Are you keen to experiment with a more edgy style of writing? Do you want to create unique beats alongside a melody line?
It’s been around since the 1990s, but you may still be wondering – what is Trap music? This blend of hip hop, rap and EDM is beat-heavy and intense, with roots in drugs culture. Learn how to write a Trap song if you want to break into this style of music.
Read on to discover the history of trap music, understand its varying components and find out how to structure your own trap track.
What is Trap music?
As with many types of music, trap music has experienced an evolution across the decades. It may be lesser known than some of the more prolific styles of music, but it has a loyal fanbase and enduring popularity. The sound was said to have originated in Atlanta, Georgia. And while it has its roots in rap, it crosses over with several other genres, like EDM and hip hop. Expect a tempo of around 130 – 170 BPM and a fairly aggressive sound.
What exactly is trap music?
The name itself comes from ‘trap houses’ – places where drugs are sold, otherwise known as a trap house. ‘Trapping’ is a term used for selling and dealing drugs (as heard in some early rap lyrics). As a result, lyrics often talk about life in the ghetto and hood, drug slang, swearing and the desire to acquire wealth. In this way, it has some aspects in common with UK drill.
The trap sound does vary according to the artist and era. You’ll hear dubstep and techno beats with intense drum samples in some songs, reminiscent of electronic dance music. While you’ll pick up more of a hip hop vibe and rap beats in others. Hi-hat effects, syncopation and intense cymbals are all key factors in the trap dynamic.
Types of trap music
How is trap different from rap?
It incorporates chopped and screwed instrumentals over Roland 808 drum machines with synthesizers and beats. Whereas hip hop and rap will usually be created over samples, trap musicians create brand new rhythmic and melodic patterns for each track. While there may be some pre-existing elements incorporated, these will be minimal.
What is the difference between trap music and EDM?
Trap music has more in common with hip hop and rap than a pure EDM track would do. Kick – a sub-genre of hip-hop – is also present. This involves a fast attack, followed by either a fast release or a slow release. The snare sound also takes it away from the EDM only genre. This comes from the 808.
However, there is also much to compare with EDM. A strong baseline and beat, reverb, a melody that repeats throughout, plus chords and riffs. Frequently occurring transitions meanwhile, echo the breakdowns found on dance tracks.
How to write a trap song
You may want to write your own trap song. Or – like Katy Perry, Kanye, Post Malone, The Weeknd and Beyonce – borrow elements of it for your pop anthem.
So how do you begin to compose this type of music? Here are the steps you’ll need to take and the ingredients to add, to make your song distinctly trap.
Trap music songs
- Set your tempo. Ideally, 140- 150 BPM, although you can go for a much slower version at around 80 BPM.
- Get your beat down. An eighth-note pulse is a good place to start. This should then be littered with high hats to create bounce.
- Create your melody then repeat it throughout on a loop. Minor chords work well to create an atmosphere. Verses are fine, but keep them – and lyrics – minimal.
- Be sure to add in an 808 pattern and kick drum.
- Put your snare on beat 3, and possibly beat 1, rather than beats 2 and 4 as is more standard in contemporary music. Keep it high and layer in some more percussion.
- Use distortion in the edit to create that edgy street sound. Also add in some reverb, grimy synthesisers and claps.
Trap music artists
If you’d like to sample some trap music for yourself, here are some of the best artists to check out.
- Lil Yachty
- Waka Flocka Flame
- Chief Keef
- RL Grime
Legendary pioneer trap artist TI said to HotNewHipHop, “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.”
If you’re keen to develop your trap sound, be sure to listen to plenty of creators from within the field. Market your music to an appropriate audience – while this genre is now mainstream, it is less so than pop, rock, or indie for example. So consider which venues, labels and collaborators you approach.
Even if you don’t want to explore this sound in-depth, it’s always worth having a wide knowledge as a musician, especially if you write. Exposure to a diverse range of styles will help you to grow as an artist. And you’ll learn more about the industry as a whole.
Trap music examples
#1 Trap Queen by Fetty Wap
#2 No Hands by Waka Flocka Flame ft. Wale & Roscoe Dash
#3 Trap Check by 2 Chainz
#4 MotorSport by Migos, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B
#5 Bodak Yellow by Cardi B
- Who is the richest rapper?
Kanye West is the wealthiest rapper around with a personal worth of nearly two billion dollars. However, his Yeezy sneaker brand is worth way more, at an eye-watering 26 billion dollars. He also has assets of around 81 million dollars invested in property and 21 million dollars invested in land assets.
- Why trap music is so popular?
Back in the 1990s, it was still very niche. But as it reached the mid-2000s, trap music became more mainstream. It’s cross-genre roots ensure it attracts a variety of fans.
- Who was the first trap rapper?
It’s hard to say who the very first artist was to ‘invent’ the genre. However, UGK, 8Ball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia, Cool Breeze, Kilo Ali, Master P and Ghetto Mafia were all pioneers in the genre movement.
Do you write trap music? What’s your process and why were you attracted to this genre in particular? Let us know and share links to your compositions in the comments below.