City Research Online

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

Schwarze, T. & Fatsis, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-3082-951X (2022). Copping the blame: the role of YouTube videos in the criminalisation of UK drill music. Popular Music, 41(4), pp. 463-480. doi: 10.1017/s0261143022000563


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.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in a revised form in Popular Music This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use. © The author.
Publisher Keywords: Criminalisation of UK drill, online infamy, violent YouTube videos, rap lyrics as criminal evidence
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
M Music and Books on Music
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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