Trap is fundamentally a fusion between hip hop, dance, and dubstep, and emerged from the southern USA in the 1990s

The term trap itself was used to describe an area where drug deals are made, and refers to how hard it is to escape from that ‘trap’, so to speak. Now, trap refers to a genre of dance music that focuses heavily on the use of a Roland 808 drum machine.

Trap tends to be pretty similar to a lot of hip hop music and follows a similar structure, mainly at 70-110 bpm, although you’ll also hear a lot of newer trap songs at 140bpm. You’ll also often hear a lot of samples taken from hip-hop or rap songs, but with a change in pitch. Trap incorporates a lot of the same drum arrangements as dubstep, and a similar emphasis on repetition. However, the builds and drops are often a lot more subtle than in dubstep, but that doesn’t mean trap can’t still be insanely filthy, either.

Image of a Roland 808 Drum Machine, a key component of trap music

Image of a Roland 808 Drum Machine provided by Science of the South

Trap music also uses a lot of snares, hi-hats, loud kicks and deep bass, all coming together to give you that really gritty sound. Trap as a genre of dance music (the term can also apply to hip-hop and mainstream rap) only really gained popularity in 2012 with artists like RL Grime, Flosstradamus, Yellow Claw and Bro Safari starting to produce tracks that could be classified as trap.

A perfect example of how trap grew as a genre of electronic music from the original rap (both called trap but both pretty different genres) is the RL Grime and Salva remix of ‘Mercy’ by Kanye West. They took the original (which can be classified as trap in the other sense of the word) and infused it with elements of trap as a genre of dance music to create this pretty stellar remix. You’ll find tat samples of popular rap and hip hop songs are often used in trap tunes!

Another great example of the genre is Ray Volpe’s ‘Red Hot’. Featuring nearly every element mentioned above, the gritty vocals really stand out on this one. You’ll also hear that repetitive drum pattern that has a slight dubstep feel to it. Clinton Sky lends his vocals talents to deliver some pretty blaring rap verses on this one, and that definitely adds to the trap feel on ‘Red Hot’.

Perhaps a more well-known example is LAXX’s ‘Threat’ VIP. You can hear LAXX’s dubstep background, but infused with those really deep and dirty melodies that are unique to trap. While this track lacks the vocal samples that are common to the genre, LAXX more than makes up for that with really interesting sounds that seem to build up and down endlessly. That repetitive drumline is really noticeable and sets the rhythm for the tune, although it sits at a slightly higher 150 bpm.

And finally, on the more upbeat side of trap is Tisoki and WATGOOD’s ‘How About It’. You get Tisoki’s signature high-pitched sounds blended in with that really dirty trap beat, and the drops on this one are what really exemplify the genre. Tracks like this also show how diverse trap can be, especially with how this one plays with the contrast between pitches. The vocals used definitely carry strong hip-hop vibes, but again have been pitched up playfully in a way characteristic to trap as a genre of dance music.

Trap may be a newer genre to the electronic music scene, but it is definitely exploding in popularity. If you liked learning more about the genre, then check out our other pieces in the series, covering Drumstep, Riddim, Electro House, and more!


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