Hailing from Brixton Hill, LD, formerly known as Scribz, came onto the U.K. music scene alongside his 67 brothers, kickstarting the earliest wave of UK drill. Eight years since his formal introduction to the world as “LD” on the anthemic classic, “Live Corn,” his impact has been felt firsthand, setting the stage for drill to be a global phenomenon. Def Pen caught up with the self-titled godfather of U.K. drill.
Let’s take it back to the early 2010s, as a budding scene is burgeoning in the streets of Chicago, popularising across the states and crossing over into international waters. Hearing anthems such as “I Don’t Like” and “Faneto” by Chicago native Chief Keef would instantly fire up any house party-goer, introducing global rap fans to this newly established sound categorized as “drill.”
While Chicago drill began to capture the attention of internet users across the world, road rap culture and its architects were echoing the voices on the London streets, setting the foundation for UK drill to thrive. In fact, LD dabbled in road rap in his early days, making songs with lyrical content aligning closely to that heard in his drill tracks. His road rap days came well before he experimented with Chicago-inspired drill production on “OJ Don’t Play” and garnered excitement for the genre with “Live Corn” in 2014. By the time he and his 67 companions released “Let’s Lurk” in 2016, nationwide appetites for the drill scene appeared to be growing.
The new decade not only accommodated shifts within the U.K. music scene but also shifted tones within the political arena. Newly imposed austerity policies impacted the lives of the most vulnerable and were followed by a rise in London street crime. As a result, a social environment geared toward the creation of drill music was created. Despite this, authorities fought hard (and are still fighting) to validate the causal relationship between drill and crime rates. One of LD’s career-defining moments was his decision to change his name from Scribz to LD while disguising his identity with a stylized mask. In response, the police banned him from creating music for two years.
Since releasing his coming-home single, “First Day Out,” in November 2021, LD has been going strong and is determined to carve out his lane in this newer, more commercial version of drill while staying authentic to the genre’s core.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why did you start making music in the first place?
To be honest, it was a bit of fun. My friends around me used to rap. My older cousin used to make beats. My brother used to DJ when I was young. So music has always been around me.
How did you meet the other members of 67?
We all grew up in an estate, not even the same estate, but the same road. We’re the kids that left the estate and started linking up, but we’re all from New Park Road.
What was it like growing up in Brixton Hill?
You see back then, you wouldn’t notice it. It was just normal life. What’s that saying? You grow accustomed to your surroundings or become adapted. But now, growing up and looking back, the conditions we lived in were bad. We were friends with crackheads and prostitutes like it was normal. That shit was not normal at all and was very traumatic.
What made you change your perspective on the conditions of your childhood surroundings?
Growing up, leaving the area, and leaving the estate. Getting to where I am in music has exposed me to more places, allowed me to travel the world and meet new people. I really started noticing that I grew up wrong.
What inspired you to make drill music?
I didn’t choose to jump on drill. Drill was literally something we were doing. We didn’t know we were doing drill when we were doing drill. Me and my bredrin Dimzy were just making music and the flows are something we just had. So when Chief [Keef] and Lil Durk came along, we just liked their beats and decided to jump on that. That’s where the whole drill came from. But then, obviously, you’ve got the UK producers that made their own beats and it became UK drill.
What song would you say sparked the wave of how we know drill today?
Scribz and Dimzy’s “OJ I Don’t Play.” See the version that’s on YouTube? That’s not the original upload. It was uploaded much before that, it’s actually very old.
You were the first artist to do the mask thing and make it part of your brand?
Yeah, I was the first.
Another decisive moment in your career was “Live Corn”. Wasn’t that the introduction to you as LD?
Yeah. That’s not actually the first LD song but that’s the first LD song that made it onto the internet.
So what was the initial reaction to that track from people around you? I remember that being a huge moment.
I think that was one of the first UK drill songs to take off. I started that tune at the start of 2014 and it wasn’t even meant to be on that beat but on the instrumental to “Don’t Waste My Time” by Krept and Konan. That’s why the flow at the beginning is literally the same flow they’re using.
I remember when they dropped that tune, I started freestyling over their beat, and that’s when I had the chorus and the start of my bars. Then I went to jail again and I had nothing to do, no TV, no nothing. But still, the bars just kept coming to my head so as soon as I came out, one of the first things I did was make that song. Even in the studio that day, everyone was gassed. People were asking to do the ad-libs, the intro, everything. So I knew the tune was a banger. Krept tweeted it straight away. So I think he’s clocked the flow or something. I knew it was gonna take off and it actually did.
So when you did jump on drill and the genre started to grow, did you feel like you were influencing the face of UK rap at the time?
No way, I never took music seriously until very recently. It was just fun for me.
So at what point in your career did you start to understand your impact on the drill scene and the music scene at large?
Probably 2017 when I went to jail and started paying attention to the scene. That’s when I realized everyone’s wearing masks. I saw how people were acting towards me in jail and then started listening to the radio. That’s when I clocked on like, “Rah I’m actually doing a thing out here.” After that, I promised myself I’m going to come home and take music seriously. I did try and that’s how I made ‘The Masked One’.
A line you said on ‘First Day Out’: “How you industry plants try water my sound without my permission.” There is definitely an obvious shift in the way drill changed from before you went to jail in 2019 to after you came out in 2021. What are your thoughts on this change?
Obviously, it was needed. But I don’t like the way it has got too left and it’s like everyone’s forgetting the real sound. But that’s why I appreciate artists like Digga; the guy got a number one with something similar to the original drill.
I saw you tweeted about it or you put it on your Instagram. That was like a really big moment, not just for him, but also for the scene.
That’s the whole thing. Trust me he needed to go number one. And he did it.
So what are your thoughts on some of the artists leading this newer commercial drill sound such as Central Cee?
To me, they’re just rappers. He makes good music, not music I will listen to but he’s a good artist. That’s why he is where he is if that makes sense.
Do you think TikTok has influenced the drill scene?
100%. It’s just this country. This country is all about memes and jokes. That’s what this country is built on. You have to go viral to make it in this country.
“I didn’t realize I was living badly and all of that. I looked at those things and then it made me want to do better for myself.”
How’s it been since coming out of jail?
To be honest, it’s been lit!
What are some of the small things that you appreciate since having been incarcerated that you might have taken for granted before?
The little things are a blessing that you just don’t notice until it’s gone. The main one is family. It’s mad because I don’t see or speak to my mom every day because we don’t live together. But you see, when you can’t go and see her, it is a bit different. It touches you different.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve encountered since coming out?
That’s a good question…trying to find the right balance in my music.
So I guess, trying to find your feet in this new sound?
I’ve been trying to keep my old sound but on the new beats. And it’s kind of mad right now. A lot of my releases, apart from “First Day Out,” have been experiments and me testing the waters. But I’ve got bangers sitting down.
So in what ways were you mentally preparing for life after jail?
I’ve done counseling. I’ve got a little diary. I wrote things down. That was the first time I’ve sat down and planned ahead for the future properly. I am still a guy that just lives life every day, living by the day but this time I had so much time and nothing to do so I just planned.
Talk to me more about why you decided to go to counseling.
Literally, it was an experiment. I swear down! I don’t know, what made me do it but one day I was like, “F*ck it, what can go wrong?” I remember when I first started doing it I was mad skeptical. I didn’t want to say anything. But, I’m not gonna lie. That is one of the best things I’ve done in life. I’ve recommended it to everyone. Talking is the best way of expressing yourself.
How did it help you?
It made me look at myself differently. Remember what I said earlier…I didn’t realize I was living badly and all of that. I looked at those things and then it made me want to do better for myself.
What does the future look like for LD?
I need to drop this project. I could have dropped three projects by now based on the number of tunes I’ve made but it’s about getting the sound of the projects right. I don’t want to release a thing where it’s just loads of tracks put together. It’s going to have meaning. I want it to be like a better version of the last project.