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  • [Trap]: Its Commercialization and Changing Subculture

     Written by Laura Peck

    Trap is a now a fusion/hybrid music genre based on use of the 808 Roland drum machine and is characterized by crisp snares, sweeping sub-bass, pitched-down and re-sampled vocals, high-pitched repeating sounds, pipe flutes, synthesized leads (“gunshots”), and various other effects and production techniques, such as sound automation and stereo imaging.  

    Although the style originated many years ago from Southern hip-hop, recently a new wave of Trap has emerged in many new forms. The newer sound of trap music incorporates sounds from various other music genres such as electro, breakbeat, house, and dubstep. Tempos range widely from 135-175bpm, which is uncommon for most major genres of electronic dance music (EDM). 

    The word “Trap” itself comes from the nickname for a designated house or set place for drug dealing. Earliest known examples of Trap producers includes Tay Don (formerly Tay Beatz), Shawty Redd, Zaytoven,  Drumma Boy, Triple Six Mafia, UGK, Swisha House, and Gucci Mane.  As the mid- and late-2000’s progressed, a new crop of producers took over the scene – Mike WiLL Made It, Lex Luger, Southside, Sonny Digital, Lil Lody, Drumma Drama and Young Chop. Trap has been gaining popularity since 2004 due to the release of landmark albums such as T.I.’s Trap Muzik, Young Jeezy’s Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, and Gucci Mane’s Trap House. Another huge explosion in 2012 of new wave trap has brought it to the electronic music scene.

    Photo by Miles Heindrich

    Trap in the past few years may have been seen as an underground form of music, but with this explosion of popularity also came its commercialization. The genre itself and the subculture that is associated with it are changing a great deal as well. Personally, the past several Trap shows I’ve been to (in San Diego, at least) have had a somewhat heavy “thug” feel to them, whereas previously the trap shows I went to were more heavily influenced by more of an EDM “P.L.U.R.” (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect) and neo-Hippie vibe. In general, I associate rap and hip-hop shows with the need for increased security, tension, anger, and violence, so for me personally this has been a negative change. To me, the genre has also recently become a huge “fad” among our generation… and fads and trends eventually go out of style. Unfortunately I have a feeling Trap will fade away within the next several months to couple years and I’m sad to say that because I love it so much.

    I decided to interview some friends of mine who I felt were well-educated about the Trap genre to get their opinions on the subject.The first was PartyWave, or Corey McCarley (soundcloud.com/coreymccarley): “It’s really interesting to see these genres merging. I feel like it’s connecting everyone even more as far as music goes. You know, before, everyone kinda had their OWN ‘style’ of music they were into, or genre they listened to, and didn’t really listen to much else, I know I was one of those people. But in general, Bass Music is Coreytaking over the style in which people are mixing and producing these days… and that’s really fun in my opinion. And as a DJ/Producer myself, I really enjoy coming up with new ideas by mixing genres and styles together. As far as how Trap is changing… it is very much merged with EDM style production nowadays, with big build-ups and breakdowns and drops, it’s almost like bass, dubstep, glitch hop, and Trap all mixed into one (depending on the song of course). There’s no happier or more blood pumping music than EDM, and to incorporate that with Trap and hip-hop, there’s no going wrong for most music listeners. I have been to some Trap shows lately though, and with the ‘new style of Trap’ blowing up all of the sudden, I’ve gotten some weird vibes. Like gangster hip-hop shows in 2003 vibes. Which is weird considering this newer style of Trap is really not like the other style of Trap. Yes, we do use HEAVY 808’s and super grimey beats, but it’s an EDM style is what I’m getting at. So to me, it’s almost 2 completely different genres in a sense… the new style is MUCH less gangster, more musical, not as many lyrics, it’s mostly chopped up vocal samples, a heavy sick beat, and synths. I really like the new style that it is becoming, as long as it doesn’t get too gangster. I think it’s a separate scene for sure and should stay that way, since it’s basically 2 different styles of music.”

    The second person I decided to interview was Ian Xavier of QuitSleep (I feel that QuitSleep was one of the earliest production companies to bring trap to the San Diego nightlife scene): “Hip-hop has always had such a big influence in the music community from as far back as any of us can remember. What many people don’t know is that Trap music has been around for years. With the explosion of EDM Ianit was only a matter of time until ‘TRAP’ made its way into the popular party scene and inadvertently became commercialized. In some ways I look at it as a great thing for the fans of electronic music and the fans of hip-hop it blends the two genres together beautifully and gives both a much needed breath of fresh air. I will always have hip-hop in my heart and support all forms of it.” 

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