Regardless of where you’re from, your gender, or your preference of how much caramel should go in your Starbucks Macchiato, chances are you have, you will, or you do enjoy a song that has been labeled as “trap” music. From the very popular names such as Young Jeezy, T.I., Future, Gucci Mane, and others, the word “trap” has been used to describe multiple sounds of music, production, and even the action of working. But what qualifies a song as trap music? Is it the beat? Is it the content of its lyrics? Is it the artist? I want to take a further look into the origin of the word, what it meant to those who used it first, where’s it’s been, and where it’s headed.
On September 29th, 1998, Outkast released their classic album Aquemini which featured a song titled “Spottieottiedopaliscious”. In this song, they referenced the word trap, using it in the following lyric: “So now you’re back in the trap, just that, trapped. Go on and marinate on that for a minute." This gives us proof of what we’ve already all assumed; the word trap was originated in Atlanta, but most of us had no idea the word was being used so early in the music industry, long before it became commercialized. Without much else said about the word, Big Boi’s use of trap held no definition.
Years would pass before we really hear the word again.
Almost five years later in September 2003, an artist out of the westside of Atlanta would release a street classic named Trap Muzik. Today, we know this artist as T.I., arguably one of the greatest from Atlanta, also known as the King of the South. This album would go down as his most classic piece, being compared to JAY Z's Reasonable Doubt of his own collection. Filled with street inspired songs and content, T.I. would further enlighten us on the definition of "trap" when he rapped lyrics such as “Welcome back to the trap, ****** back in the trap, with another heavy Chevy, big dope boys, they trap. All you rap ****** roll out, I trap when it’s cold out. Wack ****** flying but I stay down until I’m sold out.”
After hearing these words, you would assume trap meant to either sell drugs or possibly a location where drugs are sold. But not many people were hip to T.I. at the time Trap Muzik was released. Because of this, in July 2005, Young Jeezy would introduce us to Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 and familiarize us with the word trap, build a foundation for “trap music”, and arguably become the leader of its sound. Once again, this album would also feature hard hitting 808’s, hi-hats out of this world, and street inspired lyrics. Both T.I. and Young Jeezy had completely two different sounds vocally, but similar sounds production-wise, we began to understand this new found word in music.
In the years to come, we would be introduced to more Atlanta artist such as Gucci Mane, Future, and others. But even artist from other areas were being labeled as trap music, such as Rick Ross who's from Miami. In that time, between 2005 - 2010, trap music was simply the production of the song, mainly from producers coming out of the southern region of the US. The very deep bass, the dark tales of hustling, the struggle, and the flaunting of expensive items.
Some time in the next few years, something would happen. Something would change the definition of trap, trapping, and trap music. Trap music would become a bit softer, less street, and have a more broad horizon. Artist such as Big Sean from Detroit, A$AP Rocky from Harlem, and even Beyoncé from Texas would be using these instrumentals that were very similar to the production these “trap” artist were using in the earlier years. The big difference? They weren’t speaking of the same struggle. I mean, just imagine Miley Cyrus (who also used a trap beat) singing of the struggle of selling heroin as a white woman in the middle of the trap house. It wouldn’t work but the production mixed with these newer artist vocals and energy sounded amazing.
Newer artist such as Levi Carter, Post Malone, and Uzi Vert are speaking of the same struggles, drug dealing, and fashion that these trap artist were rapping about, but they were not using the same style of beats. They're leaning more towards a slowed down, melodic, and soothing instrumentals to sing over, making this “trap” thing a bit more diverse. There’s even techno and other genre’s using the word trap to describe their production and sound, making you wonder if Young Jeezy used glow sticks to see at night while he was serving his customers, right across the street from Magic City.
Let’s face it, trap and trap music is now it’s own thing, has it’s own definition, and doesn’t mean you’re a professional drug dealer anymore.
Nowadays, you can log onto your Twitter account and see a few of your followers tweet something along the lines of “stuck in the trap until these customers leave the store” with a picture of their head in their palm, looking rather stressed that someone walked in to grab a new pair of socks seconds before they started counting the register.
The word trap has taken a drastic turn. This is not to say the turn was a negative one but actually something positive. For the entire world to take a negative situation (yes, anyone who has to trap is in a negative situation), and make it a globally used word and action, to define them being at work, painting, designing, or whatever their profession is, is definitely a positive thing.
We used to hear OJ Da Juiceman (thank God we don’t anymore) rap about trapping babies (ounces of cocaine) and we now have babysitters who are also trapping babies.
I f*ckin’ love the world we live in.
Pick your head up, stop putting all of your relationship issues on Twitter, and be the gah-damn-trap-star your mother raised you to be.