Musical Evolution: Blanco’s Journey through Grief, Prison, and Angolan Roots in London Drill”
Born in London in 1999 to Angolan refugees who fled civil war, Joshua, known as Blanco, has metamorphosed from a prominent subcultural figure into a transformative musical artist. His journey, marked by resilience and introspection, reflects the evolution of UK drill music and the challenges it faces.
Blanco’s roots trace back to South London, settling in Kennington after moving around. Schooled near the Oval cricket ground, his life took an unexpected turn with imprisonment. Behind bars, the loss of loved ones, including his father, ignited profound self-discovery. The funeral of his father, where he was cuffed to a prison officer, underscored the significance of family and heritage, revealing the stark contrast between his life and his parents’ refugee struggles. Blanco says, “I didn’t know my parents were refugees until I was grown, One day my dad just started telling us stories about his life. I was in shock, because his life was so different to mine. It was so much harder. Prison was a mistake. I didn’t want to go back.”.
Inspired by these revelations, Blanco distanced himself from the gritty UK drill scene, which had defined his artistry. The murder of a fellow Harlem Spartans member deepened his introspection. The group, marked by youthful energy, incorporated homegrown beats fusing sub-bass from garage and grime’s patois-laden language. This departure from US drill’s aggression resonated widely.
Yet, as drill gained notoriety, it attracted media scrutiny and police intervention. The Met’s requests led to the removal of videos deemed provocative. In 2020 alone, YouTube, complying with the London Metropolitan Police’s appeals, removed 319 drill music videos. This, coupled with drill’s global growth, set the stage for change.
Blanco’s narrative is a microcosm of drill’s evolution, navigating societal challenges while reshaping its identity. As UK drill continues its transformation, artists like Blanco drive a nuanced exploration of the crossroads between culture, art, and adversity.