With my mom working 12-hour shifts virtually my whole life, the rare weekends she had off were strictly for rest. Left to my own devices, BET’s Top 25 Countdown became the highlight of my Saturdays. Out of this came one of my more vividly fond hip-hop memories.
Due to time, I don’t recall the artist that was hosting this episode, but what I do remember is that he/she chose Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones, Pt. II” as one of their 25 favorite music videos. Even though I was born the same year “Shook Ones, Pt. II” hit airwaves, because I lived under the rule of a queen from Queens, I had an idea of who The Infamous were. But that day, I found out what The Infamous meant.
My mother’s schedule afforded her the ability to sleep through anything. Being a kid, it seemed that nothing short of a fire would wake her up — so I thought. As the show transitioned from the host’s introduction to the beginning of the video, I witnessed something I wouldn’t see again until I was much older. My mother awoke from her sleep in a manner that synchronized with the beginning of the instrumental. It was like Havoc’s high-pitched static had her hypnotized. She rapped every lyric to the record with a passion that felt tangible. My mother’s excitement then forced me to pay attention to the video and I could see why she was so infatuated.
Because I began to comprehend the popular culture in the era of Mr. 106 And Park and the Romeo Show, of course, I had seen young artists transfix an audience. But until that day, never had I seen teenage rappers spit with a polished grittiness that matched the instrumental until that day. Mobb Depp wasn’t the teen-bop, bling-bling, adolescents that I was used to. They rapped about real life with a matured intelligence that made one feel like they understood the world better than they should. This was like heroin to me. I became fixated on this concept and the feeling I felt when I first saw the video. So much, that as I grew older I began to wonder what the world felt when the video for “Shook Ones, Pt. II” was a new gem and not some vintage piece with character. It had to have been more powerful than what I felt because they could relate better to what was being said than I could. I needed that relatability. I needed that feeling.
And in 2012, at the age of 16, I got the fix that I was feinin’ for.
Since first experiencing “Shook Ones, Pt. II” I became intensely interested in listening to rappers that spoke solely to the surroundings of myself and peers in hopes to feel what my mother had to have felt. Because of this, I embarked on a nearly decade-long quest that ended in August of 2012 when I “fell” into the wonderful wormhole that is drill music. And while most people were introduced to this concept via Kanye’s remix of Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like,” I became entranced by the brazenness of Lil Herb and Lil Bibby’s “Kill Shit.”
From aesthetics alone, the “Kill Shit” video likened the song to Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” Not only did they both feature two teenagers in the night surrounded by sketchy scenery, the evolution of the oppressed’s vices can easily be seen as Bibby’s “I Love Lean” shirt mirrors Prodigy’s notorious Hennessy jersey. From this, the similarities only grow.
When Chicago first opened its basement doors, critics were intrigued by the violence and advanced maturity that were associated with the artists of Drill movement. But unlike many Drill artists’ breakout singles, “Kill Shit” likened itself to “Shook Ones, Pt. II” through the precision in which Bibby and Herbo were rapped their abrasive lyrics. Though the song is titled “Kill Shit” nothing about this track was like to organized, grunge-esque, chaos that characterizes Drill music. It is evident from the cadences and wordplay used on “Kill Shit” that neither Bibby nor Herb was the prototypical Drill rapper. Following the blueprint created “Shook Ones, Pt. II,” they took their pen game more seriously than their peers, painting a picture of their reality rather than scoring off sheer shock value. For example, gruesome lines like “hit his ass with the 40-fifth / Bet it make his ass do 40 flips” were placed and handled with the same delicacy as “Rock you in your face, stab your brain with your nose bone.” That within itself was the surprise. And although “Kill Shit” never reached the mainstream success of say a “Love Sosa,” Bibby’s and Herb’s decision to stick to the essence of hip-hop garnered both artists immense fan bases as well as the respect of established rappers like fellow Chicagoan, Common.
Also like Mobb Deep’s 1995 classic, the reception of “Kill Shit” has resulted in a wave of artists using similar (or the same) beat/method in hopes to strike the same audio gold. This is best depicted by Nicki Minaj crediting “Kill Shit” as the inspiration for her song “Chiraq,” Mobb Deep’s high hip-hop praise, or the litany of videos on the internet that feature artists freestyling over either instrumental. Yet, what solidifies the comparison between these two tracks is that like “Shook Ones, Pt. II,” “Kill Shit” is a beautifully graphic introduction that is laced with relatability.
Despite breaching stardom during the height of Drill Music, both Bibby and Herbo refuse to describe themselves as “Drill artists.”
“I’m far from a Drill rapper. I’m a lyricist that makes reality rap,” Herb explained when I asked how he would categorize his music. Bibby, also, echoed these sentiments telling VladTV that he makes songs about “his reality” and should be more aligned with the gangster rap subgenre.
This focus on connecting with reality has not only aided in both Bibby and Herbo’s current sustainability but has also turned their standout single into a defining moment in hip-hop. Because both “Shook One, Pt. II” and “Kill Shit” share an intense ability to relate to their listener’s lives, the latter has taken the shape of its predecessor and transformed into an infamous, cult-like anthem for the oppressed millennial. Whether from Chicago’s Terror Town or Queens Bridge, today’s marginalized youth can relate to the angst and aggression present in the track. To them, they view their surroundings the same way Lil Bibby and Lil Herb did. Thus, one would be hard pressed to find any youthful hip-hop lover that won’t channel the energy of my overworked mother and be spun into a trance upon hearing the infamous opening bar, “I know a couple niggas…”.