Alright, I know I’m late to comment on the “Harlem Shake” trend that’s going around on youtube. The truth is, I have been unsure whether or not to write something about trap for some time. I didn’t like trap when I first heard it, I don’t like it now, and I’ve really been trying to cut down on the number of articles where I have a negative opinion on the subject matter. However, the fact that Harlem Shake has pushed Thrift Shop out of the #1 spot on Billboard warrants a response.
Are EDM fans playing a trick on us? Let us find out. The very quick history of trap music is that it started as an offshoot of dirty south hip-hop in the early 2000’s, and has recently (within the last year) been picked up by some electronic music producers for use in clubs. The name “trap” refers to life in the ghetto, which was the subject matter of most trap songs. Indeed, the first part of trap history makes sense to me, and I would’ve been fine just not listening to any of it, as I had been.
Before I get to the EDM part of trap history, I’ll just run down what trap used to be. This is Juice Man, by OJ Da Juiceman. The key characteristics to recognize are: the “dirty south” groove set by the bass drum; the rather distracting high-frequency percussion, be they claps, high hats, distorted effects, etc.; of course, the unpoetic lyrics. I have always found that any given trap song possesses these attributes, e.g. Trap House by Gucci Mane, Get Ya Mind Right by Young Jeezy, or Love Sosa by Chief Keef.
What came next confuses me. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the things that take off these days, but for now, I still am. EDM producers went from brostep — hitherto one of the worst concepts in the history of the genre — to taking trap beats without the lyrics, adding some drops, and calling it a day. Why? If it wasn’t so easily explained away as a long-lasting cultural reaction to the 4-on-the-floor era of house and trance music, I’d strongly suspect that EDM producers are trying to see how terrible they can get and still convince people to show up to their performances.
That’s disrespectful of me, though. I watched this entire recording of RL Grime performing live at the Boiler Room in LA, and he doesn’t look dishonest to me. If anything, it looks like he’s having too much fun, and I guess that just bothers me. By the way, if you want to see some of the worst dance moves known to man, you should really check that video out. This is modern trap. Unfortunately, this is also modern trap. I hate to say that some music sounds the same, but trap is in the danger zone.
The Harlem Shake has even less redeeming qualities to it than Gangnam Style, which is of course why it has replaced Gangnam Style as the next big youtube dance movement. I don’t know what’s worse. That someone thought this was a good idea, that it WAS a good idea, or that whatever comes next will have to be even more dumb. I mean, what can they even do? Might they destroy country music, next?
P.S. I’m calling it EDM because that’s what it is: electronic dance music. Unless someone would like to make the argument that salsa, mambo, or what have you are no longer considered “dance music.” The fact that there is even a debate on this pedantic subject goes to show you that EDM fans are starting to have a net negative impact on music discussions.