Virgil Abloh’s set design for Headie One’s Brits performance calls out drill music stereotypes
Part of a string of epic stage designs by creative directors Tawbox, the set was lined with newspaper clippings referring to drill as a “catalyst for violence,” and smeared with the colours of the Ghanaian flag.
- Jenny Brewer
- 12 May 2021
Last night’s Brit Awards saw a politically-fuelled and visually impactful performance by UK rapper Headie One, with a powerhouse creative team behind its set design. Orchestrated by creative directors Bronski and Amber Rimell, aka Tawbox – the studio behind last year’s incredible set for Dave at the Brits, and Stormy’s unforgettable Glastonbury headline set – the performance saw Headie One and his collaborators move through a string of epic sets for their medley. It all kicked off, though, in a box designed by Virgil Abloh.
Headie One used his performance to speak out against the long-running negative and racist stereotypes associated with drill music. As such, the walls of the initial set by Abloh were lined with newspaper clippings about that very subject, calling the music genre a “catalyst for violence,” – a rhetoric the rapper has been fighting to debunk for years. In 2018, after the UK government said it wanted to crack down on the “aggressive” genre, Headie One told reporters “only a fool would say that drill music is the root of the problem of violence in [London],” and that ministers weren’t “addressing the root of the problem”. In his Brits performance he cited media quotes such as “some say it’s a symptom of societal failings,” and “a form of aggressive rap music”.
The box was smeared with the colours of the Ghanaian flag, paying tribute to the rapper’s roots. He was also wearing a custom Louis Vuitton tracksuit designed by Abloh, as the brand is name-dropped in his track Blood Money. Abloh commented: “Supporting next generation’s talent is a part of my ethos. Watching Headie One build his career in music while being a voice of evolution makes his practice important in contemporary art.”
Still from Headie One's Brit Awards 2021 performance; set design by Tawbox with Virgil Abloh (Copyright © Headie One, 2021)