Trap music – the EDM variety that emerged last year with Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” and not the hip-hop style that’s been around for roughly 20 years – has reached a fork in the road. No longer moving on a straight path slightly below mainstream EDM, the subgenre blending Southern hip-hop beats with house and electro now seems to peak with pop music while diverging off into another direction with its big-name performers.
What ignited early in 2012 some say as a response to dubstep’s divergence is now going through the same conundrum: Defined sounds are no longer as clear cut, sub-subgenres starting to manifest, and pop stars now adopting this supposedly-edgy style.
The question, then, about trap music’s future is not will it continue but how.
The “Too Mainstream” Issue
Close to a year ago, Justin Bieber put out dubstep-influenced single “As Long As You Love Me,” officially transforming that rough wub-wub-wub South London club sound into a palatable product for U.S. teenyboppers; some cried foul at the “official” mainstreaming of dubstep, but at the same time, the subgenre had already been experiencing fracturing: post-dubstep for those tired of the “mainstream” cacophony of Skrillex; brostep for those who think dubstep is really electronic heavy-metal; robostep leaning more toward robotic and metallic-sounding samples; drumstep, a drum and bass meets dubstep subgenre; and even the tongue-in-cheek, slightly-classist term clownstep.
Out of this mainstream emergence and divergence, trap music was hailed as the “new dubstep” by those who didn’t seem to realize this form of hip-hop production had been around for close to two decades. But since getting adopted by EDM fans and aspiring young producers, trap has already, in about 18 months’ time, gone through a similar pattern: Certain producers got big on a mainstream level (think Baauer, as well as UZ, TrapZillas, and Carnage), and pop stars began adding the chopped-up, slowed-down, hip-hop-influenced EDM sounds to their songs.
The first was Will.i.am and Justin Bieber’s collaboration “#thatpower” – which YILB.com described as the end of trap music. But while nothing good really comes out when Will.i.am tries his hand at electronic music, “#thatpower” is only a minor offense in poor trap adoption compared to Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop.” Although hip-hop trap producer Mike WiLL Made It is behind the former Disney star’s second attempt to “grow up,” “We Can’t Stop” smacks of a paycheck effort from a producer who could be doing far better and more interesting things.
Meanwhile, Cyrus has embarrassingly taken on a hip-hop/trap persona that twerks at Juicy J (of Three 6 Mafia) shows while proclaiming she “love