One writer’s opinion on the future of trap. Is it the next disco?
Given how the Trap sub-genre has exploded over the past five or so years—and continues to thrive—there isn’t really a way for me to substantiate this hunch. Hell, as I’m writing this, half the top 10 albums on Apple Music are trap projects.
Artists like Quavo, Future, and Lil Yachty crowd the top of the charts. Still, I’m weirdly confident in saying this: Trap music is over. Forget whether you love it or hate it. Sooner rather than later, it will taper off and become just another once-fad in the history of pop music.
Let me explain. I’m not arguing that all the sounds and elements of trap will go completely awol. That rarely—if ever—happens with musical sub-categories. We’ll be listening to hip hop music that has been trap-influenced, to some degree, for generations to come. However, this would by definition indicate that the genre has ceased to exist as we currently know it, and would only be traceable through the music of a new—and discernibly separate—genre.
Every style has its shelf-life. Despite there being no precise way to gauge their long-term viability, there are certain questions that can help us make better-informed judgements of this.
First, is it compatible with other styles of music? Trap was bound with EDM rather seamlessly, so there’s no reason to believe the genre can’t mingle agreeably with others. XXXTentacion was known to be heavily influenced by heavy metal and punk music, so perhaps there is open terrain in that direction. Seriously, did anyone think it was possible for a flute-driven melody to become a non-ironic, legitimate trap banger before “Mask Off”?
Second, how musically groundbreaking is the genre? From this perspective, the future of trap music doesn’t look as promising. With all due respect, its rise to prominence wasn’t exactly due to its musical ingenuity or complexity. I write this as someone who believes trap has been unfairly scrutinized at times—even from within the hip hop community. Namely, in claiming that trap artists are poor lyricists. Sure, the genre isn’t necessarily setting the world on fire with its lyrical substance or flow, but there are some awesome MCs who have dabbled in the genre (I’m looking at you, Pusha T). Nevertheless, trap’s most distinguishable breakthrough would have to be its appropriation of autotune. Once used mainly for covering up shoddy vocal performances, trap music intentionally uses autotune as a musical effect. Aside from that, I don’t see anything indigenous to trap music that will open the floodgates for decades of new, ever-evolving trap.
Ultimately, we have to make an honest assessment of the rise of trap. It’s been so successful for obvious reasons: Its seismic bass; its constant use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine; its catchy hooks that make it ideal for clubs and parties. There’s nothing wrong with that. But these genres don’t typically stand the test of time very well. Just look at how short-lived the disco fad was.
This should be no reason for pessimism, even for trap fans. I’m sure there are still some solid trap records waiting to drop. That being said, given how lucrative the genre has become, this can incentivize trap artists to take less risks musically, not more. Redundancy is every trend’s terminal illness, and it would appear trap is heading that way. If you, like me, choose to look at this more positively, you’ll see this as an opportunity. Hip hop is bound to move on to newer, uncharted sonic territories.
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin