Why Are Violent Rap Lyrics Being Blamed for a London Crime Wave?

Why Are Violent Rap Lyrics Being Blamed for a London Crime Wave?
A rally organized near Downing Street to call for more action to curb knife crimes, London, June 3, 2018 (Photo by Alex Cavendish for SIPA via AP Images).

A new type of rap music famous for its bleak, violent lyrics has frequently been cited as a factor contributing to a resurgent London crime wave. Yet amid all this concern about the music, known as “drill,” little attention is being paid to the harsh socioeconomic realities facing the men and boys creating it.

LONDON—In late August, this city achieved a grim milestone: The Metropolitan Police announced they were investigating the 100th “violent death” recorded since the start of the year.

Well before that case was recorded, a spate of violent crime in London had already sparked a lot of somber rhetoric and debate. After an especially bloody spring, media on both sides of the Atlantic seized on the fact that London’s murder rate had eclipsed that of New York City for the first time. In truth, that statistic only applied to February and March; by the year’s halfway point, New York had seen 147 homicides compared to 70 in London. But that did not stop U.S. President Donald Trump from invoking the dangers of the British capital in a speech to the National Rifle Association in May, highlighting knife crime in particular. “They don’t have guns. They have knives and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military war zone hospital. Knives, knives, knives, knives,” Trump said, miming a stabbing motion. “London hasn’t been used to that. They’re getting used to it. It’s pretty tough.”

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