The album actively works to contextualize "Trap" into something rap fans can understand and enjoy.
There’s a case to be made for Trap as the current hottest genre of electronic music; if nothing else, we’ve certainly spent a lot of time discussing it here at Noisey. The mix of southern rap beats and dance floor environments has created the new “Dubstep” or “EDM” or whatever plays at huge dance music festivals in 2013. The soundtrack of the highly anticipated Spring Breakers is probably not going to register for most as "Trap," but it should: it’s a perfect contextualization of trap music, and one of the finest examples of the genre to date.
To give some context: upon entering college, I was confronted with a new type of music that I had never heard before. This music was called “Dubstep.” I hated it for the garbled mess that was called the “drop”; the repetitive structure; the stupid name. Whenever I heard it at parties throughout the year, I would cringe. The music that I loved and still do was trap rap, and in 2010, that meant dark, brooding Lex Luger-style beats, accompanied by yell-raps about club fights and all kinds of mayhem. After a while, I began to shed my visceral hatred of dubstep, because I finally started to realize that these two types of music weren’t all that different. Both wanted to create an auditory frenzy, and how could I hate music with that goal?
The Spring Breakers OST is mostly a collaboration between Skrillex and Cliff Martinez (the guy that did the Drive soundtrack), but the first song on the album is one of Skrillex’s most popular songs “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” The track’s calm opening leads to the “O MY GAWWWD” drop, which never made more sense as it is the only “drop” on the entire soundtrack.
“Trap” songs do not really take cues from trap rap. Instead, they follow the previously mentioned example of “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” of waiting until the drop happens to deliver its sonic climax. Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” and its accompanying meme masterfully employ this technique; the meme involves waiting for the drop and ignoring the rest of the music. “Trap” bites the basic structure of dubstep in favor of a tamer drop that removes a lot of the intensity from Skrillex’s brand of dubstep. Despite the name, trap doesn’t take much structurally from trap rap, which usually moves at a steady clip with no real need for an instrumental drop, instead it pilfers the language of rap music.
The first track on the Spring Breakers OST with actual rapping is by Dangeruss and James Franco. Both are white, and while Franco is known as an actor, Dangeruss, who appears in the film alongside Franco, is an actual trap influenced rapper. The song itself is pretty standard Lex Luger-core rap, but on first listen it’s disconcerting to have the first human vocal presence on the soundtrack kicks off with white people rapping the n-word.
This interesting track made more sense once I began thinking about the widespread appropriation of the trap rap aesthetic by trap producers, who pepper their tracks with gun shots, DJ drops, and occasionally even actual rappers. This movie and soundtrack both have a vested interest in rap culture, but given trap music’s tendency to indulge and borrow from actual rap culture, the prominent placement of trap rap-aping white dudes feels appropriate.
That’s not to say there isn’t more traditional (black) rapping, there is courtesy of Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross and Gucci Mane. But after the lovely instrumental work by Skrillex and Martinez, the first vocal impression of Dangeruss and Franco looms over the rest of the soundtrack.
As a genre, trap has yet to produce many defining album-length statements, but this soundtrack might be the perfect introduction for people. It features the originator of the music (Skrillex), the aesthetic (Ross & Gucci) and even a weird white rapper song removing the black element of “trap rap”. The popularity of “Harlem Shake” ensures that trap will probably continue its takeover of dance music in 2013, but surprisingly, or maybe not, the Spring Breakers soundtrack is the best introduction to trap available today.