London photographer Freddie Miller discusses drill, ambition and growing up on Deptford's Pepys Estate in South-East London.

On the banks of the river Thames near Deptford’s northern boundary with Surrey Quays lies The Pepys Estate. Built in the 1960s as a progressive social housing development, its visionary utopian design included some of the tallest buildings in London, a communal ballroom, ‘car free’ shopping centre and a youth club. Residents could walk from the Thames all the way to Deptford Park without their feet touching the ground: an impressive network of elevated walkways connected the blocks and separated people from the traffic below. 


Fast forward to today and the towers still stand but the landscape has changed. New builds are encroaching, and the walkways have been demolished. The last remnants of the original social spaces are disappearing – the youth club had been boarded up for several years and the community café also closed this summer. 


In the midst of Pepys’ changing environment is a tight-nit community and a thriving music scene. Over the summer, I spent time on the estate with a group of young artists to document a snapshot of their daily lives and get a sense of what music and environment means to them.  


Speaking with one of the artists, Skitszo, we talk about ambition, drill, growing up on Pepys and why it is known by some as ‘The District’: 

Why do you call The Pepys Estate The District? 

The area we grew up in is divided. We live in Deptford, but The Pepys Estate is where we grew up; that is our area. Everyone has a name for their area, and the name we have for ours is The District. Pepys is just one estate in the area – so it’s our district. 

What was it like growing up there? 

To be honest, you see who your friends are and who aren’t, thats why the area is divided. Youve either got a team with you who see the same thing and try to make it together, or you try to make it yourself. Thats how it is in Deptford. 

How did you first get into music? 

I started in school year 9, I was like 14 – and one of my boys, Tex, used to do music, and I used to go with him to the studio. When I heard him rap, I started freestyle and ever since then I was doing music. We used to go to the music studio bus near McDonalds in a car park in Catford and would make music there. We made music in the youth club in Pepys too, it was basically like a studio in a cupboard, the door would need to be closed with a chair, so the sound wasn’t too clear, but we still did it.  

Did the youth club closing have an effect on you guys? 

Yeah, because there was nowhere for the guys to be creative on the estate, and we had to spend money on going to the studio, which is fine, but if it had been open when we were younger that would have been very good for us.  

How would you describe the music you make? 

Versatile! Whatever beat we hear, we just ride the beat. Afro, autotune, anything really, even garage. Radio music, thats what we make because I want a wide range of people feeling my music and a good fan base. I wouldn’t use the word drill to describe our music, although it could have a drill influence.  

So, youve got big ambitions! 

100%. I’m trying to be everyone’s new favourite artist.

What are your main sources of inspiration?

Listening to everyone elses music really – whether its American, Jamaican or UK – I listen to a wide range of music. My environment too, the area I grew up in, you see a lot when you grow up: life, things I go through, thats how I write music, it’s my story if you think about it at the end of the day.  

What do you think about how drill is sometimes represented in the media?

They say its all about violence. But they dont see that people were raised up in an area with low job rates, where some kids dont really have the vision to do legitimate jobs because of how their family grew them up and what theyve seen on the roads. Kids are influenced by this, how they see things. Drill music is not the cause, it’s just how people express how they feel from how they grew up.  

What about police takedowns of music?

Its immoral – thats just a violation to be honest, thats how kids express themselves and try to get out of the situation they are in, so police taking down music, cutting their views, stopping them from trying to elevate, it’s just going to keep them in the same position. Music is a way for young boys to make money so taking it down is just a way of sending them back down to the bottom. Some guys cant get jobs those who have been to jail for example – they see no other way but to make music, to rap about what they went through. Its free speech at the end of the day if you think about it: thats how people express themselves, some do it via a poem, others via music.  

Which artists most inspire you and why?

All artists inspire me. Id say from the US and UK: Juice WRLD, DThang Gz, Digga D, Skepta, Headie One, Nines – these guys are all cold artists. 

What is on the horizon for your music, what are your hopes and dreams?

Im trying to get some music out hopefully by the end of this year. My hopes and dreams are to be everyone’s favourite artist and to have everybody that makes music with me charting. I could never leave my family, the guys I grew up with, who I see every day and chill with. If I get in the position where I can open the door, all my team have to come in. You cant be the only boss in your team, it doesnt make any sense. 

What do you think the future of drill is?

To be honest, drill will always be there because someone will come out with another type of drill song that will blow up on TikTok. If you haven’t got social media to promote it properly then it’s not going anywhere. Some guys who have never made music before get millions of views; its all about the social recognition, it even leads the music in a sense. 

Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to?

All the GSDs, 6ixshot, Zanko, Lkizzle, Dezo, Gapz, Tino and my brothers from the 8 Hazy, Clydeboogie and many more, too many names, and shout out to my girl whos been there from the beginning.  

Follow Freddie Miller on Instagram.


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