Gucci Mane and T.I. have been embroiled in a tit-for-tat about who invented trap music for over a week. Gucci posted a flashback Instagram post commemorating the day he feels he invented trap music. The picture looks to be from the early to mid-2000s.
The ever prideful T.I. made his own post, claiming that he coined the term Trap Muzik with his classic 2003 album. The two Atlanta legends have been taking swipes at each other ever since then about who invented trap. Is it T.I. or Gucci? The truth is, like many things, it’s both of them — along with some other integral contributors. Nothing as ubiquitous as trap music can be traced to one single person.
Realizing that starts with understanding more about Atlanta culture and what trap music is. In 2018, the term could perhaps be most easily defined as “that 808-heavy sound everyone and their mother experiments with,” but it’s deeper than that.
The sound is lyrically derived from “third coast” artists like UGK, Scarface, 8Ball and MJG, Project Pat, and Outkast or others dishing the southern-fried version of the dope game that New York artists like Jay-Z and Nas rapped about. Albums like UGK’s Too Hard To Swallow and 8Ball and MJG’s On The Outside Lookin’ In made no prominent mention of the term “trap,” which wasn’t major slang at the time, but they were talking the same talk T.I. was. Sonically speaking, beats like Three Six Mafia’s 2000 “Who Run It” fit right in with a 2018 trap mix — as the recent rash of freestyles shows.
That’s why when T.I. says “there was no such thing as trap music prior to [T.I.],” as he told Angie Martinez, he sounds too hubristic. He deserves credit for being one of the first people to make the “trap” term a national signifier of the sound, but that doesn’t make him the “inventor.” If an artist comes up with a more flattering term than “mumble rap” to define the genre-bending sound Future and Young Thug pushed forward, could they call themselves the inventor of the sound?