The Evolution of Trap Music


by katie malone

The Evolution of Trap Music

Even if you do not know what trap music really is, chances are you’ve heard it at one time or another. If you have heard any of the hits from Future or Gucci Mane, you are already familiar with trap music. But what exactly is trap music? How did it begin? How did it become a mainstay in today’s music industry?

Trap music is an offshoot of hip-hop that was birthed directly from the streets. The term “trap” typically refers to a drug house used for the preparation and sales of narcotics. As such, trap musicians usually rap about slinging dope and drugs. A typical example of trap music is Future’s “Move That Dope”.

The Origin of Trap Music

While trap came into limelight in the ‘90s, it only began to make inroads into mainstream culture in the early 2000s. As it become more acceptable in the 2000s, DJs started producing the quintessential trap tone by fusing synths with crunk music.

The emergence of artists like Young Jeezy, and T.I., The ATLiens helped to increase the popularity of trap music. In fact, T.I.’s second album was titled “Trap Muzik”. Jeezy, on the other hand, demonstrated that trap music had huge potentials with his debut in the music scene. Though his lyrical content is typically gritty, his songs were widely accepted and played on mainstream radio stations across the Third Coast and beyond. However, the debate about who really invented trap music continued to grow.

In recent times, both T.I. and Gucci Mane have staked their claim as inventors of the genre. According to T.I., his 2003 album “Trap Muzik” kick-started the genre now known as trap. Gucci, on the other hand, says the music was brought to the fore in the early to mid-2000s – and without doubt, his 2005 album “Trap House” remains the blueprint modern-day trap rappers refer to more than a decade later. While both have done their bits in the increasing popularity of trap, however, they were not the first rappers to rhyme about drugs, hustling, and pimping.

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To really understand how trap became a music genre, one would have to go back to rap’s early history. Roland, an electronic music instrument manufacturer, released the TR-808 drum machine in 1980. Although the machine did not achieve success initially, it was able to obtain a cult following as it became a staple for hip-hop DJs. The TR-808 serves as reference for today’s hip-hop music – and as it made inroads into the South in the ‘80s, producers were able to determine how to boost its decay knob, which ultimately improved the bass sound. In fact, this effect was put to good use by Miami bass music, particularly the 2 Live Crew with hits such as “Me So Horny” in 1989.

DJ Toomp, an American record producer who worked with the Miami bass music in the South, brought these techniques to the music scene in Atlanta. And just over a decade later, he, in collaboration with T.I. applied these techniques to help define today’s trap sound. Other producers like DJ Paul and Mannie Fresh further revolutionized the trap sound. Some rappers and producers worked together, and began to establish what is now known as trap music.

Over the years, more rappers and producers have entered the scene and done their bits. New artists have continued to emerge, taking after the stalwarts and exploring the trap sound. Trap music maintains a strong presence in hip-hop today, becoming its most popular subgenre. The likes of Young Thug and Future keep the trap flag flying high, and the break-out of new artists like Lil Uzi Vert and 21 Savage has helped to build on the styles of Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy before them.

In 2015, Fetty Wap, one of the newcomers in the industry, conquered the charts with his hit single “Trap Queen” which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. He also followed up this feat with another trap hit “My Way”, which also made it to the Top 20 on Billboard. And in 2015, Drake joined Future to produce a trap sound. This is proof of the staying power of trap music.

While individuals have had massive influence on what is now known as trap music today, the movement is deeper than the efforts of anyone. Trap has no true inventor. Without the efforts of artists like Gucci and T.I., trap would not be what it is today, but it would also be nothing without the influence of the many rappers and producers that came before and after them.