Many fans can remember a time when the South was counted out and discarded as “not real hip-hop.” For the past 20 years, however, one would be hard pressed to find a song on the radio or at the club that’s neither from or influenced by the South—especially in the context of the dark, grimy, electric, heavy bass-filled sub-genre known as trap music.
The earliest inceptions of trap music, long before it was known as such, came from some of the early, and culturally important rap groups of the South, who were inspired by the pivotal figures of Los Angeles’ gangster rap, such as N.W.A and Above The Law, as well as many legendary soul and funk artists from the southern region. Groups and solo artists like UGK, Three 6 Mafia, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Eightball & MJG, Project Pat, Yo Gotti, DJ Screw and the S.U.C., Goodie Mob and, OutKast paved the way for all of the trap catalogues we enjoy today. But according to one man, the exact origin – like Africa is to mankind – of what we know as trap music is traced back to the King of the South himself, Atlanta rapper T.I.
In a recent interview with Angie Martinez on Power 105.1, Tip, while addressing the current state-of-affairs (no pun intended) with Tiny, he spoke about his legacy in hip-hop, dubbing himself the originator of trap music.
“There was no such thing as trap music prior to [T.I.]. No such thing. It didn’t exist,” said Tip. “It was OutKast and crunk, like that’s what it was. Organized Noize and crunk.”
And in a lot of ways, T.I. has a strong point. Although the street element was always present in southern hip-hop, his 2004 classic sophomore album Trap Muzik helped name the beast – so to speak – spreading “trap” across the United States. And with the help of his longtime collaborator DJ Toomp, Tip also helped usher in the slang, terminology and sound of trap for global consumption. However, it’s all the more important to know that he wasn’t the only one involved in making trap music the cultural mainstay it is today.
Below, VIBE gathered some of the most important rappers who not only helped cultivate and innovate the sound and style of trap music, but also helped spread its influence across the country and lay down the foundation for the new crop of trappers: Young Thug, Migos, DJ Mustard, French Montana YG, Future, Lil Bibby and G-Herbo, among many others.
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The infamous Guwop may have not been the inventor of trap music, but he is without a doubt, one of the most influential rappers to come from the sub-genre of all time. In 2000, Gucci Mane and the equally important producer Zaytoven, emerged from the Atlanta underground to give us some of the greatest trap anthems including, “Bricks,” “Lemonade,” and the grimy video that gave the world its first look at the former Brick Squad member Waka Flocka Flame, “My Kitchen.” And after maintaining his relevance and making a huge comeback while completing multiple stints in prison, it’s hard to imagine what the game would be like without Big Gooch after the many contributions he’s given to the culture—like Nicki Minaj, MikeWillMadeIt, Metro Boomin’ Young Thug, Oj Da Juicemane, Future, and a score of other artists who grew under him.
The legendary duo of Bun B and Pimp C is one of the many southern rap groups who helped lay the foundation for what trap music is today, as their predecessors The Geto Boys and N.W.A. did for them and their contemporaries. One of their most notable qualities were their unique ability to tell vivid stories that shows listeners a complete spectrum of the dope game, both good and bad, without entirely focusing on the lavish riches and beautiful women. It’s an important quantity that artists like T.I., Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy would carry with them into today.
As one of the descendants of Atlanta’s notorious Black Mafia Family, Jeezy has been helped bring trap music to the national forefront since his legendary Trap or Die series and the infamous “Snowman” t-shirts. His 2005 debut Thug Motivation 101 gave fans an explosive look into the trap and garnered many significant hits including, “Sole Survivor” featuring Akon and “And Then What.” Over the years, he has evolved into a more matured and conscious rapper, but to this day, he hasn’t forgotten the trap that made him who he is.
Boosie Badazz has grown to become one of southern hip-hop’s most beloved icons after his release from prison in 2014. And he’s earned it after having such a long legacy of making hard, trap music that, like his early mentor Pimp C, tells the entire story of what it meant to live in the harsh streets of Baton Rouge. Most of his catalogue, starting with his 2000 debut at 17 Youngest of the Camp, contains some of the most lit and emotionally-vulnerable music to come from the sub-genre that still resonates with fans today.
One of the original hip-hop moguls of the south, it’s almost safe to say that had it not been for his contributions and his influence on the independent scene, hip-hop, let alone the south, would not be where it is today. Although his hard-hitting albums such as Ghetto D and Ice Cream Man were significant in their own right, especially with the help of producers KLC and Beats By The Pound, his strongest contribution was showing artists how to make millions without the help of a major label. With his branding, his fleet of lyricists that came out of No Limit and his unique style of telling the stories of the streets of New Orleans, Master P as proved time and again that he is one of the pivotal keys to why and how trap music became so successful.
DJ Paul & Juicy J
Though they have been rapping long before the term “trap music” was invented, most fans can hear the direct contributions legendary M-Town rappers and production duo have made within artists like Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, A$AP Rocky, and a score of other rappers across the country. Everything from their frantic, deep bass-filled horrorcore and soulful instrumentals to the rapid, double time flows of Juicy J and their late comrades Koopsta Knicca and Lord Infamous are prevalent in today’s trap music. From being imitations of N.W.A. in their earliest tapes as Triple Six Mafia, to evolving time and time again as grew bigger as the Hypnotize Camp Posse and Three 6 Mafia, the Oscar award-winning, DJ Paul & Juicy J are critically essential to everything that trap music looks and sounds like.