As an Emcee myself, I always wondered if Trap music was a hip hop music sub genre we could take seriously. Because generally I see its rise as the cause of this present day decline of lyricism in hip hop. Especially with the sudden popularity of Mumble rap; a spin-off from Trap.
According to Wikipedia.
“Trap is a hip hop music sub-genre that originated during the 1990s from Southern hip hop in the Southern United States. It is typified by its ominous sound that incorporate double or triple-time sub-divided hi-hats, heavy kick drums from a Roland TR-808, layered synthesizers, and “cinematic” strings. The term “trap” initially referred to places where drug deals take place”
Growing up in the hip hop culture, I remembered the first track I loved from a southern artiste “Bring em out” by T.I around 2003. It was a good track but I noticed it wasn’t the lyricism that got to me. Rather it was the flow.
T.I made his flow rhyme with the beat perfectly leaving the listener with no choice than to head-nod. But later on, I realized Trap was more concerned about the beat and the flow than the lyrics we used to know. Getting back to hip hop as a whole (not as a culture but as a music genre), we have many sub-genres like Conscious hip hop, Gangster hip hop, Underground hip hop, Horrocore hip hop, Jazz rap etc.
There are also location based sub-genres like the west coast hip hop which is made up of Gangster, Horrorcore, Underground and Jazz. East Coast hip hop consists of Conscious hip hop, Alternative hip hop, Underground hip hop and the likes. We also have Mid-West hip hop; a mix of high tempo Trap with Conscious hip hop and other sub-genre. Southern hip hop is almost solely characterized by Trap.
Which brings up this question
Are Trap artists considered to be as lyrical as the artistes from other genres of rap?.
Let’s look at it this way, taking every popular rap genre we can mention legends or goats who grazed the microphone. Examples are;
1. Gangster Rap – Ice Cube, Kool G Rap.
2. Conscious Rap – Common, Mos def.
3. Political Rap – Public Enemy, Run-Dmc (early days)
4. Rock Rap – Beastie Boys, Mike Shindo.
5. Underground Rap – MF Doom, Sean Price (Rip).
6. Manifesto Rap – Notorious BIG (Rip), Big Pun (Rip).
7. Scientific Rap – Canibus, GZA, Inspectah deck.
Now let’s look at regions
1. Southern Rap – Scarface and Gangstarr.
2. East Coast Rap – Nas and Jay-Z.
3. West Coast Rap – Ice Cube and Tupac.
4. Mid-West – Eminem, Royce Da 5’9 and Twista.
Southern hip hop have their GOATs in Scarface and Gangstarr. But none of them are Trap artistes.
This is because none can come near them lyrically. For example if you are a fan of BET hip hop award cyphers, you will realize Trap artistes are hardly paired with other lyrically acclaimed artistes. The closest combination was on a particular cypher where 2Chainz was paired with Reek da Villian, Busta Rhymes and Ludacris.
Of course, Busta rhymes stole the cypher. Then Ludacris (who I don’t really consider to be a full trap artiste), Reek Da Villian went hard, then lastly 2Chainz who had some dope lines but was not near the others.
So what is the real problem, do trap artistes lack lyricism? No. However I have noticed that they turn to underground beats when they need to go lyrical. I recently listened to “Our Streets”, a track by A$AP Ferg produced by DJ Premier. Despite the fact that he’s originally a trap artiste, the song was critically praised as an ill hip hop track. Whenever they feature other lyrical artistes from other sub genres, you hear them stepping their games up.
When Bun B and Late Pimp C featured Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap on a track in 2008, Bun B and Pimp C had to be spot on to compete with the legends. Trap has never been considered as a lyrical genre of rap. It doesn’t even matter that one could mention great artistes like Ludacris, T.I, Young Jeezy, Bun B, Lil Wayne and Late Pimp C.
But we cant compare them to the diluted rappers in the new mumble genre. Some of the culprits are Young JOC, Soulja boi, Future, Tyler the Creator, Young Thug, 2Chainz, Plies and the likes. So the question really is, can Trap artistes stand on par with rappers from other genres of rap?
About the author
Dablacceinstein is a rap artiste, a hip hop observer and a human rap music encyclopedia who is driven by the practice of the true culture. He was inducted into HipHopHead as a contributor in October 2017.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of HipHopHead.