Drill is an acquired taste, but it is a joy for the initiated. There is an aggression and vitality in drill music, rarely found in other genres. However, this energy often originates from uncomfortable places. Songs relating to real-life stabbings aren’t for everyone. Neither is the ambiguous morality of many drill tracks or often, immorality: see Block 6’s devil worship in ‘Soul is Mine’ and Zone 2’s celebration of a string of killings in ‘No Censor’. Headie One steers clear of this controversy in his new album Edna, however, this is at the cost of making a pure drill album. Edna is not drill, but it is great all the same.
Headie’s career has arrived at the heights of Edna through its connection to drill, springboarded by his retaliation track ‘Know Better’. Songs such as ‘Therapy’ and ‘Cold’ mix R&B and rap in a way that is slightly reminiscent of Drake’s ‘Views’. This is no surprise, considering Drake’s feature on Headie’s ‘Only You Freestyle’ on the album. It is clear that cross-pollination is occurring between UK and US rap, with Drake’s ‘War’ strongly influenced by UK drill. A Drake-esque soul runs throughout Headie’s album, one that is personal to the UK, but global all the same. This is present in ‘Bumpy Ride’, one of Edna’s strongest songs, with an ethereal sample cascading over the track.
The ‘Only You Freestyle’ is the album’s standout track. Here, Headie’s wordplay is his usual laid-back, intricate best (“Put a dark in the blue then we put it in the red, Balotelli”). Likewise, Drake’s internationalism and show-stopping greatness is present (“Habibti please, ana akeed, inti w ana ahla/ Wit’ Pop Skull in Gaza, but not that Gaza, but still it’s a mazza”).‘Ain’t it Different’, the album’s other single, does not land with the same power. It is neither great nor terrible. It has that regular zest and bounce that qualifies for a good Footasylum or JD store track, but not much more.
Other strong tracks are ‘Princess Cuts’ and ‘21 Gun Salute’. There is an invigorating, almost nostalgic feeling to these songs. It is unusual for a modern album to contain so many good songs, but on Edna Headie One delivers. Omitting the two singles, the songs that are closest to Headie’s roots, ‘Triple Science’ and ‘The Light’, are the drill cherries on the top of the cake of this solid album. Here, classic themes are revisited to beats reminiscent of that same verve and aggression that can both electrify and shock. It is a shame that Headie’s ‘Edna’ is not pure drill, but perhaps that is best for all of us.