If a history book properly laid out references for trap music, T.I. would be front and center. The rapper’s extensive career has landed him at the top of the charts and on the film screen, but his contributions to the early days of trap music are impossible to ignore.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the subgenre as well as Tip’s breakthrough album, Trap Muzik. The rapper has celebrated this in the form of a well-curated pop-up museum dedicated to trap music and a show-stopping performance in his hometown this month for One MusicFest.
Speaking with VIBE, T.I. explains how the black-owned festival has played a part in re-introducing thousands to legacy acts like himself, along with his very extensive discography.
“This festival is special because it’s my hometown,” he says. “It’s not my first time being here so there are so many familiar faces and then, so many new faces because Atlanta has become that city to move to. It’s gonna be a different crowd next year versus the following year and then the next year. It allows me an opportunity to introduce the old and new records as well as new artists.”
When it to comes the golden path of trap music, Tip explains how he and artists like Gucci Mane and Future laid the groundwork for the genre to reach pop and global status. As for his contribution, Tip released his sophomore album Trap Muzik in 2003. The album provided another perspective to southern hip-hop, dropping just a short time before Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. At 22, his tales about the streets paired with clever wordplay translated well for fans to enjoy and others to take notes on.
“It’s a blessing that we were able to take something that was so just unbelievably negative like the crack era and just take those experiences that we endured and put those in the music, use them as a catalyst to platform ourselves and catapult out of our circumstances for ourselves and our families,” he explains. “It’s quite ironic actually. It’s a testament to what the devil needs for bad God uses for good. It’s a true sentiment to trap music and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
He went on to explain how radio stations were reluctant to play many of his early records from his debut album I’m Serious due to the subject matter.
“I remember when no one would play “Dope Boyz” or “Trap Ni**az” on the radio except Greg Street,” he says. “Going from that to every other song on the radio is a hit record from Yo Gotti, Migos, Future… ‘Molly, Percocet, Molly Percocet,’ that would’ve never been played on the radio. For us to open those doors, to introduce our own subculture to hip-hop, that’s pretty dope.”
When it comes to the fundamental albums for students of trap music to listen to, the rap vet listed Future’s Dirty Sprite 2, Migos’ Culture, Gucci Mane’s Trap House, Young Dro’s Best Thang Smokin, 2 Chainz’s Pretty Girls Love Trap Music and his debut, I’m Serious.
With a new album right around the corner, T.I. says there’s a few humblebrags and more included on The Dime Trap.
“It’s a conversation of where trap music began and the growth and evolution to where it is now, especially what I’ve learned and what the people have learned from that journey,” he says. “I try to treat it like a TED talk for trap n**gas. If anyone cares about the orders of operation, here it is for you.”
Check out more of the interview with T.I. up top.