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Skengdo x AM + Drillminister - Gleb Kosorukov
Gleb Kosorukov via a/political

An artist & three drill MCs collaborate to fight for freedom of expression

Russian artist Andrei Molodkin comes together with drill MCs Skengdo x AM and Drillminister for an exhibition which also invites the audience to donate blood

In what first appears to be an unlikely collision of worlds, drill artists Skengdo x AM and the political Drilliminister have announced an upcoming collaboration with Russian artist, activist, and subject, Andrei Molodkin.

Political Drills (The Media) is a new track featuring the three London-born rappers. Releasing on the 7 June as a song, video, and limited edition vinyl, it takes aim at the vehement stigmatisation these musicians are frequently subject to, as well as the integral importance of freedom of speech. In conjunction with this, Molodkin is hosting his Young Blood exhibition, courtesy of artistic liberators a/political. Young Blood was conceived as a means of exacerbating the importance of creative and artistic freedom through the perennially controversial use of blood. Molodkin, a Russian artist, invited his audience to donate their blood to the lyrics of censored or suppressed music, as a means of commitment to the continued pursuit of freedom of expression – something which Molodkin has lived through first-hand.

Following this successful installation at the BPS22 Museum in Belgium, Molodkin was intrigued by other mediums of oppressed music; “I was researching the most contemporary examples, and I saw that Skengdo & AM were making legal history for performing a song.” Skengdo & AM are renowned within the burgeoning UK drill scene. Complimenting sounds and intelligent lyricism help the two to construct their music, taking inspiration from the harsh realities which surround them. Recently, the pair have been at the centre of one of the biggest censorship conspiracies in recent times. In an act performed for the first time in the history of our country, the pair have been handed a nine-month sentence, suspended for two years, following a performance of their “Attempted 1.0” at their final tour date at KOKO.

Cue Drilliminister; a figurehead for the resurgent wave of youth politics, and candidate for the 2020 London Mayoral elections, he has been paving the way for a new form of politically-motivated drill in an effort to normalise and redefine the genre. After being approached by Channel 4 with numerous quotes from MPs, Drillminister’s ‘Political Drillin’ cuts and contrasts the abhorrent quotes of those in power with the stigmatised and punishable outlook of the London youth; “I will not rest until she’s chopped up in bags in my freezer” raps Drillminister, quoting former chancellor George Osbourne’s attitude toward Theresa May.

This combination of hypocrisy and discrimination is what underlines this unsuspecting collaboration. Molodkin comes from a place of almost total creative oppression, where ideas and concepts are stifled if they attempt to break any mould – this notion of creative oppression, once alien, is now a very real and intimidating concept. Through donating their own blood to the lyrics of their music, Skengdo, AM, and Drillminister are characterising the armoured tenacity of drill music, acting as wardens of the divine nature of expression, and highlighting its importance as a vehicle of politics, equality, and reality.

As the single releases today, we speak to the trio of drillers and the Russian artist to uncover more about their unlikely collaboration, censorship, and political expression.

How did the collaboration of three London rappers and a Russian artist come about?

Andrei Molodkin: I had installed Young Blood at BPS22 Museum in Belgium where I invited people to give their blood to lyrics from censored or suppressed music. I was researching the most contemporary examples, and I saw that Skengdo & AM were making legal history for performing a song. Through a/political, we contacted the guys and all understood each other immediately. With Drillminister, the three came to the museum and donated their blood into their own words, showing they were willing to give their blood for what they believed in- creative and artistic freedom.

Drillminister: The a/political team had heard of the three of us as well as Andrei, and thought that our fight for freedom was similar. I’d personally done my background checks and quickly realised that Andrei is the forward-thinking Banksy of Russia, making modern day, cutting edge art which was a combination of freedom fighting and political statements. I honestly believed that this was a marriage made in heaven, and that’s what I’m all about.

The three of you have previously fallen victim to stigmatisation in the media, do you think that your choice of material such as blood will be controversial?

AM: Yeah, it would be- the media and government are the people saying our music causes blood to be spilled, so us giving our own blood put a little bit of a spin on it.

Drillminister: I hope it is. I believe that society now reacts with fire to fire- dramatic opinions are met with dramatic examples, and there is a true fight for the freedom of speech. Projects such as this collaboration, especially the visual aspect of this, will force upon people the seriousness of the censorship we face.

Andrei Molodkin: We all carry blood. It’s all the same colour. I have never understood why people get so scared and outraged by the use of a liquid. Maybe it’s because they’re reminded it’s a currency.

Polticial Drills (The Media) is all about the importance of artistic freedom – do you think we are currently seeing an increase or decrease in artistic liberty?

Skengdo: The higher powers which control the media only allow things that push their agenda, whether it’s artistic or not. I think there isn’t an increase or decrease necessarily, things have always been like this. People are just finding new and cool ways to express the art.

Drillminister: It’s just the norm if you’re from where we are from. The media are always trying to subjugate us to an agenda, or forcing us to conform with how they want British society to be internationally represented. But now the reality becomes much darker, because people are forced to choose more extreme methods in order to gain artistic freedom from the media.

Andrei Molodkin: Whenever there are people trying to speak the truth and open eyes there are always others trying to suppress their efforts. It’s like what Skengdo and Drilly say - people are creative and will always find ways to get their message across, somehow.

There is more and more synergy within contemporary culture, tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of wanting to combine the arts and music? Why do you think these are overlapping more increasingly?

Andrei Molodkin: Musicians can capture the spirit of our time in songs that get into the mind of the public, whereas artists can imagine this through a single image. It’s important that the musicians and artists who speak the same language and are fighting for the same cause come together. They will only become stronger, and their message more clear.

AM: I think they’re overlapping because they always have. Artists paint a picture through their music, plus we get the imagery across in music videos- which is basically a moving art piece if you want to call it that. I also think that in the UK music scene especially, everyone is deeping that it's some mad art form, rather than just jumping in the booth, laying a 16, and then shooting a video on the block.

Drillminister: I think that it’s due to the fact that the world is becoming more connected through technology, and the resultant effects of this are completely different worlds and trades merging into one operating system. It’s kind of like an iPhone. We are all connected to this new source of information and entertainment, thus making the fanbases for both trades even bigger, before touching and reaching more people so that the worlds are becoming even more intertwined- this project is proof.

The project is launching as a charity event, citing local Brixton youth charity ‘Brixton Wings’ as its cause – how do you hope this project will impact not only your local communities but others across London?

Skengdo: We hope that it just inspires other yutes in this rap thing to remember to always give back to the hood because we know what it's like to grow up here with limited opportunities.

Drillminister: I just hope that we can have a positive impact, as opposed to all the negative the kids in our areas have to go through daily. It feels nice to be someone providing some positivity for them.

As growing artists you may have started finding more footing within politics and popular culture in general, do you believe that because of your role as artists you are inclined to have a political viewpoint?  

Skengdo: I think it's because we are influential… When you’re influential, people wanna know what your thoughts are, because they may want to think differently.

Drillminister: My whole aim in the music game is to raise awareness of politics in the younger generations. This generation will not only be the ones to change the world next, but make others see that our power can come from information and unity. I believe it’s my duty, not just my role. And I’m going to be the Mayor of London in 2020, so that will once again prove my point.

Andrei Molodkin: Drilly’s campaign will be the first to speak real truth and represent a new generation without the institutionalised agenda of most candidates. It’s a new era.

Russia media is infamously censored, but in some circumstances, the British media is no better. What do you think is noteworthy about the censorship of some drill music in the UK?

AM: Nothing else to say other than it’s just pure bullshit. They only censor us because they want us stuck here or in the slammer.

Drillminister: They censor us because they don’t want the harsh reality of England promoted to the world. Unfortunately for them, our music and our fans are already worldwide. With that being said, we’re apparently not a good look for the empire, so we remain the victims of censorship. Little do they know, our songs and our experiences help certain people from our background, and some others who are not may get through their day because they resonate with the struggle and the frustration described in our music. We are therapy for a lot of people, not something to be censored, but embraced and promoted nationally- if anything, ‘The Media’ is once again proof of this.

Andrei Molodkin: I lived in the Soviet Union, where censorship was everywhere- it was no surprise. However, I am shocked about Europe and what’s going here now. My friends Democracia were taken to court because of a series of photographs they produced, a number of artists’ friends have been arrested and served jail time. My work has been censored at the Venice Biennale, in Northern Ireland... It’s clear to me that the government does try to censor what is the most pressing and important language of our time. While drill musicians are heavily affected by their suspended prison sentences and discrimination, it’s obvious that what they are saying is a reflection that the people in power don’t want us to hear. Let’s hear about real experiences.

The Media is premiering on 7 June at the Saatchi Gallery with a live performance from Skengdo, AM, and Drillminister, with the audience being invited to donate their blood afterwards. All funds raised from ticket and vinyl sales will go to Brixton Wings, and the exhibition will remain at the Saatchi from the 5-10 June

Listen to Skengdo x AM and Drillimister's new song, Politica lDrills (The Media) below: