This article was written by Eric Radford (@ERadford5) for TasteCreators.
Bridging the gap between trap rap and conscious lyrical hip-hop.
In a world where the internet has transformed many industries and caused others to become obsolete, a new symbiotic relationship with modern technology has evolved in the world of music. The cohesive bond between the internet and music allows for such an easy connection to a generation that is consuming content faster than ever imagined. This is tremendous for artists, allowing so many possible fans to experience and appreciate their art, yet generating tons of musical debate.
Is this new sub-genre actually good music? Is conscious hip-hop dead?
Even though tons of music has been created, we must appreciate this sound from a different perspective.
Trap rap, as it has truly evolved from the South in the mid 2000’s, is defined as “characterized by beats with high-pitched synthesizers (often imitating brass or orchestral tones) and hard, frequently poly-rhythmic 808 drum machine lines at moderate to slow tempos with fast hi-hats as counterpoints”. These beats are then infused with lyrics about selling/doing drugs, disrespecting woman and flaunting money and THIS has taken over music industry by storm. The beats are massive, something that you can vibe to.
As a listener, you are already engaged before the lyrics are added. As long as the lyrics are strung together in a pleasing and catchy melody, it doesn’t matter what they say and half the time we don’t understand them. Because of this, many people claim hip-hop is dead and do not welcome this sub-genre yet, as a hip-hop community we must be mindful of the difference between trap rap and conscious hip-hop.
The trap rap movement does not come from the poetry of words strung together, but poetry of a total musical composition. Conscious hip-hop tells urban narratives, discussions about socioeconomic issues and anecdotes of a rapper’s struggle to achieve the American dream.
Basing the value of music on the lyrics we as music lovers wonder, how is this new incarnation of Trap even considered art? These rappers are not like Nas, Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie – their lyrics can’t compare. Yet, this new style of music is innovative and speaks to us as humans in a different fashion than does conscious hip-hop. This is a new style of music that speaks to us in a more visceral way. We struggle with categorization and definition that this new style simply sidesteps.
The popularity of trap rap is simple. It is derived from the way it connects with us in an emotional way rather than an intellectual stimulant. But why do we vibe and connect emotionally to this music? It is because this style of music speaks to the entire community of us as humans. It brings us back to our early days of civilization where drum circles and chants were a part of our spirit…..of our being. Take the New Zealand Haka chant as an example. People dancing and chanting in sync with a very deep synchronized tone that is so powerful, you feel the beat hit through your whole body. The Haka chant has evolved into a method to bring communities together and is a symbol for strength and community.
When Zaytoven begins a beat with a simple synthesizer melody and a powerful 808 drop, it hits you right away and the audience begins to jump and vibe with the beat. Then Gucci Mane hits us with a codeine infused bars. Together, they are creating their own chant. They are building a musical composition to get people all vibing.
Appreciating Both Sides
While the lyrical substance may suffer, we need to find the beauty in this. We can’t compare Lil Uzi Vert to Nas or even Dave East. Using the XXL Freshman Cyphers as an example, Dave East, with the lyrics, “If you a man know that men stand up; Like my mother’s mom fell I had to pick grams up”, is referencing use of his drug money to help pick him and his family up out of poverty and the everyday hurdles he faces to find success. It is a great line of poetry and symbolism many layers deep. As compared to a Lil’ Uzi Vert line, “Told that b**** I got money, ayy; Countin’ them hundreds, it’s nothing, ayy”. We have two entirely distinctive styles, vibes and musical objective. We nod along to Dave East’s poetic symbolism, who is challenging us intellectually. While Lil’ Uzi Vert is creating a melodic composition, building his ‘Haka chant’ to reach tribal in us in a euphoric, full body experience that people are connecting with emotionally.
We must not compare these two genres and claim hip-hop is dying but we must appreciate the development of this hip-hop sub-culture. We must keep our ears open for those artists that are able to bridge the gap between trap rap and conscious lyrical hip-hop. There are many great artist journeys to follow. We should be excited to see trap rap continue to develop and as history unfolds, we too will be able to debate the pioneers of trap rap against the up and coming generations and where their place in history will be. Stay tuned for the next topic on the millennials’ relationship with trap rap and what it illustrates about our culture.