Marked by no-frills rapping and nightmarish production, Chicago drill music traveled around the globe at the speed of the internet throughout the last decade. Eventually, Brooklyn rappers tried on the style—though at first their take was little more than a sad imitation of the sinister sound established by Windy City rappers like King Louie and Chief Keef, and beat makers like DJ L and Young Chop. It took an unlikely producer from the international drill outpost of London to help the New York City borough’s street rap scene craft its own character: AXL Beats.
Arriving on the scene in late 2016, AXL combined the grim core of classic Chicago drill records with the sliding 808s and manipulated vocal samples of UK grime. He started selling his cinematic instrumentals on YouTube, and eventually became the producer of choice for Brooklyn rappers, crafting several of the borough’s signature tracks. Thanks in part to AXL’s beats, Brooklyn drill has become a self-sustaining ecosystem with its own lingo and attitude. And bold-name types are taking notice: Both Drake and Travis Scott released their own AXL-produced tracks in December.