Trap music is a subgenre of hip-hop and rap music that originated in the Southern United States in the early 90s.
The term trap originates from the streets, which refer to a place where drugs are manufactured and sold. That’s why trap artists sing about drugs, for example, “Move That Dope” by Future.
However, the content of trap music is not limited to the subject of drugs. Some trap artists also sing about the miserable living standards in the streets.
These artists detail their observations of how life is in the streets. Trap music also makes some catchy party tunes—especially in neighborhoods where drugs are sold.
To break it down in simpler terms, we can answer the question ‘what is trap music’ as the combination of:
- 1/3 hip-hop (the song and temp structure are similar, as most tunes have an average of 70 – 150 bpm) – but the vocals of trap music are mostly pitched down.
- 1/3 dub – low-frequency focus and constant emphasis on repetitiveness throughout the track.
- 1/3 dance music – hardstyle sampling, high-pitched synth tunes, and a variety of trap tunes remixed with common EDM songs.
Table of Contents
- Key Features Of Trap Music
- The Origin of Trap Music
- The Evolution of Trap Music
- EDM Trap
- Trap in Pop
- Latin Trap
- Trap in K-Pop
- Top Trap Music Artists
- 21 Savage
- Travis Scott
- Young Thug
- Tip 10 Trap Songs of All Time
- 1. “Harlem Shake” by Baauer
- 2. “Trap Queen” (Crankdat Remix) by Fetty Wap
- 3. “Lemonade” by Gucci Mane
- 4. “White Iverson” by Post Malone
- 5. “Exchange” by Bryson Tiller
- 6. “Life Is Good” by Future ft. Drake
- 7. “Versace” by Migos
- 8. “Trap Shit V13” by UZ
- 9. “Feel It” by Three 6 Mafia & Tiësto ft. Sean Kingston & Flo Rida
- 10. “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar
- What is Trap Music – Final Thoughts
Key Features Of Trap Music
There’s a notable difference between trap music and traditional hip-hop music. Unlike hip-hop, trap music uses synthesized drums.
Additionally, most parts of trap tracks have long delays, tuned drum kicks, technical hi-hat patterns, and very few instrumentals other than snare drums and hi-hats (double or triple-timed).
Most trap music’s lyrical content centers around life around the trap. That is violence, street life, and getting money. Also, the artist can choose to incorporate their life experiences into the music.
Generally, trap music has a fast tempo, which has a certain range. For instance, a track can be programmed to 180 bpm but tuned to as low as 75 bpm. However, a typical trap music tune plays at 140 bpm.
The Origin of Trap Music
In the early 90s, rappers Master P, Ghetto Mafia, Cool Breeze, UGK, Kilo Ali, Three 6 Mafia, and 8Ball & MJG were the first to introduce trap music.
UGK released their first trap record, “Pocket Full of Stones”, in 1992. The track was part of their debut album, Too Hard to Swallow, and was featured in the 1993 movie Menace II Society.
Master P released “Mr. Ice Cream Man” in 1996. The track’s lyrics talked about drug dealing, the struggles for success, and how life in “the trap” is.
Local rappers like Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy, T.I., and Yo Gotti helped popularize trap music, and records of this music genre started to appear on local radio stations and mixtapes.
Trap music started to become popular in the early 2000s after the success of several singles and albums released in that period.
In 2003, trap music broke into the mainstream after T.I. released his second studio album, Trap Muzik. This was one of his best albums, hitting over 2.1 million copies sold.
The popularity of Trap music continued in 2005 when Young Jeezy released his album Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. This was among his most successful works, debuting at number two on the US Billboard 200.
The album sold over 170,000 copies within one week of its release. Later, the Recording Industry Association of America Certified the album platinum after Young Jeezy shipped over 1 million copies.
Young Jeezy’s album also promoted Shawty Redd, the producer behind the original trap sound. Other producers who helped popularize trap music include Drumma Boy, DJ Toomp, D. Rich, and Zaytoven.
The Evolution of Trap Music
In 2012, trap music underwent a major transition. A new generation of electronic music DJs and producers emerged and started adding some elements of trap music into electronic music.
This group helps expand trap music’s popularity among electronic music lovers.
Trap and crunk music was played on almost every dance floor in Europe. The music was popularized by DJs like Hudson Mohawke, Hollertronix (Low Bee and Diplo), Jackmaster, Rustie, Lunice, and Sinden.
In 2013, numerous unique offshoots of trap music developed, which further increased the popularity of trap music and significantly impacted electronic dance music.
The electronic dance music beat has the typical sound of a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Also, it has the build-ups and breakdowns common in electronic music.
Electronic dance music and trap blends are one of the most successful combos that have introduced a new energetic sound into clubs.
This has seen EDM and hip-hop producers working alongside artists and DJs in the two genres to create some of the most captivating EDM Trap tracks. A good example of such a track is “Turn Down for What”, created by Lil Jon and DJ Snake.
Other popular EDM Trap tracks include “Higher Ground” by TNGHT, “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, “Came Up” by Flosstradamus, and “Tell Me” by RL Grime.
What sets EDM Trap from typical trap music is the electronic approach that producers are using.
The most notable difference, in this case, is the use of Roland TR-808 drum beats found in electro, techno, and dub genres in the music.
Trap in Pop
The popularity of trap music can be credited to other genres, which give it its distinctive rhythm and sound.
Trap music trends are evident in pop music tracks like “Jewels N’ Drugs” by Lady Gaga ft. T.I., Too Short, and Twista.
Another example of a trap in pop music is the “Dark Horse” track by Katy Perry ft. Juicy J.
In the past few years, there has been a rise in the number of pop artists who’ve embraced the idea of adding a trap to their music.
Some of these artists include Taylor Swift (End Game), Halsey (Without Me), Selena Gomez (Fetish), Lauren Jauregui (More Than That), Why Don’t We (What Am I), and Ellie Goulding (Close To Me).
However, Ariana Grande might be the Pop-R&B artist who’s incorporated trap beats in most of her songs. This is evident in her album, Sweetener, where most tracks have trap sounds.
Also, many R&B artists have incorporated triple trap high-hats and bass lines to create a distinguishing beat and mix it with modern R&B. Such beats can be heard in the homonymous album released by Beyoncé in 2013.
Latin trap originated in Puerto Rico and was inspired by the original trap music from Atlanta and local Dembow and reggaeton genres.
In terms of content, Latin trap has a lot of similarities with the original trap music. The lyrics of Latin Rap speak about drugs, violence, sex, and street lifestyle.
Latin trap was born after reggaeton artists decided to connect their Spanish audiences with American R&B and hip-hop. They did this by incorporating elements of these two genres into their songs.
Other than the defining trap beats, Latin trap music includes a blend of rapping and singing in Spanish, with the overuse of autotune.
Over time, the Latin trap has become common among most Latin rappers. Pioneer Latin trap artists De La Ghetto, Arcángel, and Anuel AA have worked hard to expand this genre to other Latin American countries and Spain.
In the late 2010s, other Latin trap artists, including J Balvin and Bad Bunny, started to appear. These two artists performed Latin trap in the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show alongside J. Lo and Shakira.
However, most people have criticized the Latin trap because of its explicit and aggressive lyrics. But regardless of that, Bad Bunny is one of the best Latin trap artists.
He was also listed as one of the most influential artists in 2021. In addition, Bad Bunny has been on Spotify’s Top Global Artists list since 2020.
Trap in K-Pop
Trap music has influenced not only the music industry in America and Latin America but also the South Korean music industry.
K-Pop trap has become very popular in South Korea and is now paving its way slowly into the west.
Popular South Korean duo Taeyang and G-Dragon released “Good Boy,” a K-Pop trap hit. Most people compare this song to Lil Jon and DJ Snake’s hit “Turn Down for What”.
Another South Korean group, BIGBANG, released an EDM Trap track, “Bang, Bang, Bang,” which also became a hit in South Korea.
Other South Korean artists who have released K-Pop trap include 2NE1 (Come Back Home) and the popular girl group BLACKPINK (DDU-DU DDU-DU).
Unlike Latin trap which is influenced by the original trap music genre, K-Pop trap is influenced by EDM trap.
However, all the elements that define trap music are evident in K-Pop trap.
Top Trap Music Artists
Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., whose stage name is T.I., is an American rapper, producer, and actor. T.I. is one of the artists who helped trap get mainstream attention.
The artist started exploring the world of rap music and writing his lyrics at the age of 8.
He dropped out of school in his early teenage years and started abusing drugs. This led to an addiction problem that T.I. struggled with it for decades.
Also, T.I. was a troublesome kid, to the extent that he was jailed multiple times by the time he was 14.
However, his love for music kept him going during this period. T.I. started producing mixtapes when he was 16 years with the assistance of his friends, and he would sell the mixtapes from his car trunk.
T.I. signed his first major record deal with LaFace Records in 1999, which was a defining moment for his music career. He constantly released great music, to the point where most people started comparing him to Jay-Z.
With other Atlanta rappers, T.I. created a group called Pimp Squad Click and started his record label, Grand Hustle Records. Since then, T.I. has released 9 studio albums, with 7 of them featuring in the top 5 of the US Billboard 200.
The tracks that T.I. has collaborated on with Lil Wayne have proved to be some of the greatest hits of his music career. In addition to that, his singles featuring other artists have helped him become more popular among rap music fans.
In 2008, T.I. was awarded a gold certificate for his 6th studio album, Paper Trail, and received three Grammy Awards for different music categories.
However, despite all his success and fame, things haven’t been easy for T.I., as he has been involved in many controversies.
Other than singing, T.I. is also a good novelist and actor. His novels, Trouble and Triumph and Power and Beauty, have been somehow successful and have a strong theme and language.
He has been featured in movies like American Gangster, Ant-Man, Get Hard, Identity Thief, and Takers.
Mariel Semonte Orr adopted Trouble as his stage name because of the hardships he faced in the streets of Atlanta. Trouble’s reputation isn’t a joke. He has been arrested for several crimes, including armed robbery, kidnapping, and armed robbery.
Trouble signed his first record deal with Duct Tape Entertainment just before he was imprisoned for the first time.
The artist spent most of his time in jail writing songs and perfecting his lyrical skills and creativity.
After being released from prison, Trouble signed with another record label, Eardruma, which helped propel his music career.
In June 2022, Trouble was shot and killed at an apartment complex in Georgia. He left a legacy for his music that described the tenacious side of life in Atlanta.
During his career, rapper Trouble worked with famous artists like 2 Chainz, The Weekend, TFN Lucci, Gucci Mane, and Yo Gotti.
Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, also known as 21 Savage, is an artist who has influenced trap music. 21 Savage is a songwriter, rapper, and producer who commands respect in the music industry.
Not only does 21 Savage release hit after hit, but his life also reflects the street lifestyle and cultural roots of trap and hip-hop.
21 Savage was born in London and moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was 7. Since then, he has adopted the hip-hop culture and lifestyle of the city.
He got his first mainstream attention in 2015 after releasing “The Slaughter Tape”.
In 2016, he produced an EP titled Savage Mode with Metro Boomin, which elevated his music career further. Throughout his music career, 21 Savage has partnered with popular artists like Drake, Post Malone, and Future.
In 2017, he featured Post Malone in his single “Rockstar”, which is one of his most famous hits. Since then, the rapper has continued to shine in his music career.
Bermon Webster II, who uses Travis Scott as his stage name, is a renowned artist who has made notable contributions to the music industry. The artist has been making headlines thanks to his stellar music career.
In the past few years, he has become one of the most frequently played rappers on most radio stations in America.
He was given his stage name by his uncle, Kid Cudi, who’s also an artist. Travis Scott says that his uncle was among the few people who inspired him to become the rapper he is today.
The rapper has built a reputation in the mainstream for over a decade.
This came after he signed his first major record label deal with Epic records. Travis has made songs with popular artists like Young Thug, M.I.A, and Quavo. “Antidote” is one of the popular hits he released in 2015.
His music career skyrocketed in 2018 after releasing “Sicko Mode” featuring Drake.
In 2020, Travis Scott became the first American artist on the Hot 100 to have 3 singles debut at the top of the Billboard chart within one year.
Travis has been nominated for 8 Grammy awards and has won both a Billboard Music Award and Latin Grammy Award.
Jefferey Lamar Williams, aka Young Thug, was born in August 1991 and has become one of the most influential trap and hip-hop music artists.
His unusual eccentric vocal style tends to stray from traditional trap music and has been criticized for being intelligible.
On the other hand, most music enthusiasts love Young Thug’s unique vocal style, as it sets him apart from other artists. Young Thug’s voice is distinctive, and he uses an experimental approach when singing.
One of his most notable approaches is how he warps and distresses his voice while adding catchy and lyrical hooks.
The rapper started his career by releasing mixtapes in 2011. In 2013, he furthered his musical career when he signed with 1017 records. After that, he released his debut label mixtape, which he named 1017 thug.
His unpredictable charisma and eccentric style have put him in the limelight of the media and set him apart from other artists in the industry.
Young Thug is often seen wearing kids-size dresses, skintight jeans, and painted fingernails, which makes his fashion sense unusual.
In addition to his music career, Young Thug has built quite a reputation thanks to his philanthropic pursuits. In 2016, the artist joined the #fightpovertyagain campaign, where he made donations to Planned Parenthood.
Although all of Young Thug’s mixtapes have been a hit, one of them, “Barter 6,” has performed exceptionally well. The mixtape was ranked #22 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
Additionally, “Picacho”, which is his most famous single, featured in the top 100 tracks in both Pitchfork and Rolling Stone.
The rapper’s song “Stoner” hit the headlines again in 2014. This came after Wale produced an authorized remix of the song.
Wale’s remix grabbed a lot of attention to the extent that Young Thug’s original track started appearing again on different music charts.
Tip 10 Trap Songs of All Time
1. “Harlem Shake” by Baauer
Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” is a track that best embodies the sonic shift witnessed during trap music’s crossover into electronic dance music.
Baauer released this song while studying to become an audio engineer.
The song has an erratic mechanical bass line, harsh snares, electro-house synth riffs, vocal samples, and growling lion sounds that took the world by storm.
The song inspired a viral dance challenge, also named Harlem Shake, which saw TV personalities, army squadrons, and NBA players, to name a few, take part in the challenge.
“Harlem Shake” conquered global music charts and landed the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. This happened when YouTube streaming data was combined with chart figures for the first time.
2. “Trap Queen” (Crankdat Remix) by Fetty Wap
Fetty Wap’s infamous remix of “Crankdat” puts you in that spot between hip-hop trap and contemporary synth music.
“Trap Queen” with its underrated beat and unforgettable lyrics, is a great track for parties and late-night drives.
The song went viral in 2015, as it was played in almost every place, from street corners to clubs.
Its lyrics are very memorable and will always find a place in your head and stick there.
People say they find many similarities in this tune, and casual listeners get hooked by its modern-trap-inspired lyrics.
The good thing about these classic hits reinvented by EDM artists is that they always bring people together.
This song has an uplifting vibe and appeals to a large audience who appreciate trap music and EDM.
3. “Lemonade” by Gucci Mane
Gucci Mane, who helped pioneer trap music in the mid-2000s, came into the limelight in 2005 when he released his first album Trap House.
Although fans recognized his insightful impact on trap music early on, it took the mainstream audience a while to embrace his music.
Gucci got his commercial breakthrough in 2009 after releasing “Lemonade”.
This track saw him briefly switch from his dark soundscapes and truculent street tales to something shinier.
With the assistance of Bangladesh, known for icy schoolyard chants and staccato pianos, Gucci added a layer of luminous gloss to this track, which would later trap the music industry.
4. “White Iverson” by Post Malone
This song doesn’t get old and is considered one of Malone’s best hits.
Post Malone is a legendary hip-hop artist, who brings a deep and indicative vibe in the song’s lyrics, “White Iverson, when I started ballin’ I was young, you gon’ think about me when I’m gone, I need that money like the ring I never won, I won.”
His voice is of a person who has seen the highs and lows of being a superstar.
This is something you can feel in the heavy and dreamy tone of “White Iverson”. It seems like Malone is explaining his life and emotions in this song, something he does very well.
The song also has an amazing video, representing how the trap has affected the soul of Post Malone.
The song perfectly represents the ideal blend of hip-hop and chill trap.
“White Iverson” has dimension and calmness at the same time.
With high notes, kicks, attitude, and soul, the track has everything you need.
Every song Malone drops is a classic, and “White Iverson” is one of his best tracks.
5. “Exchange” by Bryson Tiller
Bryson Tiller helped spearhead a new sound in contemporary R&B in the mid-2010s, inspired by the rebirth of contemporary trap music.
The artist left a mark in contemporary trap music with his first album Trapsoul.
In this album, Bryson combined trap beats and liquid tunes with explicit lyrics about love and sex, which he delivered in a hybrid format of singing and rapping.
6. “Life Is Good” by Future ft. Drake
This is a hip-hop trap track that takes us down memory lane.
Drake opens up in this track with his typical lyrical flow, “Workin’” on the weekend like usual, Way off in the deep end like usual.”
Drake is never afraid to speak his mind and always has a story to tell, and he does that in the ways he finds fit.
Future and Drake came together, producing the beat and lyrics, and the result of this was a track that gave us a taste of stardom.
Drake’s lyrics match the song’s vibe, “Haven’t done my taxes, I’m too turnt up,” making it one of the most popular trap tracks.
Future makes this song more captivating by switching the beat with the deep flow and cranks.
Future’s style is the real definition of trap music, and he managed to transition “Life Is Good” into a new direction that matches up perfectly.
This is a typical style for him, which shows his pure talent and creativity.
7. “Versace” by Migos
The release of “Versace” by Migos is one of the key notable defining moments in pop culture.
The Trio, Offset, Takeoff, and Quavo changed the artistic trajectory of modern trap music with the style and sound of their gold-spiked debut single, “Versace”.
The single, which also saw Drake feature in its remix, is most notable for reviving the group and bringing it to mainstream attention.
Although it is not the first group to release trap music, they were responsible for innovating a new genre style and popularizing it among most rappers today.
8. “Trap Shit V13” by UZ
This track will get you hooked from the start and make you feel as if someone has thrown a lasso around you and started to pull you toward the speaker.
In UZ’s “Trap Shit V13”, the lasso is its hook, and the artist knows how to capitalize on his unique sound to create a tune that won’t let you escape the hype.
This song is considered one of the best trap tunes of 2013.
The lyric that stands out in this song is “Bass,” which blends with the beat perfectly. From there, it builds up slowly, dragging the listeners in.
Then, the xylophone kicks in, with its bouncy rhythm that blends perfectly with the track’s urban trap lyrics.
The song’s lyrics pick up from there as its progression peaks, bringing a lot of excitement and ecstasy simultaneously.
9. “Feel It” by Three 6 Mafia & Tiësto ft. Sean Kingston & Flo Rida
The Three 6 Mafia was at the forefront of the new trap music wave in the 2010s.
By teaming up with EDM legendary producer Tiësto, Juicy J and DJ Paul released “Feel It,” an intoxicating and club-ready trap hit.
Three 6 Mafia’s single is one of the first EDM trap tracks to be released and saw trap music transition to pop and EDM.
The song has a dramatic synthesized shift, which blends with the Roland TR-808 drum samples and the vocal samples in southern rap music, and the build-ups, breakdowns, and drops mostly associated with dance music.
“Feel it” is considered one of the first tracks to bridge the gap between traditional trap music and EDM trap.
10. “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA” is one of the most popular trap hits ever. In this song, Kendrick unveils his rapping skills, switching flows with the ever-changing beat produced by Mike Will Made It.
“DNA” is a track that blends rattling hi-hats, deep bass drums, and background instrumentals to produce a danceable tune. Unlike other trap songs about drugs and drug dealing, “DNA” has a deeper meaning. It talks about the self-reflection of a black man.
What is Trap Music – Final Thoughts
Trap music allows artists to express themselves regardless of what they think about the genre’s namesake or origins.
Additionally, artists can include their personal experiences in these tracks and enlighten us about the things people deal with in the hood every day.
Although it took some time for this genre to get going, trap music has become a worldwide phenomenon.
It’s considered one of the most culturally-relevant music genres of all time. In addition, the number of artists blending trap elements into their music is growing daily.
The focus on real-life experiences, overall widespread, and hard-hitting beats have got trap music to the place where it is today.
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