Turn up the bass and 808s: U.K. drill has dug a space for itself on Spotify—and across the global music industry at large. The trap sub-genre’s share of listening has grown 351% on Spotify since 2017 across Europe, Australia, and Africa, and especially in cities and countries where listeners can relate to the genre’s unfiltered themes, booming sound, and direct lyrics. As it spreads, it takes root in different languages and locations, making it even more accessible.
Though the trap sub-genre has been rising in the U.K. for several years—a staggering 442% listening share increase since 2017—2021 has taken it to a new level, complete with prominent features on Spotify playlists, a runaway global hit single, and increased presence in the U.K.’s annual BRIT Awards.
“Body” then became the first-ever U.K. drill track to be featured on Spotify’s global Today’s Top Hits playlist. This song, which emanated from Spotify’s U.K. rap and hip-hop playlists, then started traversing the globe as a cross-continental remix. Its journey is a strong reflection of the story of drill in the industry as a whole.
A place on playlists
Drill has long been a feature on U.K. hip-hop playlists like Who We Be and Rap UK, which have been two of the top three playlists in the country since they each launched. New playlists, like Just Dropped, are also increasing in prominence week after week, and the biggest episodes of the Who We Be TALKS_ podcast continue to be ones featuring drill and rap artists. Rap UK has even become the region’s biggest export playlist for U.K. hip-hop.
“Streaming allows the audience to decide exactly what they want to listen to and when. We are seeing this reflected in consumption on platform,” says Safiya Lambie-Knight, Artist & Label Partnerships Lead at Spotify for the U.K. and Ireland. “It has also allowed for the birth of new drill scenes across the globe from Australia to Ghana. Playlists like City to City are great examples of global drill and the audience’s appetite for the genre on an international level.”
“Body,” originally by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne, came out in March 2021, complete with a dance challenge. The next month, the duo released “Body (Remix)” featuring a number of U.K. and U.S. artists, including a new artist from Brighton named ArrDee, U.S. drill artist Fivio Foreign, Bugzy Malone, E1 (3×3), ZT (3×3), Buni, and Darkoo. The track quickly took over, hitting close to 600,000 streams daily in the U.K. and 200,000 daily in the U.S. and Australia. It jumped from its spot on Rap UK, Who We Be, and Hot Hits UK to Australian hip-hop playlist A1, where it cemented its place as the biggest song in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand—the first drill song to ever do so.
Then, overnight, the song was added to Today’s Top Hits, which contributed to the track’s success: It’s now been streamed over 58 million times, in addition to having been streamed over 1 million times in a single day. It also garnered multiple other remixes, featuring artists from all over the world helping to drive more international growth and top 10 prominence in Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Norway.
“U.K. rap has dominated the mainstream for some time now, but ‘Body’ reaching the top of the charts in the U.K. and Australia simultaneously is incredibly significant for drill,” says Safiya. “It shows not only the importance of the U.K. as a key market, but also the export and international potential that U.K. rap now has.”
2021 BRITs and beyond
While “Body” became the first drill track to reach the top slot, U.K. rap has been topping the charts in the U.K. frequently for many years. The BRITs nominations this year, therefore, were a reflection of the appetite for U.K. rap in popular music culture—featuring the biggest as well as newest names in rap nominated across all of the categories.
“It’s important that institutions like the BRITs recognize the hip-hop talent they have here and reflect that in awards,” says Joel Borquaye, from Spotify’s U.K. and Ireland Editorial team. “At Spotify we have worked closely with a number of the artists nominated over the past year. This included emerging artists like S1mba, whose support began early on in our playlist Who We Be, and Young T & Bugsey, who were our first RADAR artists in the U.K., as well as album campaigns with Headie One, AJ Tracey, and J Hus, the latter of whom won the coveted male solo artist of the year award.”
Since we launched the Spotify U.K. charts, the popularity of rap has been clear on Spotify. Now, the U.K. music industry has caught up—and the world is next.
“Rap has always been fast moving and agile, and that has been more evident over the past year with the capacity of releases that we saw on Spotify,” says Safiya. “Consumption habits have evolved, too, and it isn’t just the data that shows us this—it’s culture. Look at the way music spreads across social media. There’s a lot of support across the music and artist community and there’s a huge engaged, young fan base watching that and wanting to be part of it and creating their own content to be involved in the conversation. Artists now know where their audience is and music can travel more easily now than ever.”