"Real trap shit." It's the veritable sriracha-sauce statement of the current electronic scene: poured into everything, and sometimes even placed in stuff it's not known to go with. But is what we're listening to even REAL. TRAP. SH*T? Or are we just succumbing to the mind-numbing, hyper-colorful internet take on what is widely known as the gritty music from the depths of the Dirty South?
My take? It's neither. Like almost every genre before it, "EDM trap" -- or whatever it is we're actually calling it -- has taken derivatives from a different genre and created something all its own. Only this time, the originating genre wasn't even in the spectrum of EDM (a heated term in itself). And this time, it developed practically overnight.
Let's go back to the beginning, back to the South -- to the "roots." The origination of "trap music" came from, quite simply, "the trap" -- the part of town you tiptoed through, even if you were from that part of town. As DJ Scream, one of the OG dudes from Atlanta, once said, "If you were in the trap, you were gonna get shot, [people] were gonna come get you… it's just that… you're trapped." From the depths of the trap came a multitude of young rappers ready to show the rap game about their struggle, and thus rap's own sub-genre of "trap" was born. Trap really made a name for itself with the come-up of DJ Screw, Trap-A-Holics, Gucci Mane, Three 6 Mafia; producers like Lex Luger and Sonny Digital; and, of course, TI's album Trap Muzik. All of the bass-rattling and 808-heavy rap beats, the signature "machine-gun snare” pattern, the catchphrase "run the traaaap" -- that's where it comes from.
Trap caught on faster than dubstep or electro, and it's fairly simple to see why: Trap stylings can be injected into almost anything, and the music is just so damn likable. Trying to deny yourself the pleasure of "bowing up" (aka the suggested and almost subconscious dance move of pumping your elbows up and down to the music) to Flosstradamus' remix of "Original Don" or Baauer's remix of Flosstradamus' "Rollup" is like trying to deny that you sang along to the chorus of Three 6 Mafia's "Stay Fly." You can't.
Over the course of 2012, the evolution of this sort of trap-meets-internet, polymorphic genre has seen quite a lot of hype. We saw glimpses of a new trend emerging with the massive popularity of a BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix from Scottish producer Rustie (signed to the long-standing advocate for forward-thinking music, Warp Records), along with a huge internet following of Flosstradamus' free Total Recall EP (which, ironically enough, got recalled after a feud occurred between hardstyle DJs and the Floss boys).
With easily incorporated vocal clips (like Trap-A-Holics' infamous "Damn, son, where'd ya find this?"), recognizable synth and drum patterns, and a shared taste for bass-rattling drops, trap became a style that everyone wanted a piece of. New artists emerged, going from a couple hundred followers to quite a few thousand over the course of just a few weeks. Artists like Baauer, RL Grime, DJ Sliink, the mysterious ƱZ, and producing mega-force TNGHT quickly became the stars at the forefront of the movement. DJs like Flosstradamus and Atlanta's own Heroes & Villains finally have a formidable outlet to push their hip-hop/electronic fusion, and DJ super-star Diplo has an electrifying new sound in his arsenal. Then dubstep folk like 12th Planet, Zeds Dead, and Flux Pavilion; moombahtoneros like Bro Safari; and many more came on board, each advocating the new style in both their sets and productions. But each are also putting their own spin on it, be it through goofy samples, avid use of the Internet Explorer aesthetics, or heavy influence from other electronic genres.
Here's the thing though: What we're listening to isn't trap music. Just because you employ the classical stylings of a genre doesn't mean the product can still be labeled in that category. It's the same "purist" problem people had with dubstep, with house -- with every music genre. In the same way we can't call every song with a wobbly bassline "dubstep" and not every song at 110 BPM is moombahton, putting a skittery snare pattern over a rap beat doesn't make it trap. But… that's okay. The fact that such a close-knit community like electronic music is becoming open to something so seemingly out-of-place like rap suggests that this entire thing is becoming bigger than us.
The real problem is that, due to its glorification, trap also become the most prominently bandwaggoned genre in dance music. Everywhere you look: trap. And, unfortunately, some of it's bad -- from sub-par production to shameless "trap" remixes of purposely inappropriate songs, to artists from every realm making or playing the stuff with no real passion. The half-assed attempts and mockery of the style is all kinda ruining it for the rest of us: the trap artists and fans who are passionate about the music and truly wish to help cultivate good, unadulterated FUN. Wash away the wannabes, the trash-talkers, the "I'm just here for the paycheck" folk, and you've actually got a real thing. It might not necessarily be "real" trap, but does it need to be?
I've found that the stars and advocates of the scene are pure, hardworking pushers who just really like music. They've found a way to cultivate the hip-hop beats they've long enjoyed into the music they make and play, and all with a sort of playful integrity. If the true cultivators of the scene can continue to be creative and push past the endless petty arguments, silly memes, and incessant biters, this new wave of trap music may go much farther than being "the new cool thing."