Mo’ Hip-Hop for old men
I’m not going to pretend that I understand a thing about U.K. Drill music. I am not from England and have never been there, nor do I understand the intricacies and personalities surrounding the grimiest of British rap music. I have little to say about the violence that surrounds it or that it allegedly causes. I don’t even know any of its top bruvs, and have to be educated about what little I do know by my London friends. I am just a Black American with the sweetest flows you’ve ever heard who had been in Cambodia long to make a few international friends like Hypnotic Fist Technique, who once cooked up a little UK flavor in the lab a couple of years ago with RAPIDO RECOILED.
However, when I ran across Pete and Bas, “two retired grandads” from South London who have dare I say, colonized the UK Drill scene, I took it as a joke. Surely these old men in their 70’s with craggy faces who look like villains from a Guy Richie movie can’t rap as hard as it looks like they’ve lived. I thought two other dudes must be rapping in the background on some Milli Vanilli business (rest in peace Fab).
But in the immortal words of DMX, I learned quite quickly that “it is NOT a FUCKING… GAME!” These two… just… exquisitely geriatric gentleman rap their replaced hips off. This ain't no Atlantic City by Gums and Roses either.
Like many Americans, I’ll admit I do not understand what British rappers are saying, but I do know tough guy shit when I hear it. Somehow, against all odds, everything both of them say comes with such a definitive edge as easy to think they have actually done at least 50% of the violence and drug sales they rap about. Most rappers only do 5–10% of the things they say. The ones who do 70% and up tend to get arrested. The shady South London pasts they allude to and refuse to discuss in their BBC interview makes you wonder which parts are were made up just for fun.
- Does Pete really have a mate with a pig farm out west?
- Could Bas still kick in my door at 80 years old?
- Could I literally be “chinned” by a man twice my age?
It’s equal parts menacing and hilarious in that unique way that makes me want to be a part of it rather than condemn it. Gangsta rap well done hits different when it’s done by old gangsters.
On their track The Old Estate featuring M24 that tore up the UK Drill internet (Drill-ternet?) last year, Pete and Bas showcase some rather expert lyricism. Wordplay in that uniquely British way. It had me both giggling and rewinding to try and catch what I missed. That’s pretty much the highest honor you can give to rappers you’ve never heard before. They rapped so well, you had to run it back like a dancehall DJ. Contrary to my original expectations… Pete and Bas were legit… Hella legit... Take a listen:
All My Favorite Rappers Are Old Men
I’ve gotten used to all my favorite rappers being old men. While most are Black Americans who don’t reach ever retirement age (DMX, Shock G, and Biz Markie, Black Rob), it feels more necessary to pay top dollar to see 64-year-old Ice-T and Bodycount tear up a stage or see Bun B or Scarface while they’re still around. So I remain floored that these two English blokes in their 70's made the choice to pick up hard-core rapping as a hobby before turning it into a business as members of the UK Drill scene. It’s funny yet inspiring, and if they were garbage rappers this wouldn’t be working. Mystique can only get you so far after all.
“If I wasn’t doing music I’d probably be up to no good,” Pete says. “The music has changed everything.”
Pete and Bas are out here on the drill-ternet doing the important work of sharing their vision. It’s a rather violent vision, but I’m sure these guys are just rapping about what they’ve seen in their community for far longer than their contemporaries… who are literally 50 years younger. They are worth watching not just for the wild gimmick they’re hit on of being old, but because they’re kind of amazing with the flows in that super hard, super working-class, super British way that Drill music seems to be known for — I still don’t actually know, but everybody else seems into them so I don’t think I’m crazy.
Basically, if they can do this super-predator schtick at the twilight of their lives, the rest of us can do anything.
So we may as well give it a shot.