With every popular music movement, comes an artist that elevates it. Albums like Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak helped pioneer a movement of melodic hip-hop. Artists like Future and Young Thug took trap from its stoic origins into an ear-catching oddball territory. The sounds of boom-bap and underground rap have thrived with a breath of fresh air, thanks to the trippy lo-fi sounds of Earl Sweatshirt and Navy Blue, as well as the grimy storytelling of Boldy James and Conway The Machine. Fivio Foreign, the 32-year-old New York rapper, has just released his debut album B.I.B.L.E, and it’s pushing the boundaries of the drill music we hear coming out of the Big Apple.
New York drill is an offshoot of the popular Chicago drill movement, which found rappers like Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and G.Herbo sharing tales of their adversity via icy, hard-hitting rap anthems. It represented their tumultuous upbringings and gave them a platform to make it out of the streets. The origins of the genre in New York can be dated back to 2014 with Bobby Shmurda but found its identity in 2019 with the rise of the late, great Pop Smoke. Ditching the slow, grim sounds of the Windy City, New York drill is more fast-paced and in its modern incarnation, is punctuated with the gliding, wobbly 808s you’d find in the UK’s movement. Alongside Pop Smoke, Fivio played a major part in popularising this sound, with singles like ‘Big Drip’ thriving in grassroots support. The years that followed included collaborations with Drake, Kanye West, and more.
B.I.B.L.E is not indicative of an artist capitalising on popular sound. Instead, Fivio delves into his creative bag to open the floodgates for the genre, which has suffered from oversaturation over the past few years. As suggested by the title, the rapper has connected to his higher power and wants to serve as a role model for his city. “I just know I’ve got a responsibility to the city, the people around me that’s coming up next, my legacy, my kids, my family, and to whoever is looking at me as the person,” he says in the album’s mini-documentary.
The motivation Fivio possessed for this album has resulted in a jam-packed tracklist of stories that showcase his versatility as both a vocalist and a lyricist. He goes toe-to-toe with an A-list cast of features, who all add their narratives inspired by their lives. There are party tracks like the Quavo-assisted ‘Magic City’, hip-hop serenades like ‘Love Songs’ with Ne-Yo, and open-book cuts like ‘Feel My Struggle’. The majority of these style switches use the chaotic drill drum patterns and bellowing 808s as a linking factor, displaying the potential of the subgenre’s base.
Speaking about the project, Fivio states “My album is the bible because it’s my stories. I want people to listen to the music, take the stories in, and use them in their life.” The values Fivio displays throughout the project are based on his experiences as a father, and a person who has lived through adversity. The album’s opener ‘On God’ finds him reflecting on his success, showcasing his position today. On ‘Whoever’, he thanks God for helping him find his way through the struggles of the street. ‘City Of Gods’ with Kanye West and Alicia Keys finds Fivio rapping “This is the city of money and violence, everything we do is gon’ come with a challenge,” acknowledging the flaws of his hometown, but situating himself as a beacon for change. Fivio’s testament to growth throughout the album shows that even within drill music’s past in gang violence and affiliations, it can be at the core of moving past it all.
Earlier this year, Hot 97 radio host Peter Rosenberg stated “Over the past 5 years, I’ve not been particularly supportive or excited about any of the drill rappers.” It’s a fair point; drill has always had affiliations with the struggles of street life, and the tragedies that come with it. Throughout their expressive descriptions of their violent surroundings, drill artists have sometimes found themselves without direction, not knowing where to go to surpass the life they want to escape. Albums like Fivio Foreign’s B.I.B.L.E help illuminate the path, using the popular subgenre as the basis for his personal growth. He doesn’t just rap about adversity but raps about how he got out of it, and he does so while showcasing his versatility and food-for-thought pen game. When we look at the history of New York drill in the future, we’re going to see how Fivio Foreign went on from ‘Big Drip’ to make an impact on the sound’s trajectory. That my friends is on god.
Fivio Foreign’s new album B.I.B.L.E. is out now on all platforms, check it out here.