In its purest form, Drill music is a cold-steel expression of urban survival. It’s offensive, bold and unflinching. It’s coded in the reality of street warfare and punctuates its repercussions. Zone 2 has always been more than that.
As Drill flirts with the truth of what actually happens on road, the notorious Peckham crew Zone 2 began naming names. When they dropped “No Censor” in 2019 it sent shockwaves throughout the genre; uncensored details of murder victims led to YouTube swiftly banning the video and issuing a statement about inciting violence. The last rapper on the track was Kwengface.
About five whole gangs man’s beefin’ (Uh-uh)
They either been shot or stabbed (True)
I tried drill it on a Circle yout’ up close
True say that the handting jammed (Lucky fool)
Since the splash of the Known Zoo mixtape, dropping certified Drill classics like ‘No Hook,’ ‘DMF’ and ‘Who’s Badder Than We’, several members of Zone 2 caught cases and wound up in drawn-out legal battles. Kwengface amped his work rate and has been making a splash in Drill ever since.
Last week, I sat down with the rapper to discuss his roots, the violence and growing up in Peckham.
Kwengface: My fan base in Australia is alright, still. Second biggest after England.
You write that it’s important to bring the real to UK drill, what do you mean by that bringing the real?
For me, it’s all about authenticity. Where I’m from, I’m from the hood innit. A lot of music is not based around a hood. It’s just based around like a next life. You know how music to some people is more of an expression? I feel like to me, I’m telling more of a story innit. I’m telling more of my story. So that’s what I mean by that. It’s real.
What’s the story you want to share?
Showing them how I live. How I grew up as a young black man living in South London innit. Things happened. Things that are legal things that are not so legal but it happens innit. And it is real. Oh, not just with me, but a lot of young people have come from where I’ve come from
Why does it matter that you have to actually have done it and been through it to tell that story?
People like the truth. People will always want to hear the truth. Always. That’s why people are so heavy on that. People being real, or things like that. I can’t listen to something if it’s not proper.
What do you make of all the critics trying to blame UK drill for the increase in violence because what you’re saying is your painting a reality and expressing that violence but some critics think that young people listen to that and get inspired by it?
Has it increased the violence? Or just made people more aware of it? I don’t think it increased anything. I just feel like it’s made people a bit more aware of what’s going on. Because someone that lives in the countryside or someone that lives in a mansion and things like that is not going to be aware of how I’m living.
Can you illustrate for us in Australia, what growing up in Peckham was like in the neighbourhoods that you grew up in?
See to me yeah, it’s not rough because it’s how I grew up innit. But when I’m explaining things to other people, they’re just thinking, ‘rah that’s nuts!’ When man was younger we used to think being a criminal was a good thing. So we used to think like how much of a criminal can you be? Growing up, that’s what I remember. Girls liked criminals. Everybody like criminals. It was cool to be a criminal. Mans just doing whatever to fit in. It becomes a natural thing. It’s part of man’s personality now.
Growing up, it’s just about proving you’re tough. When you’ve proven yourself, no one is going to really bother you. You don’t grow up with everyone because not everyone’s on the same journey as you. That’s the sad part about me being where I’m from. People that I used to rub shoulders with, some of them are crackheads now. Some of them have been shot dead. Some of them are in prison for life. Some of them are in mad situations. There’s not really much options and you kind of have to graft and that man.
I love Peckham. I spent some time out there when I was in London. Went to the Peckhamplex and had a feed at Wings N Tings. What do you think makes Peckham unique?
When you ask people about Peckham, people know that area’s full of real people. Peckham is so mad that even the aunties and even the crackheads are on smoke. It’s a tough area. If you say you’re from Peckham, people will be like ‘rah he’s probably serious.’ Down to like my family members, even my grandma, everyone. Everyone’s just hard. That’s the reputation it has, it’s hard and gritty.
Why do you think it was necessary to be hard and gritty in a neighbourhood like Peckham?
It probably goes down into like, my parents time, my uncles when they just moved here from Africa and Jamaica. It was survival of the fittest. And then obviously it just rolled over into generations.
So naturally, when you were growing up you were listening to a lot of Giggs?
My first memory of Giggs, yeah? When I was young, I heard a Giggs song called Bum Titty Bum. I didn’t understand the lyrics, I must’ve been eight or nine. He was like, ‘Bum Titty Bum, Bum Titty Titty Bum’. Mans not understanding what he’s going on about and why everyone’s going so mad over it. I never really understood it.
But as I started growing up, I was more in the streets, some of the things that he was saying you fully get it. It touches you. I could relate to him. I used to look at him like a role model. I wanted to be like him still. Everyone in Peckham wanted to be like him still.
What were the tracks that touched you?
I think it was the whole Best of Giggs 2. Yeah, man. I don’t remember the tracks but I remember all the lyrics.
How old were you when you started to rap then? Do you remember the first time we actually wrote something down?
I was 11 or 12. I used to record on my iPhone and shoot videos and that. Man would be repping my area. Music was my thing. I wasn’t that talented. But I always liked music.
Tell us about your flows because you got a pretty heavy reputation for some of the tightest flows in the Drill scene right now.
I listened to a lot of Bashment and Afrobeat. I feel like I listened to that and thought cool I could probably mix that with my Drill sound. That’s why certain times, it sounds a bit jumpy, and no one else can do it. Because it’s not that I did it, it’s in my own background. Obviously, when I was growing up in Peckham, I used to chill with a lot of yardies and things like that. So I feel that that adds to it as well.
Is that where your name comes from, is it a Yardie thing?
Yeah, when I used to chill with the yardies that’s the name they gave me. They influenced me a lot still. In good ways and bad ways. Even down to how I used to wear my clothes, like I used to rock my hat to the side like them. They influenced me a lot because my area doesn’t have too many Ghanians around there.
What was the main lesson they instilled in you?
Don’t trust Yardies haha. They taught me that just because someone told you, you don’t need to listen to it. Obviously, if you’ve been indoctrinated into a certain way, you’re going to think a certain way. Sometimes you need to go and experience things for yourself to realise that it’s not that.
Do you remember how old you were when you officially started rapping as Kwengface? Was it when Zone 2 formed?
It was just a bit after because I was on a case. I couldn’t rap with my face out. I was keeping up with a lot on the roads and that. Police kept coming to my house. Blah, blah, blah. I wanted to do music so badly. So I just put on a mask and yeah. I must have been 19 or something like that.
Do you remember the reaction from your early music, like the first big joints On Me and No Hook, and what that felt like as a 19-year-old from Peckham?
Yeah because before I wasn’t talking hot. Olders would always tell me don’t talk hot, keep the music and the roads separate. I wasn’t talking hot. But you know Drill, it’s all like gas talk. So when I done it, everyone’s been like ‘you’re hard’. Then I dropped the second one where I’m talking about something that’s happened. I clocked it. This is what people like—when you’re talking the talk.
Just going back to what you said before when some of the olders were telling you to always keep the roads and the rap separate. Why do you think they said that?
We know quite a few people that’s got very very long jail time just because of music. If you’re on the road doing your thing and you’re rapping about it in music, it’s kind of like self-snitching innit. They would tell me that that’s how police always get their intel. They used to sit in the studio and be like, ‘Nah you can’t say that. It’s too mad.’ But as I’m talking mad stuff my fan base is going up. People are liking it.
And then you copped an injunction.
Then I got a rap injunction. They sent me to court and told me that I can’t rap no more because of the things I’m talking about. I appealed and basically, they said ‘you can’t talk about what you talk about’. I was a bit stuck innit. How am I meant to rap, when I’m a Drill artist, and I can’t talk Drill? Fuck it. I made this mixtape. Now my injunction has been lifted and yeah, I decided to release again.