In Defense of Trap Music

Following the release of the Rites lineup, one of the most common complaints I heard was that Future had no business being invited to perform. Many of these critics complained that his lyrics left something to be desired. Others found the songs repetitive. Even then, others found him too simplistic and not deep enough. People have a right to their opinion, but in this instance I think many critics of Future and trap music in general are doing themselves a disservice by ruling out the genre. All the things that give trap rap a bad name are the same things that give it a valid place on the musical spectrum. Let’s take a look.

1. “The lyrics suck!”

That’s a fair point; even a cursory glance through most trap artists’ discographies will yield a general pattern of lyrical subject matter, many of them appalling to some people. Rappers like Young Thug, Future, and Gucci can often be found talking about what they know: money, guns, drugs, and living an extravagant lifestyle. But that’s what they are talking about: the things they know. The reason they can create music that satisfies so many people is because they are in their comfort zone lyrically. It would be strange to hear the Migos crooning about a bad breakup, much the same way a Chvrches song would be out of place if they sang about gangs and violence.

2. “The songs all sound the same.”

Again that’s not necessarily untrue. I’m reminded of a Mac Dre’s It’s Not What You Say It’s How You Say It. I think the notion that anyone could feasibly vary the subject matter of every song over their entire career is out there. But even then, some variance between songs is an expectation listeners can rightfully hold. I’d argue that while trap artists could probably stand to alter their lyrics, doing so would essentially be stepping out of the genre, which is an entirely different argument to be had. One that I’m not having. So, fair point, critics, you got this one.

3. “There is no depth or substance to the music.”

This is the one that has always kind of burned me up inside to hear. To argue that trap music has no depth is to expect all music to be of the same nature. We need both sides of the coin: simple, fun songs made to enjoy, and deep, resonant tracks that make you pause to consider things. Whatever it is you get from your experience listening to music that has a “deeper meaning,” it’s wrong to go looking for extra layers where an artist did not intend anything more than surface level listening and then criticize them for it. One of my favorite things about Waka Flocka Flame, who was instrumental in pushing trap music into the mainstream, is that he has stated he makes music to have fun to. Most trap artists are making music to have fun with. When you need a song to play at a pregame, or you’re working out, or you want to get hyped up about something, you have a genre for that. That’s the thing that’s great about music, there’s a spectrum where you can find anything from the ambient sounds of Shpongle to chugging thrash metal like Slayer all the way to trap rap with people like Yo Gotti and Gucci Mane. There’s music out there for every person and every moment.

I don’t want this to read like an indictment of people who simply don’t like trap music. That would be an unreasonable thing to do. I do, however, want it to read as indictment of the way we currently listen to and critique music. Too often we apply broad strokes requirements on every genre without considering what it is for. Without leaning too much into the heady, ‘every piece of art is priceless’ territory I think there is some value in most types of music that we fail to catch because we sometimes seek out the negatives. I am as guilty as the next guy, if not more so because I’m such a cynic. That much said, going forward I’m going to search for positives about music I’m listening to. The next time I’m trolling around for new music and I come across something that usually makes me scrunch my face up and immediately press skip…I’ll probably still scrunch my face up and eventually press skip but I’m going to try to find something in it that I like.

Future at Rites is going to be sick and everyone will have a great time. I’ll see y’all there.