The Wikipedia definition of “trap” 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 trademark sound, which incorporates 808 sub-bass kick drums, double-time, triple-time and other faster time division hi-hats, layered synthesizers, and “cinematic” strings.” Most trap connoisseurs would probably agree that the genre officially broke the dam in the dance music scene in 2012 with Flosstradamus’ remix of Major Lazer’s Original Don. Then, it officially exploded into the so-called “mainstream” in February of 2013 with the release of the infamous Harlem Shake YouTube video.
Fast-forward to today. What is public opinion on trap? Broadly speaking, it seems that most dance fans believe it is a genre that will eventually experience a decline similar to the likes of dubstep and moombahton (no offense to those of you who are still into that). Trap is generally considered to be a a short-lived, hyped-up fad that’s had it’s moment in the spotlight, and now, it’s on to the next one. Well, I am here, with the support of an expert panel, to prove that theory undoubtedly false.
On March 21, Avalon Nightclub in Los Angeles hosted a sold-out CONTROL extravaganza featuring trap favorites LOUDPVCK and gLAdiator spinning together as GLADPVCK, Branchez, Milo & Otis, and Sam Hiller. There, I had the opportunity to interview Samuel Kopelman (Branchez), Kenny Beats and Ryan Marks (LOUDPVCK), as well as Danl Goodman and Ian Johnson (gLAdiator). As producers who would typically be placed under the “trap” umbrella, they were very happy to weigh in with their thoughts on the past, present, and current state of the genre. Below are the top three reasons why trap, when defined by its characteristic technical production elements, is here to stay.
1. Trap was born from hip hop, and hip hop will never die (sorry, Nas).
Samuel (Branchez): A lot of my influence is also R&B, hip hop, and soul. I always liked the heavy percussion, the heavy club presence. So I kind of fused all of that and made what comes naturally to me.
Kenny (LOUDPVCK): I think it’s similar for gLAdiator and LOUDPVCK, in that one of us was really hip hop-involved and one of us was EDM-involved. It’s kind of funny because that’s quintessential to what the genre is, and it took becoming a duo to cover both ends of the spectrum, for it to be organic.
2. Those considered to be trap artists, just like the genre itself, are constantly evolving.
Danl (gLAdiator): Our last year of releases has been really dynamic, and I think that’s because we’re still searching for this unique sound. We want to find that quality of our music that’s strictly gLAdiator.
Ian (gLAdiator): In the beginning, there were certain tropes of trap, high hats, 808s, snare rolls, whatever. Our early trap stuff has a lot of that kind of stuff, but we over time have definitely explored new sounds and developed ours.
Ryan (LOUDPVCK): I didn’t listen to a lot of dance music growing up because it wasn’t the popular music here in America when I was the age that our fans are today. And then when the genres started to blend I will always remember the day, when I was sitting in my boxers in my bed and heard Harlem Shake, and a light switch flipped off in my head. It gave an in for hip hop elements in dance music, and that for me is crucial. Even if we make deep house, it’s always going to have the “trappy” elements, which is what influenced us since the beginning.
3. In just a span of two years, the genre has branched out exponentially in terms of various artists and productions styles, and this trend will continue.
Samuel (Branchez): People have taken it to all these different routes, but with a similar sound and tempo. I take a similar approach with percussion as a lot of the trap guys, but I do it with more melodic pop and R&B sensibility. What ties me in with all these cats is the percussion.
Ryan (LOUDPVCK): Now it’s branched out so far with all these different people like Branchez and What So Not. That isn’t “trap music;” it’s just half-time dance music. That’s what dubstep is too. The kids who are really good producers who have their own sound are going to keep elements of this, but they’re going to make whatever they want. What is important is to get away from compartmentalizing things and labeling things.
Ian (gLAdiator): This is just a springboard for people to find an avenue to explore the kind of sh*t they want to do.
Danl (gLAdiator): Yeah, trap is just a placeholder in general for all genres.
There you have it folks. Essentially, the misconception lies in the assumption that trap is a specific category of music with a definitive, unvarying sound. Upon closer inspection of the origins of trap and how it has evolved throughout the years, it becomes clear that its versatility will only continue infiltrating various styles and genres in the upcoming years.
Kenny concluded very eloquently with a simple truth: “Artists, not genres.” Let’s just let the music do the talking.