Discussions on the origins of trap music tend to take shape from a variety of perspectives. There are those who see it through a regional lens. Then there are those looking at it from an artistic angle, while others identify the music by the production style by sound and lyrical content. At some point during the debate – so far as it involves rappers – linguistics get introduced into the conversation, and thus begins the dispute over who actually coined the term ‘trap music.’ During an interview with Angie Martinezin April, T.I. pointed to his usage of the phrase for the title of his sophomore album, and in doing so, adamantly defends the date of its 2003 release to be the moment trap music was officially born. In an exclusive released by Montreality on Wednesday, August 2, the Grand Hustle mogul reiterated his position.
“Who had an album named Trap Muzik‘? I’m asking … Well, then that’s who started it. It’s just as simple as that. Unless there was a time before then that you can recall hearing it,” T.I. said. “That means that since it was introduced to the world there were people who came on and enforced it, and kind of spread the genre out and you know, gave it wings and life beyond its origin, but if you go back to who truly started it, I must humbly say, ‘myself.'”
Among the crop of today’s trap stars, 21 Savage has been vocal about the identity of the sub genre in an effort to reclaim its roots for those, who like him, see it as a form native to Atlanta. He recently went so far as to say that it can’t be trap music if the artist making it isn’t actually from the ATL.
In a subsequent interview, the young trapper broke down the concept of the trap beyond the music, giving nuance to what the streets refer to as “the trap.” Such analysis provides for cultural grounds off of which to base a discussion on where and how trap music began, but it also opens up how the question can be interpreted. If trap music is represented by the identifiable elements of street hustle that thrive in ‘the trap,’ opponents of T.I.’s assertion will pose that hip-hop artists were rapping about the trap more than a decade before he began rapping about the trap. And from that very argument comes the examples of times a rapper actually used the word “trap” to allude to the trap in a song, as was the case on Outkast’s song “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” off of their 1998 album Aquemini.
However, T.I. has a valid argument, especially in terms of branding. Because “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” nor any song that used the term prior to it, innovated the language associated with the trap to capture its essence, as an actual movement. Yes, UGK, 8Ball & MJG, Master P gave birth to the style that would spawn Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy, Future, and 2 Chainz later on, but until T.I. showed up in the equation, were any of his predecessors claiming to make “trap music”?