Trap is a style of Southern hip hop that was developed in the late 1990s to early 2000s in the Southern United States. It is typified by double or triple-time sub-divided hi-hats, heavy, sub-bass layered kick drums from the Roland TR-808 drum machine, layered synthesizers and an overall dark, ominous or bleak atmosphere and lyrical content. The term "trap" referred to places where drug deals take place. In the 2010s, artists crossbred trap with dubstep to create trap EDM.
Trap music is defined by its ominous, bleak and gritty lyrical content which varies widely according to the artist. Typical lyrical themes portrayed include observations of hardship in the "trap", street life, poverty, violence and harsh experiences that artists have faced in their urban surroundings.
Trap music employs a heavy use of multilayered, hard-lined, and melodic synthesizers, crisp, grimy, and rhythmic snares, deep 808 kick drums, double-time, triple-time, and similarly divided hi hats, and a cinematic and symphonic utilization of string, brass, woodwind, and keyboard instruments to create an energetic, hard-hitting, deep, and variant atmosphere. These primary characteristics would go on to be the signature sound of trap music, originating from producer Shawty Redd. Trap may use a range of tempos, from 100 BPM to 176 BPM, but the tempo of a typical trap beat is around 140 BPM.
The term "trap" is used to refer to the place where drug deals are made. The term originated in Atlanta, Georgia, where rappers Cool Breeze, Dungeon Family, Outkast, Goodie Mob, and Ghetto Mafia were some of the first to use the term in their music. In 1988, One of the earliest records to release was UGK's "Cocaine In The Back of the Ride" from their debut EP, "The Southern Way". Later in 1992, they released the popular "Pocket Full of Stones" from their major-label debut album Too Hard to Swallow. It was also featured in the 1993 film Menace II Society. In 1996, Master P released his single "Mr. Ice Cream Man" from his fifth studio album Ice Cream Man. Fans and critics started to refer to rappers whose primary lyrical topic was drug dealing, as "trap rappers". David Drake of Complex wrote that "the trap in the early 2000's wasn't a genre, it was a real place", and the term was later adopted to describe the "music made about that place."
During the early-to-mid 2000s, trap music began to emerge as a recognized genre after the mainstream success of a number of albums and singles with lyrics that covered topics about life in "the trap", drug dealing and the struggle for success. Several Southern rappers with drug dealer personas such as T.I., Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, and Rick Ross produced crossover hits and helped expand the popularity of the genre, with trap records beginning to appear more heavily on mixtapes and radio stations outside of the South. Though trap artists were somewhat diverse in their production styles, the signature and quintessential trap sound (typically based around synth, orchestra and string swells with tight, bass-heavy 808 kick drums) that would come to be associated with the genre developed in Atlanta during trap's mid-2000s breakthrough. Some of the notable trap producers during the mid to late 2000s include DJ Toomp, Fatboi, Drumma Boy, Shawty Redd, D. Rich and Zaytoven. The first wave of the trap sound was influenced by earlier Southern producers such as Lil Jon, Mannie Fresh and DJ Paul.
With the exception of Outkast, let me think, Goodie Mob... with the exception of that, before I came in the game, it was Lil Jon, Outkast, Goodie Mob, okay so you had crunk music and you had Organized Noize. There was no such thing as trap music, I created that, I created that. I coined the term, it was my second album, Trap Muzik it dropped in 2003. After that, there was an entire new genre of music created. An open lane for each of you to do what you do, and live your lives, on T.V., and be accepted by the masses. The masses have accepted you 'cause I opened the door and you walked through it. Don't forget who opened that door cuz.
By the end of the decade, a second wave of trap artists continued to gain momentum and frequently top the Billboard hip hop charts. Trap producer Lex Luger broke out of relative obscurity, gained huge popularity, and went on to produce more than 200 songs between 2010 and 2011, including a number of singles for popular mainstream rap artists such as Rick Ross' "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)", Kanye West and Jay-Z's "HoAoM", and Waka Flocka Flame's "Hard in da Paint". Since Luger's rise, his signature trap sound has been the heavy use of 808s, crisp snares, fast hihats, synth keys, and orchestration of brass, strings, woodwind, and keyboards. Many of his sounds have since been adopted and incorporated by other hip hop producers, trying to replicate his success, as Luger is often credited with popularizing the modern trap sound. Since the 2010s, an array of modern trap producers have gained industry popularity, most notably 808 Mafia's Southside and TM88, Sonny Digital, Young Chop, DJ Spinz, Ronny J and Metro Boomin. Some producers expanded their range to other genres, such as contemporary R&B (Mike WiLL Made It) and electronic music (AraabMuzik).
Throughout 2011 and 2012, trap music maintained a strong presence on the mainstream Billboard music charts with a number of records released by rappers such as Young Jeezy, Chief Keef and Future. Jeezy's single "Ballin" reached number 57 on the Billboard charts and was considered one of Jeezy's best tracks in some time. Future's single, "Turn On the Lights", was certified gold and entered at number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Keef's "I Don't Like" and "Love Sosa" generated over 30 million views on YouTube, spawning a new subgenre within trap called drill. Music critics called drill production style the "sonic cousin to skittish footwork, southern-fried hip-hop and the 808 trigger-finger of trap." Young Chop is frequently identified by critics as the genre's most characteristic producer. The sound of trap producer Lex Luger's music is a major influence on drill, and Young Chop identified Shawty Redd, Drumma Boy and Zaytoven as important precursors to the drill movement. "I Don't Like" inspired fellow Chicago native, notable hip hop producer and rapper Kanye West to create a remix of the song, which was included on his label GOOD Music's compilation album Cruel Summer. Stelios Phili of GQ called trap music "the sound of hip hop in 2012."
In May 2015, trap music once again surfaced the top of mainstream music charts as New Jersey rapper Fetty Wap's hit single "Trap Queen" peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Fetty Wap's subsequent singles, "My Way" and "679", also reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Brooklyn-based rapper Desiigner gained major recognition in 2016 upon the release of "Panda" as his debut mixtape single which topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The commercial success of trap songs also began to be assisted by Internet memes, as was the case with Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane's "Black Beatles" which reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after exposure through the 'Mannequin Challenge' internet phenomenon. Similarly, in 2017 the collaboration between Migos and Lil Uzi Vert "Bad and Boujee", with the now popularly spread lyrics "Raindrop (Drip), Drop top (Drop Top)" reached number-one after internet meme exposure. Rapper Cardi B became extremely popular with her song "Bodak Yellow", which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017.
In 2018, in promotion for his album Dime Trap, T.I. opened a pop-up TrapMusic Museum: "We curated it from conception. The purpose of it was to acknowledge the most significant contributors to the culture. Secondly, inform those who may be least knowledgeable about the genre. And inspire those who are in the environment that inspires the genre." The museum also includes an escape room entitled 'Escape the Trap'.
Since maintaining a strong presence on the mainstream music charts, trap music has been influential to non-hip hop artists. R&B singer Beyoncé's songs "Drunk in Love", "Flawless" and "7/11", all from her 2013 album Beyoncé, also contained trap influences. American dance-pop singer Lady Gaga recorded a trap-inspired song titled "Jewels 'n Drugs" for her 2013 album Artpop, featuring rappers T.I., Too Short and Twista. The combination of pop and trap music was met with mixed responses from critics. In September 2013, American pop singer Katy Perry released a song titled "Dark Horse" featuring rapper Juicy J, from her 2013 album Prism, that incorporated trap elements. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 by the end of January 2014.
In 2015, a new movement of trap music referred to as "Latin trap" began to emerge. Also known as Spanish-language trap, Latin trap similar to mainstream trap which details "'la calle,' or the streets--hustling, sex, and drugs". Prominent artists of Latin trap include Fuego, Anuel AA and Bad Bunny. In July 2017, The Fader wrote "Rappers and reggaetoneros from Puerto Rico to Colombia have taken elements of trap--the lurching bass lines, jittering 808s and the eyes-half-closed vibe--and infused them into banger after banger." In an August 2017 article for Billboards series, "A Brief History Of," they enlisted some of the key artists of Latin trap--including Ozuna, De La Ghetto, Bad Bunny, Farruko and Messiah--to narrate a brief history on the genre. Elias Leight of Rolling Stone noted "[Jorge] Fonseca featured Puerto Rican artists like Anuel AA, Bryant Myers and Noriel on the compilation Trap Capos: Season 1, which became the first "Latin trap" LP to reach number one on Billboards Latin Rhythm Albums chart." A remixed version of Cardi B's single "Bodak Yellow" (which had previously reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart), dubbed the "Latin Trap Remix", was officially released on August 18, 2017 and features Cardi B rapping in the Spanish language with Dominican hip hop recording artist Messiah contributing a guest verse. In November 2017, Rolling Stone wrote that "a surging Latin trap sound is responding to more recent developments in American rap, embracing the slow-rolling rhythms and gooey vocal delivery popularized by Southern hip-hop."
On 5 May 2018, rapper and musician Childish Gambino released "This is America," which is "built on the sharp contrast between jolly, syncretic melodies and menacing trap cadences". It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Charts and was streamed over 65 million times in the first week of its release.