One to watch: SL

The young British drill artist cuts an enigmatic figure in his trademark ski mask, but his talent is unmistakable

Seventeen-year-old south Londoner SL is one of the most intriguing prospects in UK rap. His 2017 debut track Gentleman showed off wonderfully languid delivery over dark, echoing beats. The video found him in a ski mask, wandering the capital’s streets; fast-forward to the present day, and his videos are just as likely to find him in swimming pools and snow-capped panoramas as in his local chicken shop (albeit still always wearing a ski mask).

The prominence of UK drill music has grown rapidly in recent years, and so too has unprecedented vilification and censorship from government and media alike. But SL’s sound is pushing past drill’s more minimalist, nihilistic roots. Once described as “tropical drill”, his output often luxuriates in melodic, luminescent production topped with deft lyrics that touch on everything from girls to selling weed to reminiscing about his dead friends to rolling his eyes at society’s assumptions (“They see a black yout’ in a tracksuit and they says he’s going nowhere, how typical,” he says wryly on Nothing to Say).

Following collaborations last year with Chip and Nines, SL looks set for even bigger things in 2019, with a forthcoming slew of singles and live shows, plus a full-length project coming over the summer. However, fame is not a priority. As SL has said: “I don’t put myself out there, and I don’t like people really knowing my face like that. I’m happy just chilling in the back.”

Watch the video for SL’s Gentleman.


Tara Joshi

The GuardianTramp

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