Copping the blame: the role of YouTube videos in the criminalisation of UK drill music

Tilman Schwarze, Lambros Fatsis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


UK drill music frequently features as a prime suspect in newsrooms and courtrooms that charge it with driving the ‘knife crime epidemic’ in Britain's major conurbations. Such prejudicial assumptions about the role of drill in inciting violence are largely unfounded, but nevertheless inform criminal justice policy that leads to unjust and discriminatory outcomes. While drill rappers consciously post violent content on YouTube to increase viewership and gain popularity, the role of YouTube in facilitating and profiting from this traffic in violent imagery is rarely questioned in criminal proceedings – enabling, as it does, the weaponisation of such videos as ‘bad character evidence’ in court. Drawing on a selection of YouTube videos that represent drill rappers as dangerous ‘criminals’, this article argues that such videos function as a resource for the criminalisation of drill by police and prosecutors who present drill lyrics as personal testimony that is robbed of its fictive qualities, and makes rappers vulnerable to prejudicial ruling and discriminatory treatment within the criminal justice system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-480
Number of pages18
JournalPopular Music
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2022


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