March 2, 2016
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THE INVASION OF ASIAN TRAP MUSIC
By Elias Shalles and Theo Burns
The invasion of Asian trap music into mainstream American hip-hop culture is one of the newest additions to this genre. As the original southern American hip-hop style known as “trap” gained popularity, both in and outside of the hip-hop community, it slowly made its way through cultures, past language barriers, and almost entirely around the world, before it found its way back into the United States. On January 1, 2015, a Korean artist by the name of Keith Ape released a song called “It G Ma,” featuring other Korean artists as well as a Japanese rapper, which became the first Asian trap hit to take off and become popular among American youth. However, it wasn’t until this past summer that the song broke through to America and started turning heads. In July, a remix was released featuring a plethora of well-known American rappers, such as ASAP Ferg and Waka Flocka Flame, further enhancing the overall success of the song, and beginning a new sub-genre in the American rap culture.
Trap music is a variation of hip-hop derived from southern American ghettos, the aesthetics of which contain no more than a repetitive, hypnotic melody, held by quick drums and heavy bass lines. The style has taken hold of American pop culture in the past few years, and recently spread across seas to Europe and Asia. However, what made it come back? One of the beauties of music is that it speaks to people, but why listen to music that you cannot understand when you have similar music to listen to that you can understand? Perhaps the answer is that the music, having originated in the States, re-enters the culture in a different form.
What Keith Ape and other Asian trap artists did was add a new energy and aggression to the music. Keith made it different in the sense that he took a wild and rebellious art form to the next level and made it catchy and somewhat easy to listen to despite the language barrier. He even came in with a new look featuring the typical chains and flashy clothes of hip-hop culture but with variations such as face masks and jackets half slung over one shoulder and hanging from behind. He added terrifying animations to his videos, and used his aggressive attitude to create the ‘up in your face’ intensity of the music. Ape’s success has since opened a door for other Asian artists and trap musicians into the American culture; ironically, there is not much of a market for it in most parts of Asia.
This Asian contribution to the new school of hip-hop was almost entirely accepted by young adults and people in their late teens with a wild spirit and energy, while others are often turned off or offended by the intense aggression of the music. “It sucks,” said Dave Kinne, a 72 year-old man and a substitute teacher at MMRHS. He is not the only one either. Chemistry teacher Nancy King told us with a grimace, “I think you could drive a person insane with this type of music.” However, other interviewees of a younger age at least understood the appeal of it, even if they did not particularly enjoy it. “It was very repetitive… but I really enjoyed the instrumental,” junior Sonora Malik stated after listening to Japanese artist Kohh. Senior Chase Wojtkowski explained that, “‘It G Ma’ would have to be one of my favorites and is a catchy song, it is just difficult getting past the language barrier.” This seems to be the overall consensus about this type of music for avid listeners; an appreciation for it, but not a total understanding of it, giving it a side of mystery that could make or break the genre in the next few years, if not sooner. It came in with a bang, and is still growing in popularity, but how long can it last before we move on? Or will it find a way to follow us? Or will it carve out a whole new lane, running on its own and not really trying to be anything different than what it is? These are the questions that hip-hop fans are asking themselves as the genre continues to change and evolve taking new paths, as we continue to see with this invasion of Asian Trap Music.