Music Mondays: The Mysteries of Trap Music Culture.

In 2021, and indeed for the past 5 years, the trap has been one of the if not the most popular genre of music within the UK and US. Although it is now being overshadowed by drill, especially in the UK, it is undeniable that trap music culture has not only had an influence on hip hop but popular culture globally. Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Migos and Gucci Mane are not only trapped icons but at this point established pop-stars in their own right.

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credit: Francesca Sorrenti

However, for such a popular genre, many of it’s gen z listeners, myself among them, are almost totally unaware of its origins . Of course the work that artists such as TI and Gucci Mane did in pioneering the genre, and producers such as Travis Scott in modifying it years later, is accepted public knowledge. But what many don’t see are the influences that have been guiding trap both during and even before it’s birth. In this edition of Music Mondays I will attempt to take you guide you through some of the underground influences on trap that even some of its greatest fans are unaware of.

Trap Music Culture
Migos performs at a nightclub in Las Vegas in February, following the release of its album C U L T U R E, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.
Migos performs at a nightclub in Las Vegas in February, following the release of its album C U L T U R E, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.

The birth of trap in the early 2000s is often credited to Atlanta, specifically from TI and Gucci Mane, of course no one would argue with this. After all it was TI who came up with the name. However what is interesting is that many of traps most iconic sounds, the rolling high hats and triplet flows being a prime example, are staples of other types of hip hop years before. Southern hip hop but particularly underground Memphis horrocore artists such as Triple Six (now Three Six) Mafia, Tommy Wright III and Kingpin Skinny Pimp were busting out triplet flows over snare beats and 808 cowbells when Ti and Gucci Mane were in elementary school. 

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Indeed within the past ten years, there have been offshoots of the Memphis sound from artists such as $uicideBoy$ that are pretty much just remakes of Memphis tracks and yet the Memphis sound, beyond the most popular of Three 6’s songs never hit the mainstream. This is partially due to the fact that Southern Hip Hop during the 90s, when the East and West coasts ruled the hip hop world, was often unheard of to the mainstream listeners outside the South and when it did blow up it as sadly mocked and insulted, showed by Outkast’s booing at the 1995 Source Awards. The other reason is due to the fact that much of particularly Memphis’ hip hop scene was ruled by mixtape culture, the sound was defined by Memphis artists sampling each other’s tapes and bars and rapping over each other’s beats, and because of this it never really left Memphis at the time. 

Trap Music Artists

Of course, now Three 6 Mafia are Oscar-winning global starts, but their earlier music still remains underground. And with artist’s such as A$AP Rocky now literally sampling almost entire Three 6 Beats in his own songs, Playa Hataz springs to mind, and relying heavily on the chopped and screwed effect pioneered by Texas’ DJ Screw years before its popularisation, one does have to ask if Three 6 and other artists who to this day remain underground, Tommy Wright III and Kingpin Skinny Pimp among others, deserve a little more credit than what they are given for what was essentially creating the foundations for what is now one of the most popular genres of music globally. Of course, this is in no way an attempt to discredit Rocky, Travis Scott, TI, Gucci Mane or any modern-day hip hop and trap artists who are brilliant creators in their own right, but maybe instead of constantly listening to their latest projects you should give a listen to Three 6’s Underground Vol.1 or Kingpin Skinny Pimp’s King of Da Playaz Ball, you may just like what you hear. 

credit: Trevor Birchett

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