Trap has been one of the most popular subgenres of rap music for a while, but its origins have been up for debate. While multiple rappers lay claim to its invention and evolution, two in particular found reason to exchange words last year when T.I. and Gucci Mane debated which of them should be considered the father of trap music. Now, T.I. hopes to settle the debate once and for all, providing a definitive birthdate for the genre on People’s Party With Talib Kweli. Check out the clip above.
“Talk to me about the term ‘trap music,'” Kweli prompts. “Where it started and how we got to this point.” It’s clear from his nuanced response that T.I. has thought long and hard about it since he and Gucci traded barbs in 2018. While he gives credit to the origins of the slang term “trap” as a reference to the illicit drug trade, as well as the Atlanta rappers like Dungeon Family’s Big Boi and Cujo who used it in music before he did, he finally and definitively gives a date that the term “trap music” was applied to its own genre of rap. “The words ‘trap’ and ‘music’ had never been combined to describe a sound before August 19, 2003.”
That date is, of course, the release date of T.I.’s sophomore album Trap Muzik, which he released on Atlantic Records after the poor sales of his debut I’m Serious prompted him to leave Arista Records for a joint venture with his own Grand Hustle Records. The album was a hit, debuting at No. 4 on the Hot 100 and introducing T.I. — and his then-distinctive sound — to the world at large, driven by fan-favorite singles “24’s,” “Rubber Band Man,” and “Let’s Get Away.”
In the interview, T.I. is careful to give props to both his predecessors and his peers: “Of course, people rapped about drug dealing before… but the words ‘trap’ and ‘music’ had never been combined to describe a sound before… when my second album was released. Not to discredit or diminish any contributions from any of the other founding forefathers or other contributors that made it what it is today… I don’t think I, by myself, could have taken it from where it was… to where it is today.”
Hopefully, that disclaimer will keep other claimants like Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, and Future from feeling slighted, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that Trap Muzik was a widespread hit that helped T.I. become a force in the hip-hop world and introduced fans to a phrase that would come to define multiple generations of Atlanta’s rappers, eventually spinning off even weirder, more creative sub-styles like drill, cloud rap, and the Lil Nas X-coined country trap of “Old Town Road.” T.I. pays even more homage to the history of trap music with his Trap Music Museum, now showing in Atlanta with a pop-up version in LA running through early August.
People’s Party is a weekly interview show hosted by Talib Kweli with big-name guests exploring hip-hop, culture, and politics. Prior guests include Angela Rye, B Real, Jemele Hill, and Lamar Odom. Subscribe to Uproxx Video on Youtube to see future episodes of People’s Party With Talib Kweli as they premiere