A new kind of religious outreach has been birthed from the mean streets of South London. It's called gospel drill, a particularly aggressive form of rap that has been refashioned to spread positive messages of hope and salvation. Gangs, Drill & Prayer explores this exploding phenomenon, the most consequential players at its center, and the controversies that have arisen from their unorthodox approach.
Donning masks over their faces and spewing rat-a-tat lyrics at a machine gun pace, the most popular drill rappers use the music of the street to convert both the vulnerable and ruthless. They may look and sound threatening to the traditional churchgoer, but they're a believable reflection of their target audience.
Enrique was one such figure. Absorbed by the life of a gangster rapper, his young life was dominated by hostility and violence. After surviving a knife attack at the age of 17 - an incident he recalls in the film with harrowing detail - Enrique decided to change his life, and redirected his musical skills to serve and preach the word of God. Now 21 years of age, he is a pastor and an inspiration to many. He joins three other rap artists in a group called the Radical Soldiers, a youth revival troop that travels throughout London to sermonize and entertain at-risk students.
The filmmakers introduce viewers to several high profile groups who have dedicated themselves to this unique form of outreach, including Hope Dealers. Cameras follow them into their modest homemade recording studio and capture their struggles to craft the perfect message with the hardest beat.
Critics accuse some of the artists in this community of insincerity. They believe this new musical movement is merely a get rich scheme masquerading as a legitimate and heartfelt enterprise. The means might have changed from their previous gangster life, these critics claim, but the ends remain the same, as evidenced by their frequent displays of flashy jewelry, new cars and high status.
Regardless of how you might interpret their intentions, Gangs, Drill & Prayer is successful in exposing viewers to a fascinating community that has turned despair into triumph.