So, I was thinking about all the shitty trap mixes I’ve heard this year, and reflected on all the comments I’ve read (and a few I personally made, early on) about how irritating trap music was. Well, needless to say, I decided I was definitely wrong about a few things. Flosstradamus is dope. The stuff Hudson Mo did was great! As well, I’ve heard a number of other trap artists that I’ve really enjoyed.
I also got a chance to UZ last weekend, and that was the coolest performance I’ve seen in a hell of a long time. I’ve seen the cycle repeat itself: when you start playing slow (or, slow to medium) hip hop breaks, people start dancing more. Way more than with dubstep – or at least, that’s what I’ve found. With dubstep, I just noticed people swaying about and, uh… “getting their rave on,” or something, but, like I said, when the hip hop breaks drop, a mad sensual rhythmic wave is blown over the audience and people just dig the hell out of it on an unconscious level.
I remember, years ago, when I was a teenager, and I worked for a local college bookstore as the gorilla mascot, passing out flyers during tailgating events before MSU games. On one of the fields near the stadium, there was a DJ and tons of kids dancing and having a good time, and there was a definite difference in how the crowd responded when the DJs played hip hop vs. when they played rock music. The electronic music of the time would be played, albeit sparingly, but by and large, it was hip hop and rock. This hip hop was mostly of the pre-trap era variety, but you’d also hear a few of the early trap-ish stuff, too. People dug it. They danced to it a lot more – especially freakdancing, which was actually a dancing trend that was started up the road, in Detroit, years earlier.
My point is, there’s something about the funky breakbeat of a hip hop rhythm, be it through straight drum boxes OR with samples, that just gets people in a certain physical mood that they might not be induced to NEARLY as often with high-speed electrostep material. As well, if anyone knows about the electrofunk of the early 80s (the original “electro” ) with artists such as Whodini (who did ‘Five Minutes of Funk’) or Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force (who did that ‘Planet Rock’ classic) they know that electronic music and hip hop were married, at least in the early 80s. It continued this way until the present, except that they both went in very different directions. It wasn’t as though they were completely divorced, but it was as if they were a couple who got married in an open-relationship. Every now and again, they return to each other, which is what happened in the last year or two, with the newer hybrid combinations of trap hip hop and rave/electronic/edm/electronic music (or whichever of the 29 genre names that electronic music has tried on throughout the years).
I think it’s a good thing. But, that isn’t what this article is about. This article is about dispelling misconceptions about bandwagon-jumpers.
Sure, you see a ton of artists that seemingly didn’t exist before 2012 suddenly rushing in and making trap, and it is rather odd, at first. Then, you realize that a ton of those ‘new’ artists have been making all sorts of electronic music for the last few years, but jumped onto the whole trap thing when it started exploding in the rave world.
Is that a bad thing?
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try out a new style. Am I saying that all of it is good? FUCK NO! In fact, WAY too much of it is really NOT that great, period. I’ve been making hybrid combinations of hip hop and electronic music throughout my career, but never really got into the trap stuff specifically, until I tried my hand at it recently, and had some fun with it.
Ultimately, I decided that, overall, I’m not going to be a “trap artist,” verbatim, but I definitely don’t mind mixing that funkish hip hop drum box rhythm into my experimental electronic music… After all, I’d been doing something similar to that for years. But now that the trap vibe in electronic music looks like it (MIGHT) be peaking, am I going to divorce myself from it entirely by saying I NEVER got into it, and I was disgusted that it showed up?
Again, I say: FUCK NO!
The problem with the whole “bandwagon” thing is a little flawed, I think. I’d like to address that because it seems as though there are too prevailing opinions on the subject that I’ve heard expressed, more than any other, and they are:
1) “Trap is lame, most of these folks are bandwagon jumpers,”
2) “Who cares? I love trap!”
I don’t really side with either of these two, because I thought about music progression and evolution, and thought about how quickly a new sound (or, new to many) can suddenly seem to blow up (again, some have been down for years, but to any in rave culure, it was a ‘blow up’) and once you start to see all your favorite electronic artists latch onto it, you might think, “Oh, damn, what a fucking trendy hipster bandwagon-jumping son of a bitch,” which is, at least in some cases, flawed.
Twenty years ago, when rock changed dramatically, instead of hearing Guns ‘n Roses quite as often, you started hearing Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
It wasn’t exactly bandwagon-ish at first, because, originally, all the grunge artists came out of Washington state. Eventually, others followed suit, but think about it for a second, if a heavy metal band in 1990 or 1991 decided, “woah, this new style is coming up, and its pretty fun, and people are getting sick of hair metal now, what do I do?!,” they would have to go through a whole series of changes; they have to play their instruments differently, structure their songs a bit differently, they might change their outfits to try to fit in more and look the part, and when they release their new grunge album, it’ll be a year or two later!
Contrast that to now, where, in order to change up your style altogether, you might need to learn some new musical techniques, change the vibe, speed up the tempo (if you were making dubstep, that is – because dubstep is 70 – not 140!! 140 is a myth) and then, you work on some tunes and test your skills – and then, a week or two later, you come out with your first trap mix.
A week or two later! Not a year or two.
At this point, because of the internet, and also because of the speed at which an electronic musician is capable of create interesting new tunes and grooves quicker than ever possible in history, it might look more like bandwagon jumping, because they ‘suddenly’ switched up their shit and went in a different direction. Really, though, it has just as much to do with the speed of technology and artistic evolution that is now possible.
So what I’m saying is, the trap bandwagoners are no more bandwagon-izing than any other artist, its just so much easier to notice now because it doesn’t take nearly as long. But then again, if it really IS that easy to switch everything up within a short time, why shouldn’t an open-minded and experimental musician do so? Really, why shouldn’t they incorporate newer elements of music that they’re seeing all over the place online and inevitably being influenced by, if they should choose to try stray from the dubstep mold?
I know, its not all dubstep or trap. But really, in my opinion, anything that kills dubstep a little bit is, in my mind, a TITAN genre, and should at LEAST be given the benefit of the doubt, for a little while, eh?
Having said that, I don’t fundamentally hate dubstep, nor do I feel that there’s anything intrinsically bad about it. But even a delicious egg-salad croissant sandwich served everyday gets old after a while. Dubstep “pushed open the floodgates,” (to borrow a metaphor from… EVERYONE who was around in the pre-dub era…) and with so many people now on board, and what with the extremely fast pace of technology, ultra-control and ultra-efficiency in the realm of music production, it really makes sense, in an organic way, to see this whole trap movement exploding the way it has been.
Some are bandwagoners, some aren’t, things are just sped up now. Some folks just heard it and thought, “oh damn, that’s cool, I want to try that for a minute,” and then, twenty minutes later, they have a fully functioning (or somewhat functioning) trap beat, and chances are, it might sound pretty cool.
To really know if an artist is a true (sorry to use this word one more time) bandwagon-jumpin’ fool, it pays to look at their body of work outside of the short or immediate term. Looking at an artist in the longer term – say, over 10 years or so – takes far too fucking long… However, looking at their medium term output (the sacred middle path) might prove useful…
If an artist jumps from dubstep to electro to moombah to trap to midtempo-post-step-neuro-whatever, and all in the course of three years, and in direct accordance with the Beatport top ten; as well, if their tunes sound pretty similar to all the top artists in these genres, then, yes; they likely are jumping on a b-wagon.
(Ok, I need a word besides bandwagon because I swear I can’t use that word anymore in this article, I’ve written it out 30 times now. Let’s call it a drinking game. Everytime I use that word, you drink a shot of tequila. If you’re not dead by the end of the article, please leave a comment!)
But if that artist has a different path than this, or if their music is just very broad and encompasses all sorts of styles – from the underground to the mainstream and everything in between – then I don’t see what the problem is.
A few years back, I heard a DJ say, “yea, I’m all about this dubstep thing now, but when something new comes along, I’ll just jump into that.” Ha. Some folks just love hittin’ the trends. There is nothing wrong with that, but as far as artistic integrity goes, well…. It doesn’t really exist, to a very deep extent, with these types of DJs and producers.
My point, in all of this ranting, is that its probably a lot more complex than people think, and with the rise in popularity of these new forms of music, you’re going to see a full range of folks with all sorts of different mentalities and outlooks from genre to genre, trend to trend, musical technicality to musical technicality. It takes all kinds; and certainly, gone are the days when music of this nature was just a bedroom affair; where you’d show your friends your new mix, you’re lucky to get 1000 people to hear your new tune, and maybe there would be some event to go to if you drove two hours down the road every couple of weeks where you could hear other musicians like yourself. That will remain true for a few niche-circles of producers (its pretty much ALWAYS been true for those poor “IDM’ers,” and actually, this is probably a distinct LACK of limelight that they probably enjoy) but overall, there are going to be tons of new styles and techniques in the next few years, many of them will be inspiring and fun, and I say, if you wanna’ jump on board for a couple minutes to see if the new genre shoe fits you, why the fuck not? There’s a difference between experimenting a little bit and being a shallow trend-hopper.
Of course, its never a bad idea to try and CREATE YOUR OWN new style, and actually, I much prefer artists like that.
One thing I would love to see – and this would actually be a pretty radical change to 90% of what you hear from the electronic DJs right now – is music without an epic drop every two minutes. I want to just groove out, sometimes. The audience isn’t stupid – we can handle hearing music that doesn’t artificially lift us up and break us down constantly. Well, I suppose that’s a rant for another day. And believe me – its something I could spend a book’s worth of pages writing about. But until then, I hope this post was interesting, and hopefully, made you think about what’s been happening in music lately, and possibly reconsider these notions of musical trend-jumping that are, to a large extent, leftover from a now obsolete 20th century point of view on how you’re “supposed” to act as a musician.
I will say, in closing, that even though I was happy to see trap suck out some of the dubstep dubsteam, I’ll be happy when the violent gangsta traptronica shit starts to disappear. I love the sounds of hip hop, but I think it’s a shame that some folks think hip hop HAS to have that Southern drumbox sound. Give me that funky worm, and some break samples – real break SAMPLES, not just remixes. There has been some interesting new rap coming out of New York and California the last couple of years, perhaps samples are going to get big once more in hip hop – but, again, another rant for another day.