Digga D, the rapper who has his sounds and videos validated by the British police

British rapper Digga D.

IHe is only 20 years old, but he must already reinvent himself, rebuild himself. And not just any old way: under the watchful eye of Scotland Yard. Rapper Digga D – whose real name is Rhys Herbert – must submit his “sounds” and videos to the police before broadcasting, so that they can check that they do not incite violence.

This particular situation has its origin in the arrest of Digga D in November 2017, then his conviction in 2018. The 1011, a group from Ladbroke Grove (district of London) of which he was a part, were about to attack with machetes and combat knives the 12 World, a group of Shepherd’s Bush (another neighborhood). At issue: the dissemination of a video on YouTube in which the members of the 12 World attacked – verbally – the grandmother of one of the members of the 1011.

Hecatomb of stabbed teenagers

Digga D is one of the most famous rappers in the London drill scene. The “drill” is a sub-genre of hip hop, born in Chicago in the early 2010s. Its main themes – violence, various trafficking, gang warfare – are declined throughout clips where the artists appear the most. often masked and armed. Drill music has been at the heart of a massacre of stabbed teenagers and, since 2015, London police have been monitoring videos that incite violence and are not shy about asking YouTube to remove them.

Letter from London: The “drill music” at the heart of the slaughter of stabbed teenagers

A documentary, titled Defending Digga D and broadcast by the BBC 3 television channel, followed Digga D after its release in May. Banned from staying in his neighborhood, wearing an electronic bracelet, he was placed under house arrest in Norwich, nearly 200 km from London, his hometown. He must serve a five-year probationary sentence.

Texts and images validated before their distribution

But that’s not all. Digga D is subject to a Criminal Conduct Order (Criminal Behavior Order, or CBO). According to the judgment, he is not allowed to broadcast his “sounds” or videos without informing the police and the judicial control service. If his texts or videos incite or encourage violence, he can be sent back to prison. Likewise, he is forbidden to come into contact with twenty people, school friends, his neighborhood or members of his former gang.

In 2018, Superintendent Kevin Southworth explained the authorities’ approach to Digga D: “When a musical genre is used to provoke, incite or lead to acts of violence, it becomes the responsibility of the police. We are not here to kill anyone’s artistic expression, but we are here to prevent people from being killed. “

Cecilia Goodwin, the artist’s lawyer, is realistic about the service record of her client, whose contact with the police began when he was 8 years old. ” I think that [Digga] was a criminal, that he made some decisions in his past that were really bad. But that doesn’t mean he’s lost to society. “

The rapper explains that he has learned to live with this constraint. “It sounds hard, but I got used to it now”, he explains. Before releasing a sound, Cecilia Goodwin has to sift through the lyrics. For example, for the song titled Woi, published in July 2020 and seen more than 13 million times on YouTube, he had to explain each of the references of the text. In particular the passage “Jump out, try put him in a coffin” (“Jump up, try to put him in a coffin”). “It’s a dance figure, it’s on YouTube, it’s a meme, it’s on TikTok”, explains Digga.

In a moment of introspection, Digga D admits to regretting certain things. But he is also aware that he cannot go back and change the course of history. “I learned from my mistakes. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, but I’m not someone who enjoys living in the past. I like to move forward and think about the future a lot. “

His lawyer has not lost confidence: “I really hope he gives up the lifestyle he had before, that he lives without violence, without threat of violence, without police and without probation. I really think he can do it. “

He also knows that he is constantly being watched. In June, he attended a rally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. He posted a photo of himself with a sign that “black lives matter.” He tweeted that the police and probation services remembered him, toughening the terms of his probation.

Some support for the rapper noted a difference in treatment with Paul Golding, the leader of the nationalist party Britain First. The latter, despite his convictions, was able to appear without being worried during a demonstration following the death of George Floyd, where anti-racists and far-right activists clashed.

The world


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