By John Luposello
A few months ago, a trusted music advisor/Electronic Dance Music fanatic/friend asked me what I had heard about trap music. This was sometime in early June. Fresh from three days at Electric Daisy Carnival in New York, our protagonist had not yet come down from her musical roll from the festival. “It’s going to blow up. Everyone had trap in their sets,” she said. On first listen, I was skeptical of the genre. The conventions seemed too limited, the sounds too similar between artists. I worried about the longevity of the genre. I predicted a cruel summer of festivals would exhaust audiences of the sound. By fall it would be a distant memory. Our protagonist is rarely wrong about music, though, and this was no exception.
Whether or not you’ve realized it, you’ve heard trap music. This is no new phenomenon. For over a decade, music has been coming out of the “trap”, a phrase coined to define the sounds of Southern hip-hop and the region that birthed it. The sound, which can trace its roots even deeper than the boom of Southern hip-hop, which resulted largely from Outkast’s success, is dark. To sit beneath the likes of Waka Flocka and UGK, producers used the distinct fat bass, tiny snares, and high-hats of the classic Roland TR-808 synthesizer to create minimalist beats that bumped oh-so-hard and made trunks shake around the country.
Tempos slowed down for audiences that typically paired the music with a nice cup of Sprite and codeine, which slowed them down even more. This was music for your trunk, meant to be the perfect soundtrack to driving slow and “tippin‘”, as the kids call it these days. If nothing else, trap was as visceral as any genre had ever been, which remains to be one of trap’s most appealing conventions.
Eventually, trap music left the South. One of the genre’s most notable early producers, Lex Luger, began working on beats for the likes of Rick Ross, Kanye, and Jay-Z, bringing his trademark sound to the masses. Suddenly, major labels like Cash Money and Maybach Music were using the sound on every mixtape, dropping track after track with the same beats and sometimes even overlapping lyrics (you’re not fooling anyone, Rick Ross). Almost overnight, the hip hop market was flooded with trap beats.
If something in one genre gains enough success, other genres are always going to notice. In today’s music landscape, the amount of overlap between genres is staggering. It’s remix culture at its finest. That’s what made trap the juggernaut it is. Eventually, EDM producers and DJs began experimenting with the trap sound, using it at select points in their sets, and eventually, for their entire set. As it turns out, there was a huge overlap in the audiences of the two genres. Kids that went to Electric Daisy were also bumping Waka in their cars. And so the remixes began.
Today, the relationship between EDM and trap is a beautiful thing. Artists like Diplo and Bassnectar are creating tracks that do extraordinarily well on dance floors around the country while being fatter and slower than anything the rave-centric EDM scene has ever seen. When it comes down to it, EDM and trap were bound to be together. Since their respective beginnings, both genres have naturally progressed in the direction of the other. And that’s the most important part of the trap movement: this happened naturally. Some critics speculate that it was drugs that brought the scenes together. Others have said trap was simply a haven for the EDM kids that were getting tired of bro-step, but still wanted that almighty bass. I personally attribute it to the fact that both genres are, at their cores, visceral. I know it’s a cop-out, but that’s the only way I can put it. Whether you’re “sippin’ and grippin’” or rolling your face off, you’re using the music to supplement your lifestyle. Maybe that’s the case with everything, though. We’re always supplementing. Maybe this is just another fad.
I recommend you give it a chance. As is the case with anything good, trap music is flooding the EDM landscape right now, so you’ve got plenty of places to start. I’ll leave you with the first trap music I ever heard — it’s the video at the start of the article. I promise it will not disappoint.
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