Hip hop music, particularly in the USA, is undoubtedly going through a period of change. The sound of the genre is transforming and songs are becoming increasingly beat-orientated. A strong beat will often mean success for the track, with less importance placed on vocals and lyrical content. The demand from top rappers for top beats has led to the rise of producers such as Metro Boomin, DJ Mustard, DJ Khaled and Mike Will Made-It – who, between them, have helped just about every big rapper out there to a hit single.
One place in particular is pumping out this new wave hip hop like there’s no tomorrow: Atlanta. The American city, in the Southern state of Georgia, has been a producing globally successful rappers for years, such as Gucci Mane, T.I, Ludacris, Soulja Boy, Outkast and Waka Flocka Flame.
Atlanta is famous for the beat-heavy rap sub-genre known as ‘trap‘. Trap songs usually feature heavy drums, punchy hi-hats and lyrics about poverty, violence and peddling drugs in the inner city. Trap is believed to have originated in Atlanta in the early 90s but is still alive and kicking today.
The track ‘Bad and Boujee‘ by trio Migos shone a light on the city’s current trap scene after it’s video went viral and collected almost 300 million views on Youtube. They were also credited with creating the ‘dab‘ dance move which became a worldwide internet craze in late 2016.
Other artists like Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, Young Thug, Childish Gambino, Future and producers Metro Boomin and Mike Will Made-It have been dominating the genre recently and creating a buzz around the city of Atlanta.
Fellow Southern trappers Rae Sremmurd have also been closely associated with the scene via their collaborations with Mike Will Made-It and Gucci Mane. The duo had global hits in 2016 with ‘No Type‘ and ‘Black Beatles‘.
Atlanta rapper 21 Savage and Atlanta producer Metro Boomin‘s track ‘No Heart‘ is a perfect example of the city’s trap style with it’s punchy hi-hats, simple bars and drowsy delivery.
Youtube’s biggest music vlogger Anthony Fantano, AKA The Needle Drop, recently made a video in which he spoke about how Lil Yachty and other Atlanta rappers are bushing the boundaries of the genre – even calling them a part of ‘rap’s punk phase‘.
Anthony also touched on a point that a lot of ‘old-school‘ rap fans will bring up again and again and again about how the genre has hit a downward spiral. They will bemoan that this new breed of US rappers led by the Atlanta trap scene aren’t making ‘real’ rap music but layering lousy lyrics over a beat that is designed to take the attention away from the writing.
But are these songs bad just for this reason? It’s true that rap and hip hop was born from these old-school rappers talking about the hardship they faced growing up in a rough inner-city neighbourhood, and all the focus was on the lyrics. But all genres evolve over time – pop and rock certainly have.
The Needle Drop’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/theneedledrop
Below is a series of 10 short episodes produced by Noisey – the musical arm of Vice on the Atlanta trap scene: