BBC gives drill rapper a platform to glorify savage violence

BBC gives drill rapper a platform to glorify savage violence

On Tuesday, a young man who wished to remain anonymous was interviewed on the BBC’s World at One. ‘What’s your first name?’ presenter Sarah Montague asked him. ‘I’d rather not disclose that,’ he replied, in a strong ‘Ali G’-style accent.

He was known, he explained, simply as Chinx (OS), the persona he used to make drill rap music, a genre which has been widely blamed for fuelling and glamorising bloody turf wars between rival ‘postcode’ gangs.

The OS stands for ‘one side’ or one team of a collective of rappers from Camden, North London, of which Chinx is a part.

He had come on Radio 4 to defend his controversial video which was initially posted on Instagram in January then removed at the request of the Met Police because of concern the clip would ‘contribute a risk to offline harm’ and could lead to ‘retaliatory violence’.

It’s now back up and available. Meta, the owners of the social media behemoth, reversed the ban following an appeal by the ‘artist’ and the footage, lasting nearly two and a half minutes, is to be reinstated. In it, Chinx is at the centre of a group of hooded figures, his eyes peering out over a mask, holding his fingers in the shape of a pistol — so-called ‘gun fingers’ as the pose is known in this subculture.

Yet the removal of the video, Secrets Not Safe by Chinx (OS), was deemed a mistake which breached the basic principles of free speech, Meta concluded in a lengthy judgment. It also raised serious concerns of ‘potential over-policing of certain communities’.

‘Not every piece of content that law enforcement would prefer to have taken down should be taken down,’ the judgment stressed... ‘particularly when they relate to artistic expression from individuals in minority or marginalised groups for whom the risk of cultural bias against their content is acute.’

Victims of gang violence — including those sometimes caught in the crossfire — might see things differently.

The deciphered lyrics in Secrets Not Safe, as the title implies, contain coded references to real shootings, real stabbings and the real murder in 2019 of a teenager in Camden, in which a rival is clearly being called out and mocked. ‘Dissing,’ or disrespecting, a rival in such a way has triggered tit-for-tat reprisals in the past — all of them violent, many fatal.

The deciding members of the panel, however (which includes former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger), said there was not enough evidence the video constituted a ‘veiled threat’ which could lead to violence.

Perhaps they might have done if they’d known a little more about Chinx’s background. He said in his World at One interview that the reason for keeping his identity secret was to keep ‘my personal life separate from my music career’. However, a former Scotland Yard detective who took part in the programme offered an alternative explanation — that Chinx might be a possible target, in the disparate subculture he inhabits.

But the deciphered lyrics in Secrets Not Safe, as the title implies, contain coded references to real shootings, real stabbings and the real murder in 2019 of a teenager in Camden - 16-year-old Alex Smith

One of the lines, written in the first person, for example, reads: ‘Got eight for the hammer, I ate that sentence.’ ‘Hammer’ is slang for a gun, probably a pistol in this context, which suggests he has just been released from an eight-year sentence for a firearms offence.

Either way, this 24-year-old Londoner is clearly involved in the nihilistic world he rapped about, if Secrets Not Safe is anything to go by.

The rapper was jailed for eight years at Blackfriars Crown Court in March 2018 for possession of a loaded Walther P38 pistol with intent to endanger life.

Expelled from school aged 15, he has previous convictions for robbery in 2014 and assault in 2016 and was handed a further four months’ custody for absconding from Hollesley Bay, a men’s open prison in Suffolk in 2020.

He was freed in October last year and released Secrets Not Safe, his debut song, in January.

His manager and long-time friend, known as Ramps, claimed: ‘He has not been found guilty of any shooting. He converted in jail and is a Muslim now. He is living a very clean lifestyle at the moment.’

It’s not the image he projects in his video. The name Chinx (OS) is derived from U.S. rapper Chinx DrugZ, who was gunned down in Queen’s, New York, in 2015.

Chinx revealed on Instagram how he has been ‘served with new licence conditions’ which prohibit him from entering Camden and Islington, associating with past or present gang members, and having more than one mobile phone and SIM card. A copy of an excerpt from the order imposing the restrictions has also been uploaded.

More telling, though, is the personal statement complaining about the release restrictions which appeared on Instagram before being posted on internet forums.


Isn’t this a tacit admission, if the statement was written by Chinx —and there is nothing to suggest it wasn’t — that the police were right and Meta was wrong?

He is now on course to become one of the country’s ‘biggest ever drill rappers’, according to aficionados of the scene, due in no small part to the controversy surrounding the re-instatement of his video on Instagram. The decision was made by the Oversight Board of Meta, a quasi-independent ‘supreme court’ set up in 2018 to arbitrate on such matters.