OneFour, Australia’s first drill rappers, now have even more in common with their UK Drill counterparts: censorship. This weekend, the rappers announced that their live performance with French-British rapper Octavian was “shut down” by NSW Police, a trend that has plagued the UK drill scene in the past few years—mainly because, according to authorities, the genre incites gang violence and knife crime.
Last week, the rappers were in the spotlight when New South Wales Police announced Strike Force Imbala, a specialised task force of 20 detectives and analysis experts, telling reporters they were looking into “gangs such as OneFour.”
OneFour are the only rap group in Australia’s history to face such heavy policing and It’s the third time this year that venues have been pressured to cancel their shows in Sydney, which begs the question—what makes OneFour’s performances such a concern to NSW Police? Especially after OneFour supported UK rapper Dave, in his sold out show in Melbourne, without any controversy.
In a written statement, OneFour writes, “This is the third time the NSW Police have pressured the venue we were due to perform at and it’s getting fkn frustrating. They want us to get off the street, yet they won’t give us a chance to.”
This week, VICE released a documentary about OneFour that I directed. The documentary was shot in Mt Druitt, in the lead up to the filming of their latest music video, “Spot the Difference.” The result was a story of hope for people who’d overcome all the systemic odds.
The attitude of the police has neglected the power of music for disenfranchised youth, who use art as a means of escape more than a narcissistic tool for glory. At its heart, Drill music is a cry for help from the impoverished gutters of society—the lyrics are a window into the landscape of troubled youth, in the same way hip-hop has been the megaphone for marginalised communities across America.
The problem is primarily what gives their voices authenticity; the criminal setting that the rappers have lyrically prospered from. With provocative imagery, OneFour has unveiled the violent undercurrent of the Western suburbs by detailing the violent trappings that infest the lives of millions of young Australians.
The issue with banning OneFour’s live performances is that beyond the symbolism there is no evidence to suggest that NSW is facing a knife crime epidemic the way London is, which is the only reason the UK Drill scene faced heightened scrutiny to begin with.
In May last year, the UK drill scene faced intense scrutiny when Commander Jim Stokley of the Met’s gang-crime unit claimed drill rappers could be treated like terrorists as officers would no longer need to prove specific videos were linked to specific acts of violence in order to secure an incitement. In the same month, The Guardian reports, YouTube removed more than 30 drill videos.
It is as though, NSW police is not only pre-empting that OneFour’s live performances are going to incite violence but that they are going to fuel a crisis, rather than work back from the crisis as The Met police have done in London.
“We’ve played three shows with no problems, yet they’re still trying to shut us down. While we’re trying to work and be productive, they want to flex their authority,” writes OneFour. “We’re hoping we can get through this obstacle soon so we can give the Sydney supporters what they want and that is a OneFour show.”
Rap music is entrenched in the views and values of the marginalised classes, as a genre UK Drill has exposed mainstream culture into the neglected streets where violence and crime has been flourishing—by suppressing it, we are only hiding from the problem while extinguishing any spark of hope that arises from artists like OneFour who break the cycle.
NSW Police were asked for comment, they provided VICE with the following statement, "NSW Police are responsible for liaising with venues to ensure proper licensing enforcement for all events held at licensed premises. The decision to hold an event is held by the promoter or venue." The event organisers contend that the decision to cancel the events were, "due to circumstances well outside of our control."
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