Latin trap music is not necessarily new. Messiah has been creating trap songs for almost a decade. But the subgenre of urban Latin music has certainly grown by leaps and bounds this year, fueled by a new crop of “trapperos” and led by Farruko, who was singing a different tune last year when he won a Best Urban Song Latin Grammy Award for “Encantadora,” which he co-wrote with Yandel.
“But it has a big, big future,” Farruko said.
Trap music originated in Atlanta in the 90s and came from a marriage of hip hop and rap set to an 808 beat. Latin trap music, which is coming mostly out of Puerto Rico and Colombia, has the same beat – and the same ominous lyrics centered on violence and drugs.
“For me, trap is what people are living these days in Puerto Rico,” said Bryant Myers, one of Latin Trap Session panelists at the Latin Billboard Music Conference in Miami Tuesday.
“Latin Trap is a lifestyle,” said Noriel Danger, recognizing that it was a “new opportunity” for many urban artists. “It opened doors for a lot of us… it helped us grow quickly. That’s why we are here at Billboard representing a new genre. Us Latinos, we have given it our color, our flavor.”
For Farruko — who is finishing an album that features songs with English trap artists like Fat Joe and Fetty Wap – switching to trap has been an awakening. “I feel reborn. It’s an evolution. Reggaeton as a genre limited me as an artist. I felt trapped in a personality,” he said, reminding people that reggaeton also started as an underground genre with dark tones. “It was questioned, judged and underestimated. Now it’s the new pop. It was rejected by a lot of artists in other genres and today their careers depend on reggaeton.”
Trap is next to do the same thing, he added.
The problem is Spanish-language radio in the U.S. is not ready for it, said Messiah. “Latin radio is not ready for these lyrics. English radio was because of Eminem and hip hop. They were used to controversy.”
The music is spreading mostly through viral videos, social media and concerts. Bad Bunny, for example, has 2.9 million subscribers in eight months. “And it’s all organic. There’s been no investment in promotion, in radio,” he said. “We have an impact because we are real and we sing about reality. We are speaking the language of today’s youth.”
Some people have criticized trap music because of the explicit language celebrating drug use, violence and the subjugation of women. Farruko said it is what young people want to hear. “You cannot ask a young person on the street seeing all that he sees, you cannot say, ‘Hi Mami. I like you. I want to get to know you.’ No, because that’s not how we live. We didn’t come from that.”
While Myers says the lyrics may evolve as trap music seeks a wider audience, Messiah is a purist who says that would make it something else, not trap.
“I’m not telling anyone to do any drugs or anything like that. I am just singing what people are living,” Messiah told Billboard later when a reporter asked him if he felt an obligation to clean up his lyrics because he was influencing teenagers. “It’s not my obligation, it is the obligation of parents to filter what their children listen to. I have two nephews, 9 and 10, and they are not allowed to hear some of my songs.”
His new album, released in a couple of days, will have songs about domestic violence and a working mother. “Because I grew up with a working mom,” said Messiah, who would rather be categorized as an urban Latin artist.
Maybe his nephews will be allowed to hear those.