It should come as no surprise that trap is getting played and created throughout South America. A musical genre that compelling could never be kept to a single metro area — country, even — in the Internet crate digging era of 2016.
The dark, Atlanta-born hip-hop genre was forged in the megalomania and paranoia of the Deep South drug trade. Talented MCs proved just as violent, and way crazier than the stars of gangsta or reality rap had been. Its poster boy was the wacky, brilliant rapper and violent hustler Gucci Mane, he of the murder charges and ice-cream tattoo.
The anxiety-provoking tracks were racketed up several notches along the pop culture ladder to appropriation when EDM DJs entered the trap game. Diplo, Baauer, and Flosstradamus spun the 808 rhythms with vertigo-inducing drops and dizzying highs.
Legendary trap producer Zaytoven says, the real definition of the music lies not in a particular configuration of hi hats, but rather a sense of struggle. “A trap can be your job,” he said in a recent RBMA roundtable with the heirs to Atlanta trap greatness, Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital. “Me, cutting hair, the barbershop is my trap,” he continued. “That’s how I’m making my money. Trap music to me is hustling music.”
Of course, Atlanta is not the only place where violence and poorly thought-out tattoos happen, or where warped forms of urban music resonate. From TK Squad’s two young Uruguayan MCs (who met at their school for male students with disabilities), to dancehall-inspired Brazilian femme warrior Lay, each have adapted trap to their countries’ political and cultural milieus. Some are evolving the genre so that it is more palatable to hometown crowds, some to pioneer new beat fusions, and some simply because their musical identities are more complicated than a single genre.
Marlon Breeze of Nación Triizy (Chile)
Most of the artists on this list are creating within a futuristic framework, evolving trap with different sounds and strains. But Nación Triizy, a tight-knit Santiago collective, has proven its enthusiasm for importing Atlanta trap sounds south, with few obvious updates to the sound besides the obvious fact that they rap in Spanish.
Marlon Breeze is one of the collective’s rising stars, and the album he released the year, Le ‘Trap Part.1, is an essential listen for anyone looking to understand the state of girls ’n’ guns focused trap in South America. The audiovisual-focused Breeze has released a slew of hardcore images to accompany it. A booty short-clad hot girl climbing atop a dude tied to a bed, his face covered by a hood is one scene in “Geminis,” a song that serves as a cautionary tale to the double-faced; a corpse tied to the back fender of a neon green race car is another.
Breeze is the sexy, stoic guy with crazy bi-toned hair at the center of this chaos holding up an umbrella to suggest that yes, he can make it rain. Le ’Trap Part.1 is comprised of musical tableaus that Breeze says in interviews are based on his real life dealings in Santiago. “It’s all there,” he says. “The money (we want what we deserve to have), stories based on real events, violence, drugs, having a good time, not being poor anymore, things that have happened to me, that I’ve lived through.”
Nación Triizy is a force in their local scene, with rappers Paul Vaera, Ricky Motora and C.A.S.O. forming a distinct profile (the crew even has its own clothing line, for those trying to share their style, which is heavy on creative bleaching and NBA logos). Between the group and other ascendant artists like Pablo Chill E, Young Cister, Jamez Manuel – who co-founded a label for emergent trap artists with Marlon called Fiebre41 – and Camileazy, it seems clear that Chile’s hip-hop scene has taken a sharp turn into the trap, cachai?
Lay doesn’t consider herself a trap artist, strictly speaking. “I don’t tag my music with any specific genre,” the emcee told Remezcla. She said that her work pulls references from dancehall to punk rock. But, she says, trap is one genre that São Paulo has proven itself ready for. “Here in Brazil the trap was well accepted, there are events and artists who invest that that genre.”
Lay was putting together rhymes before she ever set her words to music. “I wrote feminist poems,” she says. A friend encouraged her to use those same skills to make songs and she decided that they had a point and launched her career. The result was her first single. Its success was enough to make her want more, and after being introduced to the producer Léo Grijó, who makes layered and repetitively addictive hip-hop songs for groups like BLUNT e De Leve and Familia Mada, Lay and Grijó churned out 129129, her first EP, whose seven songs were released in April.
129129 is an anti-authoritarian good time, an album that does draw from trap (evident in “Ressalva” and “Tandera”’s haunting melodies), but also from other genres like funk caricoa (the um-chuck-chuck of “Fal$os”) and ragga. Lay is not afraid to imply violence in her lyrics. The album was hugely inspired, she says, by larger than life Jamaican dancehall and U.S. hip-hop emcees like Lady Saw, Foxy Brown, and Lil Kim. 129129’s album art is two stiletto heels sole to sole, arranged to resemble a woman’s pelvis. The connotations are clear, especially for Lay, who slaughters photos posing in high fashion and gold jewelry for Brazilian talents like stylist Brecho Replay and São Paulo photographer Hick Duarte. It’s femininity as armor, one of the best of legacies in hip-hop.
GWOP Sucio (Peru)
This Peruvian-born producer lives in Paris, but that hasn’t stopped GWOP Sucio from heavy involvement in the scene back home. Last year while visiting Lima, the 25-year-old got caught up in the Inkas Mob, a hip-hop collective that was waiting for the right beatmaker to take them deeper into trap sounds, quickly releasing the 10-track album Inkas Tape with co-producer Ginola.
Like many South American collectives, the Inkas tasked themselves with bringing the hip-hop music many Peruvians grow up listening to,into Spanish. Inkas Tape is a good place to start if you’re looking to get into the Inkas’ synthesis of gold chains and Peruvian heritage (album art is literally an Incan figurine dripping computerized petals and a dookie rope, to start).
Inkas Mob tracks focus on the hustle lifestyle — the apartment from the “My Life” video, for example, superficially indistinguishable from the club houses and project parking lots that trap fans have become acquainted with in music videos shot in Little Mexico and other Atlanta neighborhoods.
GWOP is a student of trap’s roots, counting key Atlanta players like Metro Boomin, Southside, Lex Luger, and Zaytoven as his production inspirations. He fosters that link through his work, but also brings it into the Peruvian experience. See his work with Lima emcee Ciarci, who works the Spanish on “Bodega”: “encuentrase en frente de la bodega, sabe que mi hustle no juega.” Ciarci, another member of Inkas Mob, calls GWOP “the best trap producer in Peru.”
GWOP’s not the only one approximating the trap life in the Andes — and encouraging others to do the same, often releasing instrumental tracks with explicit instructions for his fans to use them as a base for their own flow. Peruvian producer and hip-hop promoter Pe Garcia has been working the sound for years, and fellow Paris-Peru producer Deltatron of Terror Negro records has created trap tracks with C7 Gang and Chile’s Jamez Manuel.
DJ Mi$$il is known for her booty popping live sets, but made the jump into original music on New Year’s Eve 2015 with “Fruta Exxxotica.” The track serves as an intro to Mi$$il’s flow, and is produced by Old Young (aka Justin Time) who is one-half of the team behind Los Angeles boutique and creative hothouse Freak City. If freak femme visibility is what will save the world, a champion lives in Asunción, and she’s playing out on the fringes of what constitutes the traditionally male-dominated trap genre.
The production is a continuation of Mi$$il’s work as a DJ, where her sets range from King DouDou to Travis Scott and Santa Muerte bootlegs, often accompanied by video sets in which the rapper twerks upside down, midriff enforcing the beat of her music. The pastiche of influences make for a internet-educated take on hip-hop and trap, a good match for Freak City’s bootleg-heavy fashion and auditory stylings. Mi$$il’s new song coming out with Mexico City’s Chico Sonido should further clarify her terms of battle.
Danger babe vibes are on evidence in the accompanying visuals for “Fruta Exxxotica.” In the music video for the track, Mi$$il vamps in futuristic glasses and a swim/space suit, a ray gun brandished in her hands as she pulses her hips to the beat.
The drive to be seen — but not touched — is also born out in Mi$$il’s visual art, her paintings and tattoo flash sheets where she creates a universe of girls carrying knives in their belt, the handle inches from their visible underboss. Babes shown from behind sitting on their knees, their thong swimsuits showing us their assets. Mi$$il’s trap has less to do with chemically processing drugs and more to do with examining and controlling the effects of other, more lascivious kinds of stimulants on society.
CL∩B H∀TS (Argentina)
This Argentine producer came to trap in a slightly roundabout, appropriately music nerd way — with an early love for old school dubstep and bass music. “My idea was to experiment with everything I could,” says La Plata’s CL∩B H∀TS. He got really into dubplates, acetate disks that provide VIPs with unique recordings of drum ’n’ bass and other kinds of sound systems and producers. Experiencing those esoteric tracks proved pivotal in the development of his musical tastes. “I was really into their deep, solemn basslines,” the producer says. His divergent musical tastes converged, somewhat coherently, into dark, solemn trap — “el trapicheo,” as CL∩B H∀TS puts it. Once he started playing trap songs, he became drawn to the genre’s simplicity. “It clearly demonstrates that you can do a lot with a little,” he says.
Now, he counts Zaytoven, a trap legend who has appeared on every one of Gucci Mane’s albums in addition to work with the chant-shout masters Migos, 2 Chainz, Young Jeezy (really he’s worked with everyone in U.S. trap), as “sobre saliendo,” his favorite producer. Asked for his musical influences, producers Lex Luger and Southside’s collective 808 Mafia also gets a nod, as does fellow Argentine trap artists, Paraná group Trap Drillers, who have been putting out tracks for years. Not everything that CL∩B H∀TS creates, though, goes as hard as the group from Paraná — check his sad boy depression-hop that he’s masterminded on occasion for La Plata emcee Karne Palta for his utilization of trap’s dark moments for indietronica ends.
There’s a lot happening on the Argentine trap scene, but CL∩B H∀TS doesn’t think the music has quite moved past its messy baby stage. Maybe Argentine trap has yet to find its exact dimensions, which maybe makes it more exciting for a young beatmaker. “It’s still really dirty, it’s not clear what trap is.”
Of course, not all South American artists using trap in their music have shrines to Young Jeezy in their studio. Take for example, Valencia, Venezuela’s VFRO, whose production style has more to do with EDM beatmakers than Lex Luger.
We’ve been into the trap machinations of VFRO, (aka Aroldo Contreras), for a minute now. His is a trap that incorporates more high-energy sounds, like salsa and even Baltimore and Jersey club. Check his “Yela Yela Yela” remix, the drop-heavy drama a better backdrop for the video’s multi-gender twerkers than street corner hustlers. The past year has seen VFRO do his part to expand his country’s rapidly developing electronic music scene. He’s collaborated with fellow venezolano and popular vocalist Alissa Marie, Puerto Rico’s Deborah Blues, and has put his on spin on Alvaro Diaz’s “La Champaña,” joining the rapper on the island for Diaz’s fundraising gig to get the MC to SXSW.
That blend of collaborators makes perfect sense when you consider that the producer got his start in music playing the guitar, later evolving into DJ sets with Venezuelan artist Subdata before he turned his eye to EDM production (no simple task in a country where access to gear remains super-limited despite the sporadic international success of artists like ARCA, as he told music documentarian Vic Paz in their interview for Thump).
In VFRO, you can see the global ramifications of trap’s expanding influence. Utilized more for its pitched down audio profile and 808 sampling than ethos, the genre becomes a more mutable ingredient — a component in a producer’s bag of tricks rather than their ride-or-die lifestyle philosophy. Filtered through an economic situation in his home country that worsens with every drop in petroleum prices, VFRO’s soundscapes combine trap with futurismo caribeño to create an electronica that caters to a global community of internet-literate music fans.
TK Squad (Uruguay)
It’s not always easy being a trap artist in countries where the genre is still very emergent — you know the savagery that can go down between adherents of different strains of hip-hop. But never let it be said that TK Squad can’t take on a challenge. Fly’p (aka Santiago Arévalo) and 16-year-old El Dogg (aka Francisco Castro) had been rapping for years when they met at a school for boys with disabilities. Now they’re putting out trap flows from their wheelchairs, regardless of what the haters have to say about it.
“There’s very few people that make trap music here,” Fly’p said when he spoke with Remezcla. “In Uruguay they’re really conservative in terms of hip-hop and people think trap is too ‘commercial.’” That means the duo had to look far beyond their national scene for inspiration. Fly’p said they count among their favorite artists Chicago’s Lil Durk, Speaker Knockerz (RIP), RondoNumbaNine, Rae Sremmurd, Fetty Wap, Future, and others. They grab their beats from free use instrumentals on the internet, or create them in El Dogg’s studio, named 2 Jotas Records in homage to a dead classmate’s nickname at the school where El Dogg and Fly’p met.
Some TK Squad songs deal with getting over a dysfunctional relationship, as in “No More” (their titles are in English though they rap in Spanish). The majority of their lyrics hue closer to trap tradition, in that they deal with the struggle to get over. From “That’s All“: “I keep going like always, bro/Here with my regulars/I’m still nobody but here I come/Many people beg me to quit, but that won’t be today.”
That sense of purpose, Fly’p said, comes from TK Squad’s real love for trap. “Here we are,” he told us. “Fighting against a country with no audience…but like I told you, we’re coming up.” Music is its own reward in this case. “We do it more than anything for ourselves, because we love it.”
When this La Paz resident decided to dedicate her first DJ set to trap sounds, there was little precedent on the local scene. “I hadn’t heard many DJs with trap sets,” Rhina Vargas Rios (aka Rhicarda) says in her interview with Remezcla. “People would play a couple of tracks and then change genres.”
She wanted more. Luckily, Rhicarda had the floor in one of La Paz’s most exciting forums for music. She is the newest member of Oi Mas Bass, a decade-old party collective whose original event, the drum ’n’ bass and dub step-oriented La Bass, just celebrated its 65th edition. She tested out trap for the first time at Subtropical, Oi Mas Bass’ digital cumbia dance floor.
Rhicarda says she was first attracted to the taboo factor inherent in trap music. “It’s super dark and at the same time sexy, with a really heavy flow that sounds like something that’s forbidden, which has always been attractive to me.”
But staying dynamic so far from Atlanta requires hustle. “It’s become a necessity, a desperate search to know more, learn more,” says Rhicarda. “I started investigating (blessed internet), and asking acquaintances and peers.” She says Bolivia’s DJ Ark was a huge resource in this process — in addition to Black $unday, the three may be the only DJs in La Paz that focus their aural arsenal on trap.
Currently, Rhicarda says she’s getting the most life from combining trap sounds with other forms of music that’s more dance-friendly and popular in her town. “After searching for awhile, I found trap mixes with more tropical sounds, with touches of moombahton, cumbia, and funk carioca.”
The Bolivian trap scene, she says, is still in the process of emerging. “But I have faith that the movement of beatmakers is growing, and there’s new, super interesting stuff coming out all the time.”