Trap; hip-hop music’s sub-genre sensation currently doing serious numbers and winning the popularity contest among listeners. While the hypnotizing hooks, memorizing melodies, and 808s that hit harder than fiends at the spot can be captivating for the commercial ear, traditional hip-hop heads can’t find meaning in the “mumble rap.” In fact, trap music is often criticized as what’s killing rap music’s current climate with simplistic bar structure, lazy lyrics, and beats that are often looked at as the best part of the song instead of the actual song content. But often at times, there’s more than what lies beneath these said mumbles.
Many fail to understand the underlining therapeutic aspect in trap music, which is surprising considering hip-hop music always had a heavy focus on using music to express black male frustrations. Pioneers such as Grand Master Flash in “The Message” have paved a way for black men to turn their traumas into tunes, using music to make a way out with their art and free themselves in the process. Since came others, such as Scarface and his album “The Diary”, Ludacris with “Release Therapy,” and even recently with Logic’s “Everybody” that includes songs on anxiety and suicidal thoughts. But rarely do we hear those giving credit to trap artists that take on mental health in their music, instead most aren’t taken seriously for having their pain heard because of their often unorthodox approach. However, there’s a clear message on mental health with their music if you listen close enough.
Meet Me In The Trap
Welcome to the trap; a microcosm of reality for most black men in urban communities due to socioeconomic status effected by racial inequality, housing discrimination, mass incarceration and many more social and economic issues. As a result, some turned their life to the streets selling drugs to make a living which all went down at the trap house, or trap for short. Already facing hardships and hurdles as black men in America, they are met with other obstacles as drug dealers that relates to their mental health.
Can’t See It Coming Down My Eyes
Young Jeezy emphasized some of them in his early hit with Akon, “Soul Survivor,” explaining everything that comes with life in the trap. Jeezy, along with other trappers, faces living in fear and paranoia in addition to feel the pressure to provide. Also, he brings up the barriers black men face when dealing with their masculinity and feeling uncomfortable putting their emotions on display:
“Another day, another dollar
Same block, same nigga, same part, same green
I guess we got the same dreams
Or is it the same nightmares?
We let the doves do it for us, we don’t cry tears
Real niggas don’t budge
When Mel Man got his time he shot birds at the judge
I’m knee-deep in the game
So when it’s time to re-up, I’m knee deep in the cane
Real talk, look, I’m telling you, mayne
If you get jammed up, don’t mention my name
Forgive me, Lord, I know I ain’t livin’ right
Gotta feed the block, niggas starving, they got appetites
And this is everyday, it never gets old
Thought I was a juvenile stuck to the G-Code
This ain’t a rap song, nigga, this is my life
And if the hood was a battlefield, then I’d earn stripes”
The concept black men not being able to open up is nothing new or far fetched. It’s common in our culture to dismiss depression and other mental issues. In most black communities and families, mental health is usually put on the back burner, while trappers are at the stove cooking up things that are seen as more important. Statistically, African-Americans, and especially African-American men, struggle the most with mental health treatment, yet 20% more likely to have serious mental health problems than the general population. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 18.6% of African-Americans are living with a mental health condition, with only 16.9% of them seeking treatment.
On Our Own
More specifically black men that deal with all this dysfunction on their own find methods in self medicating. Rapper Future describes this in his 2016 mixtape, “Purple Reign.” In his song “Perky’s Calling,” he discusses how he pops pills to cope with the pressures of his new fame and past trauma from being in the trap. His addiction doesn’t stop there as he personifies his love for lean in the mixtape-title track, “Purple Reign.” He cries out for the constant need of his “girlfriend” as he has become co-dependent on his cough syrup drink.
Plenty of other problems can trigger these addictions. Getting caught up in the drug game and street life can also mean losing loved ones to violence or jail time. As a way to cope, some, like Young Thug, turn to substances to substitute. He touches on it with his verse in Meek Mill’s, “We Ball:”
“When they killed my nigga, I seen the footage on the tape
Man I must’ve threw up everything I ever ate
Man I know he got some dice at the Heaven gates
Kicking shit with all these bitches like he’s Kevin Gates
Relax your mind and kick your feet way up
Selling dog food tryna feed my pups
Young rich nigga and I’m built Ford Tough
And I’m going through stuff
I don’t feel no love
I shake your body and you still wake up
Taking Perkys, man I fill my cup
The feds watching and they still might come, I’m gone
I wanna see my brother with the Patek, not the static
Gucci wrap your toe up, got retarded with my daddy
All they seen was red bottoms bleeding by the casket
Perkys got me focused, I done noticed all the damages
I don’t see no purpose, in the county eating sandwiches
Lost so many niggas, I went crazy, I couldn’t balance it
You can’t question God, yeah, yeah, and then there’s challenges
Sipping on this Actavis, I swear I gotta manage it
SRT the challengers
Make that work do acrobatic flip, accurate
And I’m leaning like a project banister
I’m a boss, I ain’t never need a manager, got freaks, we ball scandalous, ayye”
Fuck Da Police
Besides internal conflicts, men in the trap deal with conflicts that are external. One of their biggest is law enforcement. Living a life of crime and being black make them a number one target. In some unfortunate cases, black men are a target even if they’re innocent. Police brutality is an apparent problem in this country, but amplifies in crime-ridden communities. 2 Chainz recalls his run-ins with police brutality in his music and recently in the Netflix docu-series, “Rapture.” He shares times he was beaten bloody by a belligerent drug task force team in Atlanta known as the Red Dogs.
There are even times men in the trap become entrapped with their way of living and find it hard to go legit with their lifestyle. Gucci Mane once fell victim to the system before cleaning up his life for good and became a repeated prisoner of his mind and in actual prison. After one particular stint of serving 6 months in Fulton County Jail for violating his probation, Gucci recorded “First Day Out.” First Day Out was not just Gucci’s return to the recording studio, but to his “baking soda, pot, and a silver spork.” He was soon sucked back into the same bad habits that landed him in jail initially. This same cycle is revisited by men in similar situations as well. Jay-Z once said, “We hustle out of a sense of hopelessness / Sort of a desperation / Through that desperation, we become addicted / Sorta like the fiends we accustomed to serving.” The same rules apply here. Moreover, incarceration can be used as mind control to manipulate black men. Once serving time, they are more likely to end right up locked up again and can do severe damage mentally. “That’s why they call it the trap,” Jay-Z said as well.
As soldiers of the streets, these men have moved militant to escape the trenches of the trap, and have lived to tell the story. Artists like the ones mentioned have used their trap tales as a teaching mechanism, from Thug Motivation 101 to therapy. I salute them for being both educators and entertainers. Among educating listeners through the art of storytelling, artists are also flipping their past to move forward to a brighter future. Thanks to 21 Savage and the success of his hit “Bank Account,” he is now creating a financial literacy program for disadvantaged youth so others won’t result in the life he once leaded. 2 Chainz is also on a mission to turn a traphouse into a home, as he put a positive spin on the negative connotation that can come with trap. In his rollout for album “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music,” he painted a traphouse pretty in pink providing HIV/AIDs tests, holding church service, and pampering the plenty of pretty girls who indeed love trap music as a pillar in the community. With these men being true hustlers who can make something out of nothing, I imagine them creating endless opportunities with the valuable resources they hold, one of them being the voice that speaks up for starters.
Any tracks that come to remind that are therapeutic? Tell me in a comment below.