The music industry has reached a point to where social media can be considered the new A&R. Like memes or videos trending on a regular basis, some things are here today and gone tomorrow. Just as quickly as someone making millions of YouTube views, the fall can be incredibly swift. While some can evolve past their novelty, many find themselves in relative obscurity. For every Soulja Boy, there are tons of Trinidad James. As the DX staff wanders the infinite landscape of the Internet, we’ve felt the need to explore various viral videos and figure out if the artists have a viable future or are stretching their 15 minutes of fame. Without further delay, Features Editor Andre Grant and Senior Features Writer Ural Garrett presents “15 Minutes.”
Is Slim Jesus’ “Drill Time” The Effect Of Too Much Chief Keef?
Andre: It was bound to happen, right? So it should come as no surprise that kids from the suburbs listen to drill, and we shouldn’t even bat an eye when that manifests itself as a baby-faced white kid surrounded by his darker skinned homies holding glocks and threatening to lay out his enemies. But we do. The thing is going viral, as artists like Meek Mill and aficionado’s like Andrew Barber are asking questions. Is it just good music? Is he an industry plant, as Barber asked? Who knows. What we do know is that “Drill Time” is making the Internet rounds. It’s trending on Twitter and probably on Facebook and Vine. It’s also, probably, pissing off people that hold Hip Hop up to a high standard. Plus, like my grandmother said, everything likes to roll in threes and we already got Macklemore’s “Downtown” featuring Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee and Grant’s “Wicked” featuring Kool G Rap so why not? And if you haven’t seen that video then, yeah. It’s wicked, or something. Either way, Slim Jesus is the kid of the moment, even if he does look like the younger brother from Malcolm in the Middle, but what to make of this thing?
Well, drill as a genre hasn’t done too well since everyone got super hyped about it a few years ago. Sure, it made Chief Keef and a few others slightly rich, and it spawned Bobby Shmurda (a-yo, we haven’t forgotten you, man) but it hasn’t morphed into the country wide phenomenon we thought it would. The problem is, of course, that it’s too menacing to get on the radio. For all of its viral appeal and even after a G.O.O.D music remix “I Don’t Like” didn’t get higher than 73 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other artists in the genre like G Herbo f.k.a Lil Herb, Fredo Santana, Lil Bibby, Lil Reese and the producer Young Chop have only found middling success.
Here’s the thing, this kind of categorical change is what could make the drill scene go national. Think about that for just a moment. There’s a lot that could be said about cultural appropriation and the like, here. And it would be a justified if not a surface level reading of how this is playing out. For my money, though, this is the Internet’s melting pot of cultures, thoughts, and sounds reaching its logical conclusion. Here, we have someone who’s very different from a Lil Dicky, Eminem, Yelawolf and others. Slim Jesus is a kid who probably doesn’t even like any of the artists I just mentioned except for Em. This is a kid who sees nothing wrong with wearing the perspectives of a different culture, with all of its history and its politics and its transgressions, like a Native American head-dress at Coachella. There’s something very 2015 about that. He’s young to be sure, and much can and will change. But this mimicry is interesting because it carries none of the stigma that it might have otherwise, whether from a Hip Hop or a cultural perspective, and I doubt it ever will. So, we might have to all hold on to our hats, as the next generation — the blend generation — upends what we thought we knew about culture.
Ural: Saturday night during Labor Day weekend, I was enjoying some take-out while watching the phenomenal Tina Mabry directed Mississippi Damned when a friend of mine sub-tweeted a YouTube video with under six thousand views. That, ladies and gentlemen was Slim Jesus’ “Drill Time.” Ironically, before the video gets going, there’s a message warning that the guns used in the video are props. Therefore, any degenerate acts shouldn’t be taken seriously. It was as the blond haired, blue eyed white kid from Hamilton, Ohio anticipated a potential police investigation. I’ve driven through the area a few times in my day and totally thought it was a pretty safe area. Apparently, the reality might be quite the opposite. According to Neighborhoodscout, Hamilton is three percent safer than every U.S. city. More statistics reveals that around 69 percent of residents in the area are white while African Americans make up a little over a quarter. And, the unemployment rate isn’t much to shake at either reportedly. Has it come to the point where poor white Americans are finding a kindred spirit from Chicago Drill’s dark context? Who’s to say? Looks like it wasn’t a passing fad after all.
From the looks of things, young ones around the world with rap inspiration are using Chief Keef’s rise to success via the internet as a blueprint which itself is a descendant of Soulja Boy’s early YouTube usage. As of yet, no one really understands Slim Jesus’ background nor those black boys who prance around him with their fake Call Of Duty styled weaponry at the moment. For what’s known now, a suburban-looking white kid has taken on the persona of a Chicago Drill artist and has the support of his homies. That’s a gimmick in itself. By the time this reaches our DX readers, “Drill Time” has cracked over half a million views. There’s one side of Hip Hop that wishes this to be some kind of parody to eventually be used in a think-piece about cultural appropriation. On the other hand, this could be the result of America’s melting pot and how struggles sometimes align themselves.
That’s the great thing about viral hits, there’s rarely any information besides what’s seen on the surface. It’s about viewing the piece for what it is and watching everyone’s reaction. That’s where the enjoyment comes from. It’s the same reason why many caught the wave of South Korean Trap rapper Keith Ape. It didn’t matter if he was a high school dropout, had successful parents and took liberties with Atlanta’s popular rap scene. The world witnessed a South Korean artists, trying his best at an OG Maco impersonation. That’s where the fascination comes from. I guess the problem is when people can’t differentiate the real from the fake. Besides the question of what that means to authenticity, is that the artist or the listener’s problem? Even comments on the YouTube video alone, there are folks already praising his delivery or flat out dismissing him as someone mocking the culture. Regardless of how confusing and weird “Drill Time” is, consider it another strange conception of the connected generation.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.