What is Trap Music?
As the latest pop culture obsession, trap music has bursted onto the mainstream music scene. Known to have an electronic signature sound full of heavy bass, 808s, tics, synths and snares, trap music is often mistaken for dub step or EDM (electronic dance music). Trap music is actually a sub genre of hip-hop that originated in cities like Houston, New Orleans and Atlanta. Filled with gritty lyrics and a hard street attitude, trap is an expression by the rappers of their environment and experiences. In the 1990s and early 2000s it was an underground sound giving listeners a window into either a surreal life or an affirmation of your own. Trap music has exploded in a decade and many artists are now beginning to take turns making their own versions of the sound, riding the wave of its success. While trap may have similarities to dubstep, they are not the same and people should know exactly what the distinctions are.
When thinking of trap music what is the first thing that comes to mind? The word “trap” in the context of the genre means the lyrics pertain mostly to the selling and using of drugs. The origin of the slang word comes from a place where drug deals are made, or a trap house. Edgier than dubstep, trap songs are catchy with today’s beats. Trap has been popularized recently by rappers including Gucci Mane, Travis $cott and A$AP Ferg, who titled his debut studio album Trap Lord. Like chopped-and-screwed music that originated in Houston by DJ Screw, trap is meant to be listened to while under the influence of drugs. Trap music was a natural sound to replace dubstep after it lost momentum in mainstream pop and “fell off”. Dubstep producers started collaborating with rappers to create a blend into what trap music currently is now.
Trap music today has only grown in popularity around the country since it was thrusted into the spotlight. Songs like artist Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen and Lil Jon’s Turn Down for What are the modern mix of a trap song. As stated earlier, trap had always been bubbling under the hip-hop scene and its emergence has allowed for those underground artists and songs to be heard on the radio and in clubs. This may be good for some subgenres, but the content trap consists of may not be the best music to be consumed by a wide audience.Trap has evolved or bastardized into something more sinister
Trap is largely defined by the content of it’s lyrics. It’s origins are linked with the emergence of gangster rap in the late 80s to early 90s. Hip hop studies professor Karlos Hill states that the culture of selling drugs became celebrated in the music. Trap rappers often boast throughout their lyrics about their past or continued involvement with drug use. Violence is also a staple topic in many songs. Whether it’s violence connected to gang membership or the drug trade, trap is a more potent form of gangster rap. Today, Chicago is viewed as a center of the trap music scene. Artists like Chief Keef are the poster children of the genre, emerging and glorifying the experiences that young black males face. In a city that has had over 700 murders in 2016 (dnainfo.com), Chicago is the embodiment of trap.
“Drug dealers and pimps became role models, individuals to be mimicked.” Hill says. “The themes and content are hyper focused.”
A popular topic on hip hop forums today is trap rap versus conscious rap. These two sub genres are viewed as polar opposites, dividing the hip hop community in two; Trap rap is categorized as materialistic, while conscious rap discusses social issues. Hip hop fans that are critical of trap claim there is no lyrical craft in the subject matter, unlike gangster rap. Others don’t believe it deserves commercial success over conscious music. There are also fans that listen to both, saying there is an occasion, or vibe, for both sounds. In hip hop authenticity is king and fans care about that what the artist says is true.
“More than likely Trap music is not this passing phenomenon, it’s going to have some staying power,” Hill says. “I think of it as a doubling down of some of the core themes in gangster rap.”
It is difficult to tell just how popular trap music is today, but hip hop in general is the second most popular genres in the United States. Whether trap can continue its prominence in mainstream music is yet to be seen, but for now fans can celebrate the fact that Gucci Mane is home.