2020 will forever go down as a breakthrough year for Irish drill music. The genre, characterised by its mesh of hip-hop beats and punk/grunge aggression, originally came from the south side of Chicago, where it launched the careers of Chief Keef, Lil Durk and G Herbo.
Over the past number of years, the sound has migrated to the UK, where artists such as Headie One, Russ and Chuks have played key roles in pushing the genre forward to a more mainstream audience. As its audience grew in the UK, a small community of drill artists developed in Ireland.
In 2018, the Irish YouTube Channel Dearfach TV released a video for J.B2’s Mr Affiliate, which has since amassed over 1.2 million views. As J.B2’s stock rose, the race began to see who would follow in his footsteps and become Ireland’s next drill sensation. In 2020, those questions were answered as Drogheda’s Offica rose up the ranks not only to become one of Ireland’s biggest drill artists, but one of the most established artists in the UK’s ultra-competitive drill scene.
But how? “It’s tough but we’re getting the job done” Offica replies, smiling.
Take It (Yuck)
Naruto Drillings (Remix)
The story began, as many do, with procrastination, Offica started writing verses as a way of avoiding study for his Leaving Certificate. “I’d get really bored and get distracted and just start writing lyrics,” he explains. At the time, he wasn’t even listening to drill music. “I wouldn’t say I listened to drill a lot, I was more into modern hip-hop and afrobeat at the time.”
After penning a collection of verses, he began to show them to his friends, who jokingly suggested he record them. These early verses went on to become his debut single No Hook, which received over 100,000 views when it was released on YouTube. Its follow-up, Afrodrip, did just as well. It was his third single, however, that changed everything.
Naruto Drillings, now considered an Irish drill classic, began life when Offica was offered the track’s beat to work on. As he began constructing his verses, the beat was retracted. It was instead offered to a number of more established artists in Ireland’s drill scene, such as J.B2.
When the producer realised that no one could figure out how to rap on it, it was returned to Offica, who by then was determined to prove them wrong for taking the beat away from him in the first place. “When I got it back I knew I had to prove them wrong for not giving me the beat straight away,” Offica recalls.
The track was released to widespread acclaim, and not long after, word reached Offica and his team that UK YouTuber KSI (who has over 22 million subscribers) wanted to collaborate on a remix. The pair agreed, and within hours Offica had KSI’s verse and a plan was hatched to shoot a music video when KSI came to Dublin for a show.
Released in July of 2019, the video holds over 3.4 million views to date. “We didn’t expect the process to be this fast,” Offica recalls. “When I got on the ‘Naruto Drillings’ remix with KSI things took off from there really.”
Music wasn’t always Offica’s main passion. Growing up, his greatest ambition was to play professional football. He was invited to trials for Birmingham City at 17 but despite the belief that he was one of the better players at the trials, and the coaches admiration for his ability, he was cut from the panel on the final day.
“It really set me back,” he recalls. “I had sleepless nights because everyone says if you’re not playing for a professional club at 18 it’s harder to break through so I thought it was over.” He did go on to play for his local club Drogheda United in the League of Ireland, but three hamstring injuries meant his footballing career continued in fits and bursts.
While out injured, he would spend his free time creating music with his friends and began seeing success online. “I was doing well at music at the time, but I always told my manager I’d choose football over anything,” he explains of his priority at the time, before adding “I’ve got more love from music than I ever have from playing football”.
For a long time, Offica was able to juggle music and football simultaneously, helped by the fact that for the first three years of his career, his identity was unknown. In videos, he wore an Obito mask worn by the character Tobi from the popular Anime series Naruto.
“He’s a very popular character so I knew that if I wore the mask people would know straight away,” Offica explains, before adding. “Once people saw that mask on the thumbnail of a YouTube video they knew it was Offica, which definitely helped me.”
"... people were expecting me to go crazy but you can’t get too excited, you’ve got to keep it moving.”
In May of this year, he removed the mask for the first time in the music video for his track Face Reveal, as a way of better connecting with his audience. “I couldn’t really engage with people but now people can see my facial expressions in videos which I think is sick”.
While 2020 has been a difficult year, Offica has been keeping busy. During the first lockdown, and the early parts of the summer, he was hard at work recording a mixtape, entitled ‘92 Degrees’ with his Drogheda drill group A92.
A92, made up of six of Offica’s closest friends and himself, have been receiving praise from respected figures in the UK drill and music industry, with the likes Charlie Sloth, Kenny All-star, Blanco, Fumez The Engineer, DJ Target, Semtex and Classical Kyle all singing their praises.
In December, they broke into the UK and Irish Top 40 with their track Plugged In Freestyle, a collaboration with Fumez The Engineer. The track received over 24 million streams in its first two months of release and became one of the biggest Drill tracks of the year.
“We just wanted to have fun and then it done what it done,” Offica recalls of the process. “Coming from Ireland there’s no pressure on you, so when you do something it’s always going to be big because not everyone is doing it.” he admits, before calmly adding, “Even when people were telling me it got Top 40, people were expecting me to go crazy but you can’t get too excited, you’ve got to keep it moving.”
"I always correct people when they say I’m a UK drill artist, I’m not. I’m Irish, I’m from Drogheda..."
Throughout our conversation, the importance of home, and the support of the people of Drogheda continues to shine through. “Supporting Drogheda is very important to me,” he admits. “I always correct people when they say I’m a UK drill artist, I’m not. I’m Irish, I’m from Drogheda, they support me so I should always try to support them.”
As the world is singing his praises, and as opportunities continue to come his way, the importance of home never leaves him. “I always said I wanted to have a big house, or even build a big house, in Drogheda so that when people pass they’ll be like ‘Awh that’s Offica’s house’’”.
It’s not only Drogheda who have taken notice of Offica, and if 2020 is anything to go by, it won’t be long before the rest of Ireland follows suit.