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Reaching the right bold age of 29, I’ve been conscious for a few genres to come from obscurity/”the underground” (otherwise known as the internet) and become the cool thing for high schoolers and collegians to bang in the car. During my high school experience, I was a white person surrounded by other white people (as in Catholic All Boys Private School in Long Island white) blasting hip hop. However, I had maintained a very keen interest in Trance (the millenium epic sound coming from Tiesto, Ferry Corsten, Push/M.I.K.E., Armin Van Buuren), but playing it around friends socially yielded a reaction of “I hate techno” or “How can you listen to music without any words?” Rather than be a weird techno outcast person all the time, I adjusted my taste and adapted to the growing presence of hip hop so I could be cool around other people listening to music (cannot stress how white I am). Pop then absorbed the acceptance of Hip-Hop, and teen throbs used that sound for their singles. Brittney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Pink, Nsync even began to use a Hip-Hop sensibility for their releases.



Trance made me different as a music listener. It became a part of my personality that I was proud of and shared in common with only a few close friends, not every mouth-breathing horrible space-occupying average person who just likes whatever is popular in the moment (but will never admit that’s why they like it) . I would use Trance’s epicness to get pumped up before I ran at my high school track meets (400m baby), and I knew it wasn’t what was bumping through 99% of everyone else’s headphones. However, I noticed a shift when Justin Timberlake released “My Love” and I heard the (now overused) gated trance synth as the primary musical device to complement Timberlake’s falsetto. I was hopeful and excited for the mainstream musical landscape to come.


Electronica has now firmly established itself as acceptable (now even dominant) social music. With the established pop house trend, a counter culture, old-person-ear-violating trend was not far behind. Dubstep was just the right amount of different to become a curiosity on the internet, and gave us the world of bass to knock the car systems that would have been knocking hip hop 10 years before. Justin Bieber has a dubstep-ish single, Skrillex is a household name, and Flux Pavillion has been sampled for Jay-Z and Kanye’s album.


To me, Trap still sounds like a great glitchy southern club Hip-Hop beat missing the vocals. If big Hip-Hop artists start putting together great, classic songs on top of these beats (they already have), the movement has a chance to give us a fun crossover sound for a few years. It’s great at times, but will eventually be realized for the one trick pony that it is, a build and simple booming bass drop with quirky minimalist synth. Just hearing a catchy, simple beat with an enjoyable drop doesn’t last in the same form (in terms of mainstream relevance, listen to whatever makes your little heart beat), and it will easily get kicked out of the way and fade into obscurity by the next thing.



With the exception of the Harlem Shake (which I knew as something else), I haven’t heard enough unique/amazing Trap to fully understand it’s appeal and, more importantly how well it can mesh to mainstream music to cement itself in terms of musical relevance for years to come. The Harlem Shake kicked down the door for the genre (in terms of mainstream relevance), but using a gimmick and infectious viral component. Trap as a genre can’t keep up with the pace set by that movement. If “Gangam Style” was the first pop house song most of us had heard, would that sound/sub genre live and die with the relevance of that song?


Fast forward to the last 2000’s/early 2010’s, most pop stars have been releasing a more house oriented sound that involves not just a catchy chorus, but a build-up and DROP for maximum danceability. The realization that the clubs tend to be where most younger, attractive, taste-making musical fans enjoy their music may have driven the pop sound to have more of a house/electronic feel. Most pop songs in the past would eventually have a club remix anyway, so why not just release the club remix as the single?


As an “almost old person,” developing a new musical taste if much more difficult. We make fewer emotional connections to the music, and already have established preferences. So for me, Dubstep did take some getting used to. I was turned off at first (most likely an age related musical taste deficiency), but soon heard songs that made me understand the genre is sick when done properly (and with a traditional musical intelligence). Dubstep in its underground form violated enough ears to become a counter-culture curiosity (just like hip-hop did in the 1980’s/90’s) and jazz way before it), but then made friends with mainstream music by incorporating a more traditional musical build, suited for vocals, and then getting to the cyborg-getting-circumcised drop. I see Dubstep in its most musical form being available as a sound for mainstream musicians based on its sophistication, but losing its dominance in commercials/mainstream listen-ability based on how repetitive and rough it can be.


A genre’s staying power is dictated by its ability to crossover, which is why Hip-Hop will always survive as mainstream relevant. You can throw a rap verse on pretty much anything with a beat. Perhaps the sound of drums and car horns put to a funny video of someone eating apple pie will become the next artistic abortion that simple people decide is a good idea to imitate and arbitrarily make popular, forcing late night talk shows and stuffy local newscasters to acknowledge its presence. But until someone invents Pie-Horning, Trap will be the flavor of the moment and nothing more unless I start hearing some vocals. I’m open to education on Trap though, feel free to leave your precious Trap mixes in the comments.

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