Daniel Granville discusses
Autumn is setting in, and as the seasons of the earth change, so do those of the musical landscape; the carefree summer vibes of Kygo and the rest of tropical house must give way to richer, darker sounds. Enter Travis Scott, FKA Twigs, Future, and an entire discourse of trap-influenced artistry.
Pop has always been the changing middle of music; sensitive to tremors at the margins only when they reach maximum potency. It was only as Rap and R&B proved itself not only artistically excellent, but highly lucrative, that Pop caught on and every young artist from a post N-Sync Justin Timberlake to the Arianna’s, Justin’s, Taylor’s and Selena’s of today sought out an up-and-coming or long celebrated rapper to give their music an urban edge. There are all sorts of ways to read into the subtext beneath this, but I will not discuss them here.
The Weeknd’s princely crooning, and Lana Del Rey’s drug-happy nirvana beats have been the latest stones in a long paved path bringing the influences of counter and sub cultures to the mainstream; specifically – trap music. Arguably the biggest song of 2015 was the accession of Fetty Wap – ‘Trap Queen’. When one is singing passionately about stove introductions onstage with Taylor Swift, probably the media personality farthest removed from the underground and highly illegal trap culture, it is fair to at least speculate that the seedy world of “flipping a three into a nine” as Future tells us on ‘Move that Dope’ with Pharell and Pusha T, has made its way into collective cultural consciousness.
Like twerking, the word ‘ratchet’, shade, tea, and so many other markers of disparate and intersecting cultures that flourished in their exclusion from the mainstream, once they are adopted, it is tempting to be cynical and predict that the history these concepts and terms carry with them will be bulldozed over by whichever (white) celebrity can monetize it first. Case in point, who now can think of the word twerk without flashbacks to the VMAs of 2013 and a certain latex wearing young lady, sans ‘Dead Petz’ at the time?
But trap music, and the culture it has been immersed in, is firmly in the codeine-cup-pouring hands of a new generation of artists; they sing and rap about decadence that seems hollow compared to its pre ‘08 crash predecessors, as well as explicit sex that runs the gamut of violence. In their songs, the party never ends and we are caught in an existential loop that is tracked sonically like ever descending stairs in a glamourous Inferno. Their repetitive refrains restrain all the rage and creativity of these gatekeepers. This is the domain of Future, of the Holy Trinity of Migos, of Travis Scott, of Chedda da Connect.
More self-referentially decadent than other rap genres, it is about “Fuck[ing] up some Commas,” “moving weight” and while the gangs that birthed the Gangsta Rap of the 90s have waned in collective cultural memory, these new auteurs are very much influenced by the remnant cultures they left behind. With nothing approaching a sense of certainty, “not giving a fuck” is the philosopher’s defence against a meaningless world. They party because there is nothing left to do, but do not for a minute think it is anything other than lit.
For proof of the authority of the bando in music, listen out for lilting 808s, heavy and obvious post-Kanye autotune and electronic manipulation, dark waves and darker subject matter.
Here are some recommendations to get started:
- Trap Queen by Fetty Wap.
- Days Before Rodeo and Rodeo by Travis Scott.
- Anything and everything by FKA Twigs.
- Run The Jewels and Run The Jewels 2 by Run The Jewels.
- Dirty Sprite 2 by Future.