The History and Origin of Trap Music

the rapper Future in concert
Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Chances are you've heard trap music. If you've heard any of Future's recent hits or anything by Young Thug, you're already familiar with trap music.

Trap music is a style of hip-hop that sprung out of the southern rap scene in the 1990s. You'll know a trap track by the signature beat style—stuttering kick drums, hi-hats, 808s, and oodles of synthesizers.

Trap took its root in Atlanta, where the likes of Ghetto Mafia and Dungeon Family first used the term to describe their sound.

The Definition of "Trap"

The term itself comes directly from the streets. The "trap" typically refers to a drug house, where narcotics are cooked up and sold. As such, trap rappers usually rap about drugs and slinging dope. Example: Future's "Move That Dope."

The content of a trap song isn't limited to the subjects of the trap. Trap tunes also touch on the bleak standard of living in the hood. Trap music details observations of life in the streets. And, of course, trap songs can also make for catchy party tunes.

The Origin of Trap Music

Although trap first gained traction in the 1990s, it wasn't until the early 2000s that it began to grow in mainstream culture. As we entered the 2000s, DJs started fusing crunk music with synths to produce the quintessential trap sound.

Trap's popularity arrived with the emergence of Young Jeezy and T.I. The ATLiens made trap a fixture on their respective debut albums. In fact, T.I. titled his second album Trap Muzik.

With his debut, Jeezy showed that trap had crossover potential. Despite his gritty lyrical content, his songs were widely played on mainstream radio stations in the Third Coast and beyond.

The Sound of Trap

No conversation on trap is complete without a nod to the producers who helped innovate the sound. Production styles vary, but a few notable trap producers are DJ Toomp, Shawty Red, Drumma Boy, and Mannie Fresh.

Following the successes of T.I. and Young Jeezy, the two stalwarts of trap, new artists started to take notice. Over the years, more rappers have started exploring the sound. One notable player was producer Lex Luger. In the 2010s, Luger produced a number of trap hits for Rick Ross ("B.M.F.") and Waka Flocka Flame ("Hard in da Paint").

Trap Music Today

Trap has maintained a strong presence in hip-hop since it exploded onto the mainstream in 2009. Today, the likes of Future, Young Thug and Drake (to a lesser degree) keep the trap flag flying high.

In 2015, newcomer Fetty Wap conquered the charts with a trap hit single "Trap Queen." Produced by Tony Fadd of RGF Productions, "Trap Queen" peaked at No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Fetty Wap followed up with "My Way," which also reached the Top 20 on Billboard.

It's a testament to trap's staying power that more mainstream artists are adopting the sound. In 2015, Drake joined Future on the collaborative effort. The project allowed Drake to fully explore his trap side over the course of an entire album.

Incidentally, trap's ascension coincided with the decline of its cousin crunk music.

Key Trap Rappers

  • Future
  • Young Jeezy
  • T.I.
  • Young Thug
  • Gucci Mane
  • Waka Flocka Flame
  • Chief Keef