Trap Music: The new dubstep?

In a classic case of social media outrage, Chicago duo Flosstradamus placed this status on their Facebook page in June: “People already calling this trap shit a ‘fad’, calling it the next dubstep or whatevs. Fuck all that nerd shit, let’s just have fun, damn!” It was a statement that captures the mood around trap music’s rapid rise in America and its building momentum down under. But what does trap music mean for dance music, and does it really have the potential to become the next dubstep?

Traditionally, trap music is the term used to describe hip-hop from the Southern region of America. The name derives from such rappers’ tendency to sell drugs from spots known as “trap houses.” Syrup-sippin’, cadillac-cruisin’ artists like UGK are often cited as the forefathers of the style, and Atlanta veteran T.I. even named his 2003 album Trap Muzik.

Notably, trap has become largely identified with a more intense brand of hip-hop, where these Southern trademarks have been amplified both lyrically and production-wise. Rappers such as Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame have taken drug and thug bravado to almost cartoonish levels, spitting over a backdrop of snares, hi-hats and brooding synths. The producer behind many of these riot-inducing beats is Lex Luger, who is often credited with popularising the modern trap sound. But the formula may be growing tired, as Luger himself told the NY Times in 2011 that “everybody’s trapped in the trap sound.. I’m trying to get out.”

One only needs to look at 16-year-old rapper Chief Keef to see how big the phenomenon has become. His brash trap banger I Don’t Like went viral earlier in 2012, and was picked up by Kanye West for an official remix. After being scouted by every label from Cash Money to Grand Hustle, the teenager recently inked a deal with Interscope. The track’s producer, Young Chop, signed with Warner Bros.

So while trap music is a label identifiable with hip-hop, it has also been used increasingly to describe EDM producers taking influence from the Southern rap sound. RL Grime, Baauer and the Hudson Mohawke/Lunice project TNGHT are just some artists being slapped with the term. Locally, Spenda C of The Mane Thing has been waving the trap flag with pride in his production.

Some have criticised the growing EDM adoption, and comparisons with the explosion of dubstep are already starting to roll in. The intense hatred directed at Skrillex suggests that older dubstep fans mourn the loss of intricate production in favour of noisy brostep tracks. Similarly, many feel that these dance artists have only drawn from the trap hits of recent years, while ignoring the innovators of the sound. In an interview with Motherboard, producer Lotic described the current situation as “de-contextualised. A lot of the sounds and ideas in trap can be traced back pretty far, but people are only going back a few years for ‘inspiration’. It’s just really clear that there’s a lot of bandwagoning rather than real appreciation.”

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