang related homicides in 2018, drill music played a role in at least one third (36.5 per cent) of them. This was where either the victim or perpetrator was an aspiring drill rapper, or drill music videos were used as evidence in the trial. This figure was 23 per cent in 2019.

Knife crime reached its highest level of the decade in 2019 as 44 knife offences were committed a day with 94 fatal stabbing victims. Additionally, at least 25% of cases in 2018 and 2019 are directly linked to retaliation, the report says.

Additionally, of the gang related homicides in London, 80 per cent of the victims and perpetrators were black or from an ethnic minority background, with black people in the capital five times more likely to be stabbed than white or Asian people.

Knife crime reached its highest level of the decade in 2019


The report’s author, Sophia Falkner, took aim at social media and big brands for “glorifying, encouraging and legitimising” gang culture. The report called out Adidas in particular for launching a social media campaign with drill rapper Headie One, three weeks before he was imprisoned for six months for carrying a knife.

“Despite the rise of ‘woke capitalism’ and many of these companies’ explicit stance against racism, we have to ask why there is continued support for the perpetrators of violent gang related crime in London, whose victims are overwhelmingly black and ethnic minority,” Ms Falkner said.

The Policy Exchange researcher added that brands risk encouraging young people to buy into the idea that criminal behaviour is “fashionable” by promoting artists who are imprisoned for carrying knives.

Drill is a music genre characterised by violent lyrics, ominous beats and gang affiliations.

Broadcaster Trevor Phillips, a senior researcher at Policy Exchange also took aim at drill music calling Adidas “a disgrace” for promoting artists imprisoned for knife crime.

Adidas was criticised in the report for including rapper Headie One in a campaign after he was imprisoned for carrying a knife

(Dave Benett/Getty Images)

“I spent most of my own childhood in a postcode – N22 – that is now so violent that it has given its name to a murderous gang; the violent crime rate there is amongst the worst in London and nearly double that of the nation as a whole,” Mr Phillips said.

The Independent approached Adidas for comment.

Metropolitan Police reliant on ‘suppressive’ tactics

The report also called on the Metropolitan Police to develop a stronger strategy to tackle violent crime.

The Met’s failure to tackle knife crime is due to an imbalance in stop and search, apprehending high profile criminals and investing in neighbourhood policing, the report says. It added that the Metropolitan Police is reliant on “suppressive” tactics such as stop and search, but increased use of stop and search in London is unlikely to yield great benefits without addressing the Met’s relationship with the communities most affected by the tactic.

“It seems extraordinary that the MPS stop and search rate is 5.5 times that of West Yorkshire, yet the rate at which they apprehend drug traffickers (usually only recorded upon arrest) is less than a third that of Merseyside, and the strength of Neighbourhood Policing in London is just over half that of the West Midlands and less than half that of Merseyside,” Sir Mark Rowley QPM, former Assistant Commissioner in the Met said.

The Met Police has an “unusual and unjustified” strategy of combining a high stop and search rate with weak community policing and targeting of high profile criminals, the report says.

Linking drill to youth violence, ‘juvenile’

In addition to failings, in police strategy, the report revealed at least 40 per cent of stabbings are shown to be linked directly to a housing estate.

London musician and author Akala previously told The Independent that the fixation of linking drill music to youth violence was “juvenile.”

“The idea that teenagers will just listen to a drill track and say ‘right I’m gonna go kill someone’… like there are no pre-existing problems,” he said.

“Rap is never blamed for kids staying in school and studying,” Akala said. He added: “I stayed in school partly because of Wu-Tang Clan. If it’s influential, it’s all influential or none of it is. My problem is the hypocrisy of it. The whole thing is tired and trite, and the conversation always focuses on the black guy in front of the camera.

Rapper Akala has been at the forefront of debates about the impacts of drill music

(Getty Images)

“Let’s have the bigger discussion of why we only think it’s a problem if certain people do what they have to do to get rich.”

South London rapper duo Krept and Konan said outlawing drill music would push artists back into a life of crime, with Konan, real name Karl Wilson, attributing music to his exit from a life of gangs, prison and crime.

The report recommended that broadcast watchdog Ofcom, investigate engagement with drill music and whether it breaches a clause in its code of conduct that states programmes should not include content that glamourises or condones violence. Additionally, the report called for the Home Office and police to do more to explain crime data to the public.

“The Government is determined to tackle the underlying causes of serious violence combining tough enforcement to get dangerous weapons off the streets – including through stop and search methods – with programmes that steer young people away from crime,” a Home Office spokesperson told The Independent.

The Met Police told The Independent that use of stop and search is “rightly scrutinised” both within the Met and externally.

“We are taking steps to better listen and respond to concerns. We are working with our communities to improve our use of stop and search, including involving them in improving our training through their lived experiences of having been stopped and searched,” a spokesperson added.