Trap Karaoke is Coming Your Way

And it turns out you can buy happiness.

On Super Bowl Sunday I was so inspired by Beyoncé’s Formation video that I wrote a blog post which garnered more than my usual 7 readers. Bey’s cinematic messaging was thought provoking in its own right, but I’d been thinking about “ladies in formation” for two weeks, ever since the night I spent cheering from a table in the back at Trap Karaoke.

For the record, I had to look up “Trap Music” on Wikipedia

The older we get, the harder it is to leave our comfort zone. You go to the same job, hang out with the same friends, and eat at the same places. It’s predictable and safe. Yet it’s in new and undiscovered territory that I’ve found my greatest blessings, surprises far weightier because they arrived in the dark.

But my Twitter neighborhood is the best of both worlds — friends of all ages around the country introducing me to their people and dishing about their weekend. Last month it was @imfromraleigh raving about something called Trap Karaoke with the enthusiasm of a man who’d discovered a new country.

For the record, I had to look up “Trap Music” on Wikipedia, before tweeting about it to a young friend of mine, so it’s hard to overstate my surprise when Trap Karaoke tweeted back. They asked if I was coming to their event in the Bay area and my response was only slightly more nuanced than, “WTF You’ve seen my profile right?”

They responded by saying everyone was welcome and offering passes “for me and my squad.” I said yes immediately, in spite of the fact that I didn’t have one.

Which is how I found myself standing in line outside the Starline Social Club in Oakland on January 19 with a sea of adorable Millenials, all of whom I could have given birth to — and not in a pre-teen mom scenario. When we were almost to the door I felt a tap on my shoulder. The young woman behind me asked if I would take a picture of her and her group (Now this is a squad, I thought) and then I was sheepishly saying to the gatekeeper, “I’m on the list. I know. I can’t believe it either.”

My friend Jade and her fiancé Shane had secured a table and howled with laughter when I told them I brought a plate of cookies to thank their friend Jason Mowatt, creator of Trap Karaoke, for inviting me. Shane bought me a beer and a shot, Jade and I caught up, and then the music started and for the next three hours we went to church, host Low Key managing the service with all the grace of a senior pastor.

Folks filed onstage and instead of being left to live or die on the bars they’d chosen, they were joined by Low Key, choir director/dj Austin Millz and the congregation on the floor, people throwing arms around each other and singing with the abandon of a family reunion. And then a Khaki Wearing White Guy said he wanted to do International Players Anthem.

There was a collective intake of breath and you could see Low Key calculating the over/under before giving him a pat on the back that was either, “Godspeed,” or “It’s your funeral.” But instead it was a resurrection for the ages as the night’s Trap Karaoke MVP went to work. Thirty seconds in, Low Key’s smile lit up the stage and the crowd raised their hands and sang along, fueling the unlikeliest performance with generosity and enthusiasm as their adopted brother enjoyed one of the best evenings of his life.

And though I didn’t approach the stage until the lights came up at 12:30, I knew exactly how he felt. My ears were ringing as I gave Jason a hug and handed off a plate of cookies that looked paltry compared to the gratitude I was feeling.

He is both cutting-edge in his ability to see the future and deeply old-fashioned in his humanity and eagerness to listen.

The next day, thanks to a blizzard on the East coast, Jason and I had the chance to meet up. He told me the highlights of his story, of getting a job in Senator Robert Byrd’s office while he was still in high school and keeping it throughout college, of investing in Apple before he turned 20 and in the Trillectro Festival when it started. He is both cutting-edge in his ability to see the future and deeply old-fashioned in his humanity and eagerness to listen.

I try to describe what it felt like to be part of such a memorable evening, but come up short. In hindsight I realize it’s all the joy of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, but on a bus with 400 friends. These days, thanks to social media we are infinitely connected and often excruciatingly lonely. When Jason says, ”We’re community organizers, not promoters,” I believe him. The night before felt more like church than any service I’ve been to in years, including the affordable price of admission.

For a year after he thought of it, Jason tried to get someone else to do Trap Karaoke, finally launching it himself and selling out five beta events. Then Drake and LeBron James reached out for a sixth — Trap Karaoke, NBA All-Star Edition — proving in less than sixty days that perhaps he was the man for the job. Last weekend the team hit Atlanta for its final first round event. But Phase Two, a 50-state Trap Karaoke tour, is right around the corner, and whether you know all the words or just want to be surprised by joy, there’s plenty of room in the revival tent.

Get your tickets at

Originally published at on February 22, 2016.

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