LONDON—Five gang members who made a genre of music that police in London have linked with the surge of knife crime in the capital have been sentenced after being found with machetes and baseball bats.
The five men, ages 17 to 21, were sentenced on June 11 for conspiracy to commit violent disorder.
In an unprecedented move, London’s Metropolitan Police also applied for a criminal behavior order to ban the five men from making so-called drill music. A decision on the music restriction has been adjourned until June 15.
Drill, a style of music that has its roots in Chicago’s hip-hop scene, is becoming increasingly popular in Britain. The music has been described by London police chief Cressida Dick as “glamorizing serious violence: murder, stabbings.”
The men, from Ladbroke Grove in west London, were part of a gang called 1011. Their music videos have been viewed over 11 million times on YouTube.
The 1011 gang was thought to be planning an attack on members of rival gang 12World from Shepherd’s Bush, also in west London, in retaliation for a music video in which 12World harassed the grandmother of members of the 1011 gang for entering their “strip,” or area.
In her sentencing remarks, Judge Recorder Ann Mulligan said the gang members showed a “potentially promising music career” and added that “it is undeniable that there is … real musical talent on display in these videos.”
But she also described the videos as “menacingly violent.”
“The videos contain graphic threats and gun signs, and they refer to murders, stabbings, guns, drug dealing as well as displaying appalling attitudes to women,” she said.
She added that the gang appeared on British hip-hop DJ Tim Westwood’s TV channel last October, where they were introduced as 1011. She said it was fortunate that the recording of the show was no longer available.
According to reports, more than 30 drill videos have been deleted from YouTube following the Metropolitan Police’s crackdown on drill music.
A petition that protests the removal of 1011’s videos from YouTube has been signed by more than 6,000 people.
A Wider Issue
Kevin Brown, a youth worker in charge of music technology at Caius House, a London youth center, said the influence of music on gang culture is a discussion that has been happening for years.
“I’m not excusing it, but I think it plays a part in a wider issue,” he said. “The same thing could be said for movies that really show graphic images of how to use a gun, how to use a knife, or drugs.”
He said he always challenges the young people he works with by asking them whether the song they create is really reflective of their life and character.
“When they say certain things in a song, other young people will be listening and other young people would want to check whether they are really living that lifestyle. That music may turn into a real street situation,” he said.
Ex-gang member Sheldon Thomas spoke with The Epoch Times in May and highlighted drill music on YouTube as a driving force behind the violence on Britain’s streets.
“We’re in a period of time where it’s ‘cool’ to be a gangster, it’s ‘cool’ to think you’re black when you’re white, it’s ‘cool’ to act a certain way because you’re rebelling against society. It’s ‘cool’ to degrade women and call them [expletive] at home, it’s ‘cool’ to do it. It’s being promoted on YouTube,” said Thomas, founder of the non-profit organization Gangsline that helps and supports young people involved in gang culture.
He said many young children turn to YouTube and Instagram to fill the void in their family life.
He added that gang violence is a “societal problem” that cannot be solved with “intervention.”