The UK rappers Skengdo, AM and Drillminister have collaborated with the Russian artist Andrei Molodkin to create three new installations formed of empty vessels in the shape of their lyrics, which will then be filled with the blood of gallery-goers. The works, which will be displayed at the Saatchi Gallery in London from 5-10 June, are the most recent additions to Molodkin’s Young Blood series (2019), in which the Paris-based conceptual artist creates structures based on lyrics of censored protest music. In February this year, attendants of the exhibition Black Horizon at BPS22 in Charleroi, Belgium were invited to have a small syringe of their blood withdrawn and placed into the installations, a large of image of which was then projected onto the museum’s walls.
Skengdo, AM and Drillminister all create music classified under the style of UK drill, a controversial London-based sub-genre of rap which has faced severe criticism and censorship by the UK government due to claims that it incites gang violence.
In December 2018 Skengdo and AM (who perform as the duo Skengdo X AM) became the first UK musicians to receive prison sentences for a musical performance, when they violated a gang injunction from the Met Police by performing their song Attempted 1.0 (2018) at a London venue. One of their lyrics: “Officer I’ve done nothing”, which refers to the discriminatory levels of racial profiling conducted by the Met Police, has been transformed into a blood installation.
AM says that the gang injunction stems from the UK government’s desire to suppress the genre of drill. “They don’t want us to realise that we can use our influence to help a certain type of people coming from a certain area. The system wants to keep us down.”
Drawing parallels between the censorship of UK drill music and the widespread state suppression of art in Russia, Molodkin says that drill rappers are “being used as a scapegoats by the government for their failings”, adding that “real information is suppressed data”.
Drillminister, who is running for London Mayor 2020, says that he hopes to use this collaboration as a way to protest the racist and classist “sanitisation” of UK drill music, whose practitioners are predominantly black and come from council estates in London. He says that UK drill employs “a British version of ebonics”, which accurately reflects real social issues faced on council estates in the capital, pointing to spending cuts and austerity measures enforced by the government as the real issues behind the recent increase in gang-related violence in the UK.
The multidisciplinary collaboration between the rappers and Molodkin has also produced a track entitled The Media (2019), performed by the three rappers, with an accompanying music video directed by Molodkin. The music video will be debuted at a charity event at the Saatchi Gallery in London this Friday, accompanied by live performances from Skengdo X AM and Drillminister. The funds from ticket and vinyl sales will go towards the South-London based charity Brixton Wings, which provides educational, music and sports programmes to children and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds.