The tough rumble of Brooklyn drill, the latest hyperlocal strain of New York hip-hop, was always likely to soundtrack this summer. But it wasn’t supposed to go like this.
First, in February, the subgenre’s biggest breakout star, Pop Smoke, was shot and killed in a still-unsolved Los Angeles home invasion. Then the world was overcome by the Covid-19 pandemic, decimating jobs, canceling cookouts, block parties and graduations, and trapping everyone inside.
Yet when the weather warmed and the streets were once again filled — at first at mass protests decrying the killing of George Floyd and other black lives lost — there was the unmistakable boom and rattle of drill music, firing up young marchers and scoring a season of unrest.
One of the sound’s defining anthems has been “Big Drip” by Fivio Foreign, a rapper from the Brooklyn neighborhood of East Flatbush who witnessed Pop Smoke’s rise up close as a friend and collaborator. His own trademark song — “a chaotic slapfest of exclamations and yelps,” according to the New York Times critic Jon Caramanica — landed Fivio a major-label deal with Columbia Records (home to Beyoncé and Adele) as it transcended underground-classic status, moving from parties to the radio to the protests. It even appeared in Pete Davidson and Judd Apatow’s new film, “The King of Staten Island.”
In the latest episode of Diary of a Song, which breaks down how music is made today, Fivio describes the unlikely path of “Big Drip” and drill, which started with artists like Chief Keef and Lil Bibby on the South Side of Chicago in the early 2010s before jumping the Atlantic to the United Kingdom, where it mixed with grime and other variations of British rap before making it to Brooklyn.
Fivio is joined by the “Big Drip” producer Axl Beats, a London bedroom producer whose sound came to define a place he’d never been, along with 808 Melo, Pop Smoke’s go-to producer and another British architect of Brooklyn’s current style. Jerry Reefer, Fivio Foreign’s manager, and the Universal Music Group executive Steven Victor, who became an ambassador for drill after signing Pop Smoke, also lend their expertise.
See how “Big Drip” came together in the video above.
“Diary of a Song” provides an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at how pop music is made today, using archival material — voice memos, demo versions, text messages, emails, interviews and more — to tell the story behind the track. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.