Trapo has a deep, gravelly, hard hitting voice and mature musical instincts. He’s just begun his senior year in high school, but he doesn’t sound 17, he sounds grown. Complex stated, “Trapo’s aggressive yet melodic rhymes are a refreshing sound.” He consistently chooses soulful or jazzy beats, often driven by melodic piano, that make his rapping stand out while showcasing his impressive singing quality. The young artist has good taste and substantial lyrics that are direct and insightful. He dropped his first song on soundcloud less than a year ago and he’s accumulated nearly 500,000 plays. Trapo still records and mixes everything himself at his home studio. He’s only performed at a handful of shows but is making an impact in the Midwest and beyond.
The past month has been big for Trapo: He got his first premieres in Complex and Pigeons and Planes, was named by P&P as a Best New Artist of the Month in August and made their prestigious list, “20 Under 20: Teenage Rappers You Should Know.”
I first heard Trapo via “Poloroids” a collab with Chicagoan XVRHLDY, and then noticed co-signs on Twitter from several notable rappers including Alan Kingdom, WebsterX and Hurt Everybody’s Supa Bwe.
“WebsterX kinda reached out before my first big premiere, the “Cards and Conversation” song. He’d heard “DUI,” and liked it. I knew of him, but didn’t realize how big he was getting and both of us are in Wisconsin. After “Cards and Conversation,” Webster was really supportive and Alan Kingdom reached out and tweeted the song.”
I called Trapo on September 4 to conduct his first interview. He told me that he’s been singing for about as long as he can remember and started rapping in fourth grade.
“I’ve got stuff on youtube from when I was so young, I could even show you, my lyrics were crazy for being so young, I was around 14.”
He began to take rapping seriously about 11 months ago when he posted his first track on soundcloud.
“After the first track, I knew I wanted to follow up and to continue following up. I was super active, started dropping a lot of music.”
When we spoke he had just gotten out of school for the day and I asked him to describe the last 24 hours. He said that he went to his “normal high school” and came home. He neglected to mention his first Complex premiere that had happened the day before, when I reminded him he laughed and said that he had to sneak out of class (AP Science), with his laptop to upload “Modelo” to soundcloud so it could be premiered.
What was it like to get that premiere and then have to go back and sit in class?
After it premiered, honestly, I wanted to shout, but couldn’t because I was literally in class in the lecture mode, I wanted to so bad. Afterwards, I had lunch and was telling everybody.
Did your classmates understand the significance of it?
All my friends are involved with the music because they have no other option. Other people in the school knew how big it was and were happy for me. I won’t say they were surprised because they’ve seen the incline, and how it’s been progressing with Pigeons and Planes and everything. They were happy for me and said, “he actually did what he said he was going to do a year ago.”
Can you tell me about the song “Cards And Conversation?”
I was involved in a car accident, we were leaving a mall, instead of dropping us all off, my friend basically decided to take a random detour. To this day I do not know why. He was going 80 in a 50. Everybody told him ‘you’ve gotta slow down,’ so he tried to slow down. I don’t know what was going through his mind because then he sped up again and was going 90 miles an hour and had to suddenly get off and took the sharpest turn ever. The car swerved a lot and the tires popped. I thought it was wild that nobody got hurt because the car was wrecked. This was pretty recent, in the last month or so.
How did “Polaroids” with XVRHLDY come about?
“Polaroids” is a song that I had already made and I sent it to him. I’d heard him on a few songs, one was with Saba and I was super geeked and I wanted to get out there. I didn’t know him as a person then, he’s super cool as a person. I’m being honest right now, it felt like this was a chance for me to open a door and make a song with an artist that I looked up to. We made “Polaroids” email to email, we never worked on it in person. Through the process I learned that he’s cool and he’s given me good advice that I’ve been using ever since and it works.
You and XVRHLDY have the same manager, Steven Goldstein?
That’s how I met Steven. I didn’t have a manager before “DUI,” I was on my own. I do my own mixing and everything. When I met with XVRHLDY, I wanted to be under management and they sensed that I wanted that. It didn’t happen right away, sooner or later Steven told me he wanted to get more involved. Of course I had hoped so because I’ve needed guidance. I have faith in myself but at 16… I’m just barely 17 now.
Congrats on the 20 under 20 list, nobody on that list is younger than 17. What did you think about being on a list with Jaden Smith?
At first it didn’t soak in, I just knew that I’d made a list. I looked at it and it was crazy to see the people on it – Jaden Smith. (Laughs) I didn’t know a lot about all those artists, I was happy I was on it, but I was even happier to listen to those other new artists like IshDARR and others.
Anyone on the list you particularly like?
One of my close friends, Max Wonders, he and I got tight about a month ago working on some music. I was happy he was on the list. I like a lot of those artists but he’s the only one on it that I really know.
And you got on “Best New Artists of the Month” in August too!
Me and Steven were going crazy when we saw that. Damn! All in about one week, Pigeons and Planes showing so much love and they go crazy. They became my favorite blog ever, when I do an EP I want to send it to them.
Is the momentum surprising you at all?
I have to be honest, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I used to get SUPER emotional when I was making music. Earlier I felt like I wasn’t getting the attention that I deserved, but I’ve always believed that I have talent so I know it’s going to happen. I’m surprised at how fast it’s happening, but not that it is happening. I’m still at the beginning of my journey.
What does your mom thinks about everything that is happening now?
She supports it, she’s one of the reasons I got started. She bought me a mic when I was little, if she hadn’t done that I may never have experimented and learned. I always used to sing and rap around the house, and she took the step for me and got me a mic. It’s crazy. I didn’t know at the time, I was literally in fourth grade and I knew how to use a recording program and I was learning to mix at that time. Even if the mixing wasn’t perfect, it was listenable. I taught myself while not even knowing that I was teaching myself. I got started on my audacity!
Does she still listen to your music?
Not so much on her own, I can show her stuff and she’ll listen. She listened when I was younger, but as you grow up and the subject matter changes, I’m not so quick to go show my mom a song like “DUI.” She can hear it, and is still proud no matter what the subject matter is, that I’m doing something productive.
Do you have a favorite song of your own?
I have two actually. One that is old called “B L V C K,” it’s the third song I released on my soundcloud I believe. I didn’t fully have my sound then, but I like it because of the subject matter of the song. My other favorite is “Merica.”
“I’m black, you’re white
Your dad just might
Act a fool if he knew about us
I’m black you’re white
Your dad just might
Get that tool if he knew about us.”
You are working on an EP called The Black Beverly Hills, what does the title mean to you?
First off, when I listened to “Sweet Life” (by Frank Ocean), it was the first time I heard that reference. After that, I felt like I can pick the situation I’m in. To put it in a category like Beverly Hills – where I come from and where I land. My living situation is not perfect, it’s not like the most upper class. I’m not living an extravagant lifestyle, you know what I mean? We’re not the lowest of the low either. I’ll never complain, I’m not out here grinding, like “oh, I’m struggling…” We do fine. What I mean by the The Black Beverly Hills is that I can take my living situation and add glory to it. When I think of Beverly Hills, I think of fancy stuff, big houses and a fun lifestyle. On the other hand, black people as a whole are known for doing great things, but a lot of times that’s not what a total stranger of another race thinks about when they hear black. Some people think the worst when it comes to my people. So when I think Black Beverly Hills, every stereotype you might have heard – so what. We live over here and we like it. To us, it’s like Beverly Hills. I want to get out and experience everything, but for right now, I’m loving everything about this. I don’t wish that I lived a different way.
How far into the EP are you?
It’s probably going to be about six songs and I have about 3 solid songs done. Actually right now I have six, but me being me, I’m subjective. I might just not like a song one day. I’ll play the songs that I’ve considered throw aways, and be like “whoa, these aren’t throw aways,” but if at one point I thought it was a throw away, then I’m not going to want it anymore.
Will you have any features on it?
One for sure is Max Wonders. We make tight music. The other artist I want to feature is Carl from Hurt Everybody. I have a song with him coming out soon. It’s not going to be on my EP. I don’t like that he doesn’t get all the attention he really deserves. I really think Carl is so dope. Supa (also of Hurt Everybody) and I have talked about doing something – a remix of a song. The one I have coming out with Carl feels like a big song.
Do you find it easy to collaborate via the internet?
I haven’t experienced the other way yet. I’ve never experienced sitting side by side with an artist in a studio.
Any plans after high school?
I know I’m not going to attend a four year university right after high school for the simple reason that I feel too strongly about music. I don’t think I can slow it down for anything right now. That may sound selfish because I know school is really important, but I find it hard to put school over music. It’s a passion, I can’t help it.
Are there any artists in particular that have meant a lot to you?
I am a super big fan of Isaiah Rashad. Man, of all of TDE, I will argue a man down for Isaiah Rashad, it could even be Kendrick Lamar and he is so good, but Isaiah Rashad – nobody else gets that spot.
I don’t know Rashad’s music well enough, what are a few tracks I should listen to.
Um, honestly, you might want to listen to the whole Cylvia Demo. There’s not a track on it you can skip. You have to listen to it all.
It’s not even that he’s a crazy lyricist; it’s his attitude, what he talks about, his beats. You can tell he spends a lot of time on his work. His production is crazy, all the way down to the adlibs he does, it makes the song pop every time. The features he chooses are smart.
How about underground artists?
Do you have much performance opportunity in Madison?
I’ve only done about four shows total, but I have three more coming up this month. Everything I’ve done so far has been 21 and up, I get in just for being the artist that’s performing. I’ve played at clubs, I’ve played at empty venues that people have dressed up for a show, those honestly have been the best ones. I know this guy and he hosts art shows, he’s 19. He lets artists display their art and after that there is a music show. People go around and look at the art and take pictures of it, he explains who made it and what it means. It’s always a big turn out.
Anything you’d like to add?
When my EP comes out, there’s a lot of experimental music, not like way less chill, but like more like “Merica.” I’ll get deep and aggressive, but there will be a real mixture.
Trapo is at an exciting time with his music and quickly developing career. His subject matter is age appropriate but serious – and with intelligence, openness and reflection that is rare in an artist of 17. As he stated, it’s the beginning of his journey, he hasn’t recorded in a professional studio yet or collaborated with any artists in person, and has already achieved the level of music making that has garnered enthusiasm from his rapidly growing fanbase and coverage from some of the most impressive national blogs. His star is rising, join Trapo as he continues to build and look for his debut project, The Black Beverly Hills EP, coming soon.