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A Sound Of 2013: Trap

A hybrid of hip hop, grime and bass music, trap is now the new favourite genre of any hipster worth their weight in snapbacks – and I’m proud to say that I pledge my allegiance to the Trap Flag.

It’s just as likely to make you slut-drop to the ground as it is to make you fist-pump the living daylights of any dance floor smog. It takes your brains to places that you have never been before. It’s your guilty passion and best-kept secret.  It even makes air raid sirens cool again.

So how does one spot a trap track? Well there are three basic ingredients: heart racing 808 drums, the duttiest bass imaginable, and soulful/RnB/hip-hop vocal samples. DJ Sliink and Flosstradamus’ track ‘Test Me’ is a shining example with Ritalin-worthy vocals, aneurysm-inducing drums and that filthy bass.

So, why trap? And why now? I could make a tenuous analogy of the current economic climate, trapping us inside society, forcing us to seek out the most ridiculous bass music to combat it – but that would be silly. Trap isn’t new. It’s been around since the days of everyone’s favourite quasi-violent rapper, Gucci Mane. In fact, his 2005 album Trap House can still hold some relevance today – despite his crude lyrics pertaining to eager women and “quarter millions”.

However, what you’re hearing in your local underground bass night isn’t Mane’s Trap. This ‘new trap’, or ‘trap step’ – as its now being called – was properly thrust in our faces when Glaswegian Hudson Mohawke released a little EP called Satin Panthers last August. Stand-out track ‘Thunder Bay’ made us take notice; everyone loved the crude bass, the pop girl vocals and the GBH-worthy drums. Since then trap music has been thrust down our ears from every direction.

Brooklyn based Baauer, who delighted the Boiler Room with a ‘Best of Trap’ set this summer, has been a particularly important member of the movement. His track ‘Dum Dum’ is currently being played by DJs the world over, due somewhat to the shoutalongable, sampled tagline “DAMN SON WHERE’D YOU FIND THIS?”

RL Grime is also proving to be an influential artist when it comes to trap. His remix with Salva, of Kanye West’s Mercy has also flooded dance floors everywhere, earning more spin-backs than a beyblade. RL Grime takes an already pretty dirty hip hop track and metaphorically chucks it in a slurry tank.  His own productions have proven to be popular too; ‘Trap on Acid’ pretty much does what it says on the tin and ‘Flood’ is a deluge of fat synths breaks and hip hop samples.

Earlier this year saw Hudson Mohawke team up with Canadian protégé Lunice, an artist whose bass ridden hip hop productions weren’t a million miles from HudMo to begin with. Together they formed TNGHT, and released an EP of the same name in mid-July of this year. The EP is wonderfully ridiculous, and stand out track ‘Higher Ground’ has become a contemporary classic – its sinister bass completely addictive. TNGHT took trap to the next level, bridging the gap between slow, arrogant hip hop instrumentals and high adrenaline bass music. It’s basically jungle’s cooler, younger cousin.

And now trap is all up in everyone’s business – and no one’s complaining. Shlohmo’s latest Boiler room offering had more than its fair share of trap, and Flying Lotus has been dropping TNGHT’s ‘Higher Ground’ more than Greece has dropped in economic value. And now elements of trap can be seen everywhere.

Even Machinedrum has been spotted including more than a dash of trap in his recent sets. But trap isn’t just the plaything of the big American DJs. UK artists are exemplifying trap and trap-step more and more. A recent purveyor is Liverpool-based producer and Annie Mac favourite, Melé. UK trap is slightly different from the US, hip-hop driven offerings.  Melé takes elements of grime, gives them technicolour tones, and concocts a perfect trap-heavy elixir – and in that process, he destroys dance floors UK-wide.

And so to the future. Is trap sustainable? Probably not. Is it credible? It’s questionable. Does it make you want to dance like the 90s never ended? Hell yes. Trap is here – and it’s not going away quietly.

-Elizabeth Ward

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