Trap music is a music genre that originated in the early 2000s from Southern hip hop in the Southern United States. 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, pitched-down vocals, layered synthesizers, and "cinematic" strings.
In 2012, a new movement of electronic music producers and DJs emerged who began incorporating elements of trap music into their works. 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.
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, pitched down vocals, double-time, triple-time and similarly divided hi-hats, and a cinematic and symphonic utilization of string and keyboard instruments creating an overall dark, harsh, grim and bleak background feeling for the listener.
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, 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.
2000s: Origins and entrance into mainstream music
The term "trap" was literally used to refer to the place where drug deals are made. Fans and critics started to refer to rappers whose primary lyrical topic was drug dealing, as "trap rappers." 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."
UGK and Three 6 Mafia were among the first rappers to introduce trap music. The lyrics covered topics about life in "the trap", drug dealing and the struggle for success. Local Southern rappers, such as Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane 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.
In 2003, trap began to emerge after the success of a number of albums and singles released at the time. T.I.'s second studio album Trap Muzik 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. In 2005, the first wave trap music broke in the mainstream with the release of Young Jeezy's Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101. 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. Some of the first wave of trap producers include Drumma Boy, Shawty Redd, Zaytoven and DJ Toomp.
2010s: The Second Wave
In 2010, the second wave of various trap records reached the mainstream hip-hop charts across the United States. 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".
Since 2010, Luger's signature trap sound has been well known for his heavy use of hard hitting 808's, crisp snares, frantic synth keys, and rhythmic Danny Elfman-like bombastic ominous orchestration of brass, stringed, woodwind and keyboard instruments throughout his productions. 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. 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).
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. 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. The sound of trap producer Lex Luger's music is a major influence on drill, and Young Chop identified Shawty Redd, Drumma Boy and Zaytoven as important precursors to the drill movement.
"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."
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. 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. The song reached the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100 by the end of January 2014.
In December 2013, French DJ and producer DJ Snake released the song "Turn Down for What", ft. Lil Jon, which is notable for being the most successful fully trap song to date, reaching Number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2014.
In 2012, new styles and developments of electronic music which incorporated elements of trap music, such as "acid trap", "trap-ah-ton", and "trapstep" began gaining popularity. Most of these sub-genres combined trap-style drum patterns with EDM synths, creating "dirty, aggressive beats [and] dark melodies." 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.
In the later half of 2012, these new offshoots of trap developed gaining viral popularity and made a noticeable impact on electronic dance music. 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. The new wave of the genre has been labeled by some as EDM trap to distinguish it from the rap genre. 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.
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. Five popular EDM trap producers performed at the 2013 Ultra Music Festival in the United States - Carnage, ƱZ, DJ Craze, Baauer and Flosstradamus. The 2013 Tomorrowland festival featured a "Trap Stage".