Drill music wouldn’t be as popular as it is today and definitely wouldn’t have dominated the late 2010s to the same extent without London-born artist Headie One.

While artists like the late Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign became responsible for bringing drill to the US charts, Headie One was simultaneously making his name synonymous with drill and refining the international genre into what it is today. He helped it become global, dispersing from its Chicago origins all the way to London, where Headie took it and ran, being right behind the momentum that spurred it to places like France, Germany, Australia and more.

His latest project No Borders: European Project Compilation sees Headie lock horns with artists across the continent from Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Belgium. First teased back in May with the opener ’22 Carats’ featuring Gazo, the releases continued in the lead up with collaborations alongside Luciano, Frenna and Koba LaD.

Headie didn’t always have the stature to make such a compilation album come to fruition and just like everyone else, Headie One had to earn his stripes. He’s come full circle, capable of everything, but back to the roots of it all. Drill.

Making it from the Tottenham housing estate where Headie grew up was never going to be an easy feat, but his willpower and pure determination not to succumb to his environment propelled him to his now lofty view of the drill game.

Prior to break-out singles ‘Know Better’ and ’18HUNNA’, Headie One’s first challenge was to navigate his way out of negative life scenarios. With stints in and out of prison, and the constant push and pull of music life and road life, he was unsure if he wanted to firmly plant his feet in the studio or stay involved in the latter. His focus shifted upon incarceration and Headie made the booth his new home shortly after release.

There’s always positives within the negatives though, and these experiences were slowly moulding the artist that would hugely contribute to the UK’s modern rise, and the furthering of a leading hip-hop sub-genre.

“That’s my motivation day-to-day to keep working, and just remembering how things could have been if it wasn’t for this music stuff.”

– Headie One on AUD’$.

His debut studio album EDNA cemented Headie as the first drill rapper to ever breach the UK’s Top 10 Charts, landing at #6 and marking his official global arrival. It was a big step for Headie, as is the step between mixtape artist to album mode. He rose to the occasion, collaborating with heavyweights like Future, Skepta, Stormzy, Mahalia, and many more. Now, he’s comfortably amongst the UK’s best MC’s, and has seemingly found the balance between success and real life.

‘Only You Freestyle’ alongside Drake was undoubtedly a BIG moment for Headie’s own career but also UK drill as a whole. Landing a Drake feature as a UK artist is one thing, out-rapping Drake is another – and Headie accomplished both. ‘Only You Freestyle’ highlighted his natural talent, an ability that evidently can’t be taught. You either have it or you imitate, and Headie most definitely has it. He proved he could stand comfortably alongside the best, and he hasn’t looked back since.

To a lot of people, Headie One is UK drill, and it’s hard to argue. While he’s made himself synonymous with drill and street music in general, it would be disingenuous to still place him in that box after EDNA. It was almost as if he completed the game, he had perfected drill, and while not straying away from what makes him Headie, he proved that he can compete with the very best and was anything but a one-dimensional artist.

“Everybody wanna be a trending rapper, try be a longevity rapper.”

– Headie One on ’50’s’.

Headie’s story is as inspirational as it is deserved. He’s been hugely important in UK’s stature within modern music and hip-hop discussion. After EDNA‘s success, and the emotional vulnerability displayed on his Too Loyal For My Own Good mixtape, his sophomore album couldn’t be more anticipated. With so much accomplished already but clearly so much more of the journey to be fulfilled, he keeps listeners on their toes, and is able to connect with almost anybody purely based on his energy, charisma, message, and authenticity. It’s time people recognise that Headie One is a legend, and has been for a while.

Check out the interview between Matthew Craig and Headie One below as he talks about his music journey and the creation of No Borders: European Compilation Project.

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