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Southern U.S. of A., home of hospitality, birthed a rap sub-genre as inhospitable as they come…Is it the imminent danger in the sound? The dark illegality of the subject matter? The clothes, tats, and implicit violent tendencies of the performers?

Actually, trap began as all of the above and more…

Time took it from the scene of a crime to an all-encompassing term for street life. The trap became the hood and hood life became the rage.

Trap didn’t even start as a sub-genre; it was a place, not a musical product. Its foundation lies in the streets. We’ll call them the ‘mean streets’ for dramatic effect. Streets, in particular, where drug deals are done. Rundown back alleys, 7-eleven parking lots, screen porches in the projects, and the like. Yes, this is trap’s true form.

Time took it from the scene of a crime to an all-encompassing term for street life. The trap became the hood and hood life became the rage.

By extension, the drug dealer persona became the poster boy for trap, and songs about dealing drugs became ‘trap songs.’ But the sub-genre’s first songs weren’t just music…

Trap Truth

Trap grew into its own – ushering in an entirely unique aesthetic. It’s sound was dirtier, deeper, more unsettling, and dissonant than anything else in hip-hop.

Trap was real for its early front men. More than a facade, trap rappers wrote their lives into their songs. They wrote the truth. They wrote their struggles. They wrote their misdoings.

Some would boast about the trap life. Others bemoaned its grievous dark side. It wasn’t long though, before trap took on a brand new sound and style beyond shocking lyrics and dark messages.

Trap grew into its own – ushering in an entirely unique aesthetic. It’s sound was dirtier, deeper, more unsettling, and dissonant than anything else in hip-hop. This dark tone became the trap we know and love.

Trap in Progress

Though his 2003 release of Trap Muzik may have helped trap flourish in full, the grunt work of genre and aesthetic design came before the likes of T.I. Particularly, through the work of producers like DJ Toomp, who actually helped create Trap Muzik’s standout beats.

T.I. “Rubber Band Man”

Trap was bred by producers like Mannie Fresh, DJ Toomp, Shawty Redd and David Banner in southern studios. David Banner, for instance, contributed to T.I.’s Trap Muzik album as well, putting the beat and backing together for “Rubber Band Man.” But Banner’s own previous releases, such as his 2000 mixtape, Them Firewater Boyz, had all the makings of early trap experimentation, lyrics, and tone, 3 years before Trap Muzik arrived on the scene. Stuttering, speedy hi-hats, cold, brooding bass-lines and true hood life lyrics colored each of its tracks in undeniably trap fashion.

Hot Boys “We On Fire”

With the rise of crunk music from 2003 to 2005, trap took on an even heavier, bolder sound – embracing more tenets of techno. However, Louisiana’s Mannie Fresh paved the way for this, bringing New Orleans heat to the mix through an infusion of vivacious beats and crushing sounds long before crunk came into view.

Stuttering, speedy hi-hats, cold, brooding bass-lines and true hood life lyrics colored each of its tracks in undeniably trap fashion.

He produced everything for the Hot Boys, adopting a progressively trappier sound with each of the group’s studio albums. Hi-hats eased into the forefront of the mix and chord progressions took a stark turn towards super villain territory as early as their ’99 album, Guerrilla Warfare.

Mannie’s sounds were big, real big, and would go on to characterize the early sound of both Birdman and Lil Wayne as well as the rest of trap and hip hop in general. However, trap’s development would only continue…

Gucci, Jeezy, and Trap’s Growth

Young Jeezy “Thug Motivation 101”

Thuggin under the influenceJeezy’s earliest album from 2001, introduced the rapping powerhouse to the world for the first time, albeit by the name ‘Lil J.’ It was more crunk than trap, but the makings of the trap sound were there, especially in “G.A.” which featured Shawty Redd on production.

Shawty Redd’s beats brought about a unique take on trap that would influence much of the subgenre to date. In 2005, Redd helped Jeezy usher in his major breakthrough album, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. A true testament to trap, Thug Motivation 101 showcased Shawty’s brand of trap beats and the developing sound of the burgeoning subgenre.

Shawty Redd’s beats brought about a unique take on trap that would influence much of the subgenre to date.

Gucci Mane “Pyrex Pot”

That same year, Redd also worked on Gucci Mane’s major debut album – composing beats for “Trap House,” “Pyrex Pot,” “Corner Cuttin,” and more. Gucci’s debut was successful and his authenticity among trap artists has been second to none. Following his prison release, he’s resumed his prolific tendencies, dropping singles and albums alongside fellow trap rappers to widely positive reception.

…a fresh but much more minimal approach to trap that has kept the music alive and kicking to this day…

Here in modernity, we’re greeted by a fresh but much more minimal approach to trap that has kept the music alive and kicking to this day – years after it first sprouted in the South. Gucci’s collaboration with Migos, “I Get The Bag,” encapsulates this shift in the subgenre’s sound. Clean, mellow, atmospheric and dark…

Should the music keep on course wherever current trends appear to be taking it, something far more laxed may result. A gap bridged to the domain of ‘chill-hop’ could be feasible.

Gucci Mane “I Get The Bag” feat. Migos

Ghetto to Gold

Trap stands as musical proof even the darkest circles can create great things.

Street life, dark deeds and misdoings will always resonate with the general public on some level. Trap gives this seedy underbelly of urban life a voice and an avenue by which it might express itself freely.

Though trap music may have started down South, its influence is international and spreading.

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