With a freshly revealed face, Drill pioneer NitoNB is reflecting since dropping his debut project, ‘Fashionably Late’. The release was preceded by the unveiling of his identity, as he de- masked for the first time ever in the video for ‘Lean Wid It’. With his style influencing many of the best known names in his genre, he’s imprinting his legacy on the sound. Despite several breaks from releasing music, he’s letting fans know that he’s not going anywhere. VIPER speaks to the west London rapper about his upcoming project, connecting with his audience and the downfall of Drill.
Your debut mixtape, ‘Fashionably Late’, came at the end of 2022. What’s the best comment you’ve seen about it?
Everyone was just saying “Finally!” I’ll be honest, that was more of an apology. But what’s to come is more exciting, that was just an apology for being so late; I was inconsistent. I was not taking music seriously, music was in the back of my mind, it wasn’t really something that I was putting 100% into.
What was the turning point when it became something you were?
I was like “fuck music.” But everyone was like, “you can’t stop music! What do you mean? Bruv, you could go far in this ting.” I was like “fuck it. I’ll try innit.” Now, I can’t say fuck music twice [laughs].
What have you got coming this year?
I’ve got the feature with Morrison. I’ve got a project coming, more collaborations with the guys because I know that’s what the fans want. I’m working more with producers right now, I’m not gonna say I don’t care about collabs but right now I’m focusing on my team.
What are the kinds of things that you look for when you’re listening to beats?
It has to hit straight away, that’s what I’m looking for. Something that’s different as well, not a generic sound. The atmosphere that it creates – I’ll be real, I’m only really serious in the studio. I don’t really write, I only just started to write outside of the studio. It’s go-time as soon as I step foot in the studio; that’s when I’m in my zone.
You had some Spanish Drill on your mixtape, have you thought about working with any more artists from outside of the UK? Yeah, there might be some outside of the UK, that’s if I’m trying to reach out to their markets. It’s all business at the end of the day. If man’s trying to tap into their market, there’s nothing wrong with trying to tap into their market. So there might be a feature from abroad but other than that, it’s man dem.
You came up off a strong freestyle run but do you have a favourite of all the freestyles that you’ve dropped?
Yeah, my first ever Lightworks, that’s definitely my favourite. There’s personal things behind it, I think that was the start for me.
How do you feel about the commercial rise of Drill in recent years?
I feel like Drill’s dying out, it got watered down. If you want me to be all the way honest, this Drill thing got watered down. You might as well change it to Dance music or something, it just got watered down. It’s not the classic Drill, listen to songs back in the day compared to now. I feel like American Drill, they can do that because the vibe is different there, America’s just a bit different. The whole sample Drill wave, that got washed out to me real quick. I can listen to certain songs, if I caught onto a song back in the day, maybe I’ll hold on to that song. But I ain’t going into your new shit, that’s all long. At a certain time it was slapping, it was relevant. There’s probably words in there or things that gas me up. Now I’m probably going to hear the same type of thing, it’s probably going to be shouted as well, it’s all long. I can’t understand what the fuck they’re saying sometimes if you want me to be honest. That’s not even me criticising but Americans can tap into that, I can’t tap into that. That’s your vibe over there, I ain’t got that vibe.
People call you “the godfather of Drill” so how do you feel about that name considering you’re saying that Drill is dying?
I can’t go too deep into it because that’s just me talking a whole lot of shit but it’s the way the industry made it. In my eyes – this is just from experience – unless you water it down properly, you’re not going to buss through in the industry how you possibly could. Even though you’re hard, you might be talking too much smack for them so they don’t think that it’s a good investment. They’re definitely looking at Drill, like “this is a bad investment.” That’s literally what they’re seeing it as, a bad investment. I hear it to a certain extent, but you’re asking a geezer to change his ways. I ain’t been with a fucking superduper big label but no one can’t tell me, “I don’t think this song’s right.” If I’m feeling the song and you’re telling me no, no one can really control man’s ting like that, I’m not on it.
This is an extract from the SS23 issue of Viper Magazine. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Photography: MR BROWN
Words: LILY MERCER