Candela Vázquez Berdié, aka Ms Von Disko, is a Spanish DJ, promoter and musical journalist specialized in new trends and urban music. She curates along DJ Sweet Drinks two nights in her city, Zaragoza, Face Down Vss Up and The Dollar Club, that have invited iconic national and international trap and urban music artists to the city.
Trap music, the sound heir to Gangsta rap and American Dirty South, had its explosion of popularity in Spain around 2015. Influenced by the American trap sound of the late 2000s, it’s fusion with other staple sounds created countless subgenres along the way. There is no doubt that trap artists have left their mark and legacy, in terms of influence over modern Spanish culture and music. Let’s delve deeper…
Before speaking of Spanish trap, we need to highlight how wrongly used the term was, particularly by the Spanish press during the second half of the 2010s. Seeking to earn readers by clickbait or out of sheer ignorance, they classified a bunch of kids as trap artists, but the only thing they had in common was the use of autotune, ad libs and producing with a Roland TR-808. The big majority of this group ended drifting away from the term, due to the negativity associated to it. Sometimes, the press even classified it as “Ni-Ni music” (“Ni-Ni” is a term minted by the Spanish press to refer to a generation of young adults who were neither studying, nor working, and were increasingly becoming a burden to both their parents and society).
Truth is trap is not just based around the use of autotune and the sound of an 808, but it embraces a lifestyle and a very particular overall theme. Trap is not just a bunch of lyrics over a beat: it’s an artform that has transcended language, culture and even its original location.
Just as it happened in the 70s with the term “urban music”, created by DJ Frankie Crocker, that was used to designate different musical genres, all with African-American roots; in Spain, any artists that were making music apart from rap, electronic or instrumental started to be classified as trap. This new genre gave voice to a silenced generation, as American hip-hop did during its origins. By giving the spotlight to voices from the undermined communities, that are away from the mainstream, trap offered an opportunity for the oppressed to tell their stories.
Since its inception till today, trap has suffered many evolutions and changes, just as other musical genres and trends. Since 2015, trap has had a huge impact in the Spanish music industry, influencing both rappers and producers all over the country. It grew exponentially, boosted by YouTube, SoundCloud and social media in general. There is no question that there are always issues associated with any musical genre that works as a subculture: you just have to see how rap music was undermined for decades, due to the misconceptions about gangsters, drugs and violence. Trap suffered from the same prejudices from society.
But trap music in Spain cannot be understood without its origin in rap music. Some Spanish rap artists started to “Americanize” their sound, as Primer Dan, Hermanos Herméticos or Chirie Vegas.
It can’t be understood either without taking into account the economic crisis that Spain was going through at the time, just as in the beginning of rap in the US. The history of trap in Spain is linked to the crisis affecting the country, specially if we analyze the musical aspect. Going over the social and economic context of the time, it shows us how this genre became a way of expressing everything that affects the youth economically. It reached the point where many started to create new ways to make money from their art.
FROM ATLANTA TO GRANADA
To fully understand the beginning of trap in Spain, the role of the city of Granada cannot be contested. It was one of the epicenters of the movement and the birthplace of some of the pioneers of the genre as KEFTV VXYZ (read as Kefta Boys), formed by Yung Beef, El Mini, Hakim y Khaled, that started making their first appearances together in 2013, same year that Yung Beef’s iconic mixtape “A.D.R.O.M.I.C.F.M.S. 1” was released, becoming one of the most influential works of the genre.
Other of the hotspots for the new sound was Madrid, with bands as Corredores de Bloque: formed by D. Gomez (today Kaydy Cain), Markés (aka Israel B), Big Jay, Nano, M. Ramirez, Callejo, Pocas Libras and MackDeRojas were some of its early members.
At the same time, Barcelona also started creating its own scene, with artists such as Cecilio G, P.A.W.N Gang, Pimp Flaco, Kinder Malo or Damed Squad.
And it was from the union of these three scenes that PXXR GVNG was born, the staple band of Spanish trap. Pronounced as Poor Gang and named as a parody of Birdman’s Rich Gang, PXXR GVNG was created in 2013 in Barcelona, with members from different bands and cities: Yung Beef and Khaled (Kefta Boys), D. Gómez (Corredores de Bloque), and producer Steve Lean. And, just during the very beginning, Cecilio G, The King of Bogatell.
PXXR GVNG influences not just approach trap, but go beyond and take from styles as dembow, bachata, salsa, reggaetón or Spanish flamenco. That made them create an unique sound, aesthetic and codes of their own. PXXR GVNG was also a ramification from other bands, as Los Santos and La Mafia Del Amor. Their members, today going on their solo careers, are still references for the trap and reggaetón scenes.
From that point on, each Spanish region started to create their own scenes, as it happened in Valencia with artists as Kidd Keo or Yung Sarria.
MUTATIONS AND POST-TRAP
Trap sound, as any other genre that becomes so popular, started to embed itself in each layer of the music industry. Thanks to this, different new genres were created that included elements from trap (although very far from its essence and background). That was the case of the union of trap rhythms with flamenco music, carried out by artists such as Dellafuente or Maka, from Granada. Or the union between vaporwave and trap (vaportrap), championed by Pedro Ladroga (from Seville).
Trap has also attached itself to punk, in artists as Kaixo (Vigo); to R&B, with the biggest being Rels B (From Majorca), Maikel Delacalle or Cruz Cafune (Canary Isles); to the maximized sound of Sticky M.A. (Madrid); or the emo-rock with GOA. It is a genre that is constantly expandings.
Also, in the last decade, there has been an increase in artists that mix various musical traditions, creating a more diverse and eclectic scope. The genre has been molded by many independent people, which has created an unique climate in the scene. People that were even willing to occupy abandoned buildings, eventually turning them into vibrant places of cultural exchange.
Nowadays, one of the staple record labels in the genre is La Vendición Records, founded by Yung Beef, that aims to give voice and spotlight to marginalized artists and sounds, from different scenes.
On the other hand, many artists drifted away from the word trap and its connotations, as they considered they weren’t following the own codes of the genre, and their music was actually closer to pop than to any other genre. It’s the case of C. Tangana.
IS TRAP A PURELY MASCULINE GENRE?
It would be a mistake to think that women in trap are a new tendency in Spain. Without a question, women have had and have a major role in the Spanish trap scene, redefining the genre by refusing to stay in the background.
In 2012, when almost nobody in Spain was talking about trap, a female figure emerged becoming one of the keys to the success of the movement: Somadamantina (aka Slim Kawasaki), regarded as one of the pioneers. There were other artists that also spoke raw in their lyrics about the same themes as male trap artists, as Chanel.
But one of the biggest references in the genre is La Zowi, who started making headlines in 2013 with her track ‘Raxeta’. Nowadays, working along producer Mark Luva, they form one of the strongest duos in the scene. Creating a parallelism with 70s punk, where many barriers of gender inequality were broken, La Zowi reasserts herself with every single track, taking back and owning the slur language associated with men, creating her own codes. La Zowi’s influence is more than needed for the future generations of trap and prejudice-free artists in any genre. Evidence of this explosion of talented women in the scene is the rise of artists like Blondie, La Favi or Albany.
NO PRODUCERS, NO PARTY
And this article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a key figure in the movement: the producers. It is so important to highlight their presence, as they are the ones creating the actual beats. The figure of the producer has gained weight since 2015, with icons as Steve Lean (that would later join 808 Mafia) Royce Rolo, Skyhook, Lowlight, IKKI, Enry – K, Indigo Jams, RetroMoney, SHB, Cookin Soul, Sandro Jeeawock or Blackthoven, just to name a few.
From the experimental sounds of the first trap producers, to the myriad of hits and viral videos and mixtapes; from the underground to the mainstream, going through a vast amount of sub-genres and micro-genres; Trap music has been a reference to a whole generation in Spain and to everyone that was looking for something different, unique and a little naughty.
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