Trap (music)

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Trap music is a music genre that originated in the Early 1990s from Southern hip hop in the Southern United States.[1][2] It is typified by its aggressive lyrical content and sound, which incorporates 808 sub-bass kick drums, double-time, triple-time and other faster time division hi-hats,[3] layered synthesizers, and "cinematic" strings.[4][5]

In 2012, a new movement of electronic music producers and DJs emerged who began incorporating elements of trap music into their works.[6] This helped expand its popularity among electronic music fans. A number of stylistic offshoots of trap developed, which in the latter half of 2012 gained a rise in viral popularity and made a noticeable impact on dance music.


An example of Shawty Redd's signature trap sound.

Trap music incorporates an extensive use of multi-layered hard-lined and melodic synthesizers, crisp, grimy and rhythmic snares, deep 808 sub-bass kick drums, double-time, triple-time and similarly divided hi-hats, and a cinematic and symphonic utilization of string, brass and keyboard instruments creating an overall dark, harsh, grim and bleak background feeling for the listener.[4][5][7][8] This would go on to be the signature sound and feeling of trap music originating from producer Shawty Redd.

Trap music is also defined by its bleak, gritty and belligerent lyrical content, ominous characteristics which widely varies depending on the hip hop artist but typical lyrical themes include observations of street life, poverty, violence, and hardship in the "trap" and harsh experiences urban surroundings that the rapper is trying to lyrically portray to the listener. Other trap lyrical themes include crime, drug dealing, partying, sex, jail, religion, violence, weapons, gangs, social issues, family, friends, personal emotions and feelings, nihilism, business, music industry changes, rebellion, resentment, profanity, racism, consciousness, life, death, politics, materialism, and wealth.[8]


1990s - 2000s: Origins and entrance into mainstream music[edit]

T.I.'s Trap Muzik album cover

The term "trap" was literally used to refer to the place where drug deals are made and how it is difficult to escape the lifestyle. The term originated in Atlanta, Georgia where rappers Cool Breeze, Outkast, Goodie Mob and Ghetto Mafia were some of the first to use the term in their music. Fans and critics started to refer to rappers whose primary lyrical topic was drug dealing, as "trap rappers."[4] David Drake of Complex wrote that "the trap in the early 2000s wasn't a genre, it was a real place", and the term was later adopted to describe the "music made about that place."[9]

In the early 1990s, rappers UGK, 8Ball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia, Cool Breeze, Kilo Ali, Master P, and Ghetto Mafia were among the first rappers to introduce trap music. In 1992, UGK's "Pocket Full of Stones" was one of the first trap records to be released from their major-label debut album Too Hard to Swallow. It was also featured in the 1993 film Menace II Society. The lyrics covered topics about life in "the trap", drug dealing and the struggle for success.[5] Local Southern rappers, such as Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti and T.I., as well as his rap group P$C, helped expand the popularity of the genre and trap records started to appear on local mixtapes and radio stations.[2]

During the 2000s, trap began to emerge after the success of a number of albums and singles released at the time. In 2003, the first wave of trap music broke into mainstream with the release of T.I.'s second studio album Trap Muzik. It achieved major commercial success, selling over 2.1 million copies. The album's lead single, "24's", was featured on EA's popular video game Need for Speed: Underground. T.I. explained that "It's informative for people who don't know nothing about that side of life and wonder why somebody they know that live on that side of life act the way they do or do the things they do." In 2005, the first wave continued with the success of Young Jeezy's Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101.[1] The album debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, with 172,000 copies sold in its first week of release and was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of over 1 million copies. The album also popularized producer Shawty Redd after creating the original signature trap sound. Some of the first wave of trap producers include DJ Toomp, Drumma Boy, Shawty Redd, Zaytoven and D. Rich.[9]

2010s: The Second Wave[edit]

Lex Luger (Producer)

In 2010, the second wave of various trap records reached the mainstream hip-hop charts across the United States.[2] Producer Lex Luger broke out of relative obscurity, gained huge popularity, and went on to produce more than 200 songs between 2010 and 2011, including a number of popular artists' singles, such as Rick Ross' "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)", Kanye West and Jay-Z's "H•A•M", and Waka Flocka Flame's "Hard in da Paint".[2][4][10][11]

Since 2010, Luger's signature trap sound has been his heavy use of hard-hitting 808's, crisp snares, frantic synth keys, and bombastic orchestration of ominous brass, strings, woodwinds and keyboards.[8] His sounds have since been widely adopted by rap producers, trying to replicate his success, and he is often credited with popularizing the second wave modern trap sound.[4] Since the 2010s, the second wave of modern trap producers along with Lex Luger have gained popularity, most notably 808 Mafia, Southside, Sonny Digital and Young Chop. Some producers expanded their range to other genres, such as R&B (Mike WiLL Made It) and electronic music (AraabMuzik).[3]

In 2012, trap songs kept maintaining a strong presence on the mainstream hip hop charts with records released by rappers such as Chief Keef and Future went viral.[2] Future's single, "Turn On The Lights", was certified gold and entered at #50 on the "Billboard" Hot 100 while Keef's "I Don't Like" and "Love Sosa" garnered over 30 million views on YouTube, also spawned a new sub-genre within trap called drill. Music critics called drill production style the "sonic cousin to skittish footwork, southern-fried hip-hop and the 808 trigger-finger of trap." Young Chop is frequently identified by critics as the genre's most characteristic producer.[12][13][14] The sound of trap producer Lex Luger's music is a major influence on drill,[13][15] and Young Chop identified Shawty Redd, Drumma Boy and Zaytoven as important precursors to the drill movement.[14]

"I Don't Like" inspired notable hip hop producer and rapper Kanye West to create a remix of the song, which was included on his label GOOD Music's compilation album Cruel Summer. Stelios Phili of "GQ" called trap music "the sound of hip hop in 2012."[1]

American dance-pop singer Lady Gaga recorded a trap-inspired song titled "Jewels 'n Drugs" for her 2013 album Artpop, featuring rappers T.I., Too Short and Twista. The combination of pop and trap music was met with mixed responses from critics.[16][17] In September 2013, American pop singer Katy Perry released a song titled "Dark Horse" featuring rapper Juicy J, from her 2013 album Prism, that incorporated trap flavors.[18][19] The song reached the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100 by the end of January 2014.[20] "Dark Horse" also reached the pinnacle of charts in Canada, the Netherlands and Russia.

Electronic developments[edit]

An example of EDM with trap inspired elements. (credit: Arabian Riches by Audial)

In 2012, new styles and developments of electronic music which incorporated elements of trap music, such as "trap house", "trap-ah-ton", and "trapstep" began gaining popularity.[21] Most of these sub-genres combined trap-style drum patterns with EDM synths,[4] creating "dirty, aggressive beats [and] dark melodies."[21] Electronic producers, such as Diplo, TNGHT, Baauer, Flosstradamus, RL Grime, and Yellow Claw expanded the popularity of these developments of trap music, gaining the attention of electronic music fans.[22]

In the later half of 2012, these new offshoots of trap developed gaining viral popularity and made a noticeable impact on electronic dance music.[22] The music was initially dubbed simply as "trap" by producers and fans, which led to the term "trap" being used to address the music of both rappers and electronic producers, to much confusion among followers of both. Instead of referring to a single genre, the term "trap" has been used to describe two separate genres of rap and dance music.[9] The new wave of the genre has been labeled by some as EDM trap to distinguish it from the rap genre.[21][22][23] The evolving EDM trap has seen incorporations and stylistic influences from dubstep, with Rebecca Haithcoat of LA Weekly stating "You could basically call it the next phase of dubstep. It plays at a club-ready 140 bpm while retaining dubstep's craze-inducing drops" and it is continuing to grow in popularity.[24]

In 2013, a fan-made video of electronic trap producer Baauer's track "Harlem Shake" became an internet meme, propelling the track to become the first trap song to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[25] Five popular EDM trap producers performed at the 2013 Ultra Music Festival in the United States - Carnage, ƱZ, DJ Craze, Baauer and Flosstradamus.[21] The 2013 Tomorrowland festival featured a "Trap Stage".

On February 10, 2013, All Trap Music released their debut compilation album which featured 19 tracks from artists such as RL Grime, Flosstradamus, Baauer, Bro Safari, Buku, 12th Planet, Hucci and UZ. Described by the music press as the first album of its kind [26][27] it reached number two in the iTunes dance chart with Vibe Magazine stating it was “the world’s biggest selling trap album ever.” [24]


  1. ^ a b c Phili, Stelios. "Fighting Weight: From the Trap to the Treadmill". GQ. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "The trap phenomenon explained". DJ Mag. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Quit Screwing with Trap Music: An Interview with Houston-Born Producer Lōtic Vice > Motherboard
  4. ^ a b c d e f Raymer, Miles. "Who owns trap?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Joseph Patterson (January 19, 2013). "Trap Music: The Definitive Guide". Topman. Sabotage Times. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  6. ^ Caroline Cantrall. Into the AM Retrieved April 11, 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ It's a Trap! An 11-Part History of Trap Music, From DJ Screw to Gucci Mane to Flosstradamus Miami New Times
  8. ^ a b c Alex Pappademas (November 4, 2011). "Lex Luger Can Write a Hit Rap Song in the Time It Takes to Read This". NY Times. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Drake, David. "The Commodification of Southern Rap's Drug-Fueled Subgenre". Complex. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  10. ^ Rob Markman (08/03/2011). "‘Watch The Throne’ Shines Light On And Up And Coming Producers". Retrieved 12 April 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Patrick Lyons (February 12, 2014). "Behind The Boards Producer Profile: Lex Luger". Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  12. ^ "Hip-Hop in 2013... for Dummies (Part 2: The Producers)". Fact. April 19, 2013. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Battan, Carrie (December 28, 2012). "One Nation Under Drill". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Cho, Jaeki (February 7, 2013). "Young Chop Talks Lex Luger, Chief Keef, and Studio Habits". XXL. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  15. ^ Delerme, Felipe (August 21, 2012). "Chief Keef: Lost Boys". The Fader. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Lady Gaga Artpop". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2013-11-07. 
  17. ^ "Lady Gaga 'ARTPOP' review: What's the verdict?". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2013-11-07. 
  18. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (September 6, 2013). "Katy Perry's 'Prism' Album Preview: 10 Things You Need To Know". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Listen: Katy Perry goes trap with Juicy J on "Dark Horse"". Consequence of Sound. September 17, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  20. ^ Trust, Gary. "Katy Perry's 'Dark Horse' Gallops to No. 1 on Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  21. ^ a b c d Bein, Kat. "Top Five Trap Stars at Ultra Music Festival 2013". Miami New Times. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c "What is Trap Music? Trap Music Explained". Run The Trap. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  23. ^ Isenberg, Daniel. "The Top 10 EDM Trap Tunes So Far". Complex. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  24. ^ a b "'What the hell is Trap music (And why is Dubstep involved)'". LA Weekly. 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  25. ^ Wagner, David (February 13, 2013). "The Harlem Shake Meme Is Dead". The Atlantic Wire. The Atlantic Monthly Group. Archived from the original on February 19, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  26. ^ Herr, Lindsay (2014-08-14). "All Trap Music Mini Mix". Earmilk. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  27. ^ "V Premiere: "All Trap Music" Minimix from AEI". Vibe. 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2014-08-18.