What is Trap Music?
It’s a simple question, with a less simple answer…several answers actually. If someone told you Trap Music was hardcore southern rap, they would be absolutely correct. If someone told you it was a subset of EDM, they would be just as correct. In order to understand this seeming contradiction, you have to understand where Trap Music came from, and how it has evolved into what it is today.
The Trap in Trap Music comes from the term used to identify places where drugs are made. As such, Trap Music in its original form is an expression of the feelings and experiences of those who inhabit the Trap.
Musically, when it started in the early 90s, Trap Music was characterized by its hardcore lyrics, over bass heavy ominous beats. The sound was meant to emulate the negativity and hopelessness of street life.
As with most popular subcultures, eventually the mainstream will assimilates it into itself, or appropriates what it likes and discards the rest. With Trap Music, a strong case could be made that both of these things have happened. Artist like Kanye West, Fetty Wap and Silento topping the charts is a clear sign that Trap Music has been adopted into pop culture.
On the flip side, there are artist who simply appropriate Trap elements. Katy Perry’s chart topping song Dark Horse is a pop song with undeniable trap influences.
Then there’s EDM Trap. A fusion of dubstep and traditional Trap beats; EDM Trap has actually become the more popular iteration of the genre. If you were to type “Trap Music” into a search engine, you would be inundated with EDM DJs as opposed to Emcees.
Which Trap Music is the real Trap Music? The original? The current? Both? It’s hard to say. The nature of music is that it is ever evolving.
Top Trap Music Artists
Depending on what you’re looking for in your search for trap music, you might be surprised to find out who is considered at the top of the game. Here’s a brief description of a few of the heavier hitters.
Flosstradamus: Chicago’s own Josh ‘J2k’ Young and Curt ‘Autobot’ are vets of the EDM game. When not riding the wave of popular consciousness, they are pioneering it outright. Ever-present on the campus and festival scene, Flosstradamus have been putting in work since the mid-2000s. Their most recent foray: Soundcrash, and especially its titular track Ft. Troyboi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgiyMpKBl28), make the clear statement that these guys are still at the top of their game. If you’re looking for a more lyric heavy track check out their 2014 work: ‘Drop Top’ Ft. Travis Porter (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUbsKY8JCvw), the video is hilarious too.
Fetty Wap: On the more tradition side, you have Willie Maxwell II, aka Fetty Wap. Hailing from New Jersey, Fetty Wap blew up after the 2014 release of his smash single: ‘Trap Queen’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_kF4zLNKio). Successful follow up after successful follow up has made Fetty one of the biggest names in music right now. His track ‘679’ featuring Remy Boyz (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pzz4Z-O7710), is currently at number five on the billboard hot 100, with ‘Trap Queen’ at fourteen and his track featuring Monty ‘My Way’ at sixteen
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS-5oD2Y4Wk). His self-titled debut album dropped in September of 2015.
RL Grime: Diving back into the EDM pool, we have RL Grime. Known as Clockwork in his electro days, Henry Steinway’s transition into trap music has been a fortuitous one, both for him and for lovers of good music alike. With dope singles like the 2014 ‘Scylla’, the LA native has made a place for himself as one of the DJs to watch (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kz1CqHw35Bs). Its Grime’s remixes though that will make him legendary. Picking just one to highlight is no small task, but simply as a jumping off point, check out his remix of Chief Keef’s ‘Love Sosa.’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1612_Y7N9x4).
Chief Keef: Speaking of Chief Keef… While he may not be the phenomenon he was two years ago; any list of the top modern Trap artists would be incomplete without at least throwing him a mention. Keith ‘Chief Keef’ Cozart had developed a modest following in his hometown of Chicago before he blew the whole game up with his 2012 track ‘I Don’t Like,’ catching the attention of Kanye West. Combined with Kanye’s remix, the song arguably ushered Trap Music and its subgenre Drill into the forefront of popular consciousness (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpj39Znv0oA). Keef followed up the success of ‘I Don’t Like’ with tracks like ‘Love Sosa’ and ‘Hate Being Sober,’ both hits in their own rights, though not to the mainstream acclaim that ‘I Don’t Like’ enjoyed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyHZNBz6FE). His contribution to mainstreaming Trap Music is still worthy of note all the same.
Best Trap Songs of All Time
This is a list of my top 10 Trap songs, but influenced by opinion. While my tastes lean a little more old-school, EDM Trap will not be neglected. One song per artist. No remixes (they have their own list).
#10 Chief Keef – I Don’t Like: As previously stated, this track put Chicago Trap Music on the map. Let’s move on (link above).
#9 Project Pat – Out There: This whole list could be filled with Project Pat and Three 6 Mafia songs, and would be the better for it. However, since I’m keeping it to one per artist, I have to go with ‘Out There’ from Pat’s 1999 debut album Ghetty Green. This is one of those tracks that doesn’t need a video, because of the vivid picture the storytelling creates in your mind (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIONsz7vN74).
#8 Bobby Shmurda – Hot N*gga: To be honest, this is a controversial choice for me. The beat goes hard, there’s no debating that. The lyrics and flow are fairly standard for the Trap Music of its time. It’s that dance though. About five seconds of the video blew up on vine and made this song a cultural juggernaut, and therefore it cannot be ignored (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJwKKKd2ZYE).
# 7 Young Jeezy – Standing Ovation: A bit on the nose perhaps, but still well deserved. Young Jeezy has been a mainstay in the Trap game…the Trap Music game for about a decade now. The majority of his discography could find a place on a Top Ten Trap songs list. I just happen to appreciate the lack of chill in having a hook say “I am the Trap.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzQvzcNAUE0)
#6 Kendrick Lamar – M.A.A.D. City (Feat. MC eiht): The fact that Kendrick isn’t really considered a Trap rapper just makes ‘M.A.A.D. City’ all the more impressive. For anyone with that one friend who thinks they’re too for Trap music, this is the track to play them. Full disclosure, the second half of the song is less ‘Trap’ than the first half. That is all the more reason it’s the perfect gateway song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10yrPDf92hY).
#5 DJ Snake, Lil Jon – Turn Down for What: Cultural significance has been a running theme on this list and it is no exception here. This is what Trap is now, regardless of how anyone might feel about it. I chose this song because its title has wormed its way into the popular lexicon. The age of EDM Trap is in full swing in life, and in this list (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMUDVMiITOU).
#4 Gucci Mane – That’s My Hood: An obvious choice to be sure, considering the project it’s from has Trap in the name, but a standard none the less. Gucci is another one of those artists that could take up a few spots on a Best Of list. Plus a Scrooge McDuck reference makes this song impossible to ignore (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xClUvut1lzg).
#3 Flosstradamus feat. Casino – Mosh Pit: This song is a banger, pure and simple. The beat knocks, the drop is hot. The song does what it’s meant to do. Some might complain that the lyrics are too simplistic. I personally think that’s a large part of its charm. It has that party feel, where that one guy who freestyles for anyone who will listen is in your ear. But you’re having such a good time it doesn’t even bother you.
#2 RL Grime – Core: Managing to keep it hood and simultaneously foreign and exotic is a task many take on, but few do correctly. Grime cracks that code with this one. Aided by a visually stunning video, this is not one to miss (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04ufimjXEbA).
#1 Party Thieves & Lazy Boyz – Rise: Sometimes when you hear a track your face just automatically scrunches up like you smell something bad. When that happens the artist has done their job to perfection, as is the case with this track. There is no higher praise than that (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra7ipGJWkek).
Trap Remixes of Popular Songs
Remixes are where modern Trap artists thrive. Taking popular songs and making them more dramatic and up-tempo is a recipe for success. When done well, the song is even better than the original. When not done well, the result can be a big mess. To illustrate that point, here’s a list of Trap remixes to the current top 10 songs on the Billboard hot 100 (http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100 10/7/15).
#1 The Weeknd – The Hills (RL Grime Remix): As a huge fan of The Weeknd, I was apprehensive about this one. I found that it’s different enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s just biting the song, but similar enough that it leaves in the best parts. Altogether though, I still prefer the original (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcacV3u80Lw).
#2 Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean? (PHYNX Trap Remix): As a markedly less huge fan of Justin Bieber, my expectations for this one were much lower. This one sounds like two different songs. The beginning is Bieber, the beat drops it becomes something completely different, and then goes back to being Bieber… lather, rinse, and repeat. I like it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa6fEByXDMw).
#3 The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face (Caked Up Trap Remix): Since The Weeknd is killing it right now, he’s on here twice. This one had a lot of potential as it built to the drop. It’s a shame the drop was lackluster, taking all the wind out of the sails of the song. Just when you think that the first drop was a faint, the second drop comes and isn’t any better. Once again the original weekend takes the win (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za7-2OW43zA).
#4 Drake – Hotline Bling: Interesting development, I can’t find a trap remix for this song. Whether that’s because people really just don’t like Drake, or because the song is just to chill to mess with, is a question I leave to you. Moving on.
#5 Silento – Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae) (Sikdope Remix): Maybe it’s because this song is already Trap song but, the fusion here is perfect. If the regular song is Ironman, this remix would be its Hulk-buster armor. High praise, high praise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euqY7AOgr6Q).
#6 Fetty Wap feat. Remy Boyz – 679 (Sweet Teeth X MorrisCode Remix): Look, I can see what they were trying to do here, and conceptually it’s a cool idea. It just didn’t work here. The drop is cinematic and climatic; it just doesn’t fit the rest of the song. It sounds like a Fetty Wap song, then the theme to a Saturday morning cartoon villain, then Fetty Wap again. This is one I want to like, but I don’t (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz7J0yT1S2U).
#7 City – Locked Away ft. Adam Levine (Vague Trap Remix)*: This one is problematic. Not because it’s bad, but more because I don’t really think it’s a Trap remix. That aside, it does add another dimension to a song that I don’t otherwise care for. This one is better than the original but it gets an asterisk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qopzUKdHK4Y).
#8 Selena Gomez – Good For You (Marcus Joseph Trap Remix): In contrast to the last song, this one is very clearly very Trap from the jump. However, it never really hits that dark place it promised at the beginning. It leaves you waiting for a massive drop that never really comes, it just drops back into the song the way it was. I prefer it to the original, but that means very little as I don’t particularly think much of either (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lg30AN8Aw-o).
#9 Omi – Cheerleader (Delax TRAP Remix): This is the first track on the list in which I actively disliked the original. This remix succeeds in irritating me less; so much so that the only parts that I don’t like are the untouched remnants of the original track. It’s definitely a Trap remix, but it still doesn’t go to that dark place I’m looking for, though it dips its feet in it. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9px_s13Q_1k).
#10 Wildest Dreams (Earth Mover Festival Trap Remix): This was a valiant effort, but the positivity of Taylor Swift holds this one back for me. Turning a Swift song into a Trap banger is a tall order, and I was willing to give this the benefit of the doubt. It just didn’t work out. At points it sounds like the original song without any modification, at others the beat noticeably drowns out Swifts voice. These two simply do not blend (https://soundcloud.com/earth-mover/wildest-dreams-earth-mover-festival-trap-remix).
Just because something starts in one place, doesn’t mean that it has to stay there. Such is the case with Trap Music.
What is Trap Music? Dark, banging, heavy hip-hop beats to turn up to. What is real Trap Music? All Trap Music is real Trap Music. Enjoy what you like; take a pass on what you don’t.