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How Memphis Origins Pioneered Latin Trap [Featured Article]

Words by Marvin Merela


Hip Hop’s influence ventured South from its US hub and led to the creation and rise to prominence of Latin Trap. This is a subgenre of music, and takes a majority of its influence from Puerto Rican Reggaeton and Southern Trap. The latter driving a majority of its sonic direction as Latin Trap is synonymous with the same synthesized drums ,complex hi-hat patterns, 808 bass samples and atmospheric synths that popularised its predecessor. Latin Trap is now a successful genre in its own right but its journey from the depths of Atlanta to the shores of Puerto Rico do however require debunking. The 2007 hit song “El Pistolon” or the “Pistoler” in English by Arcángel & De La Ghetto is seen by many to mark the beginning of Latin Trap. The same explicit themes of poverty, drugs, sex, women and money common to its American antecedent were discussed on this track and this song also saw a Latin Audience become introduced to more sinister melodies as pensive piano chord progressions were prominent alongside shotgun sound outtakes, and claps which featured heavily in this era’s trap sound.


De La Ghetto was a Memphis native for a period of his life and cited the region as a heavy source of inspiration to pursuing the fusion of genres that culminated to be Latin Trap. He himself stated “I lived in Memphis for a while, so I started seeing that South style,” De La Ghetto also said. “Trap music, it brought hip-hop to the club — you could dance it, you could jump to it, you could party to it, and that’s what caught my attention.” His venture into this genre hybrid however does date back further as he is also seen to state "When I first started doing Trap in 2005, 2006, people thought I was crazy," De La Ghetto explains. "[They would say] the people want more Latin music, more tropical”.


The Mid 2010s saw the genre attract new talents in the shape of Fuete Billete, Myke Towers and Alvaro Diaz and artists such as these displayed their prowess via social media platforms such as YouTube. Brytiago's "Tú Me Enamoraste Remix", Farruko's "Ella y Yo", and De La Ghetto's "La Ocasión" were examples of the rise of Latin Trap on the Latin Charts but the latter song is widely credited in helping the genre expand internationally. “La Ocasion” was the true anthem of 2016 , the song saw De La Ghetto combine with Anuel AA, Ozuna, and Arcangel to take the early rumblings of trap to another level. This song's unprecedented levels of success led other Latin Artists to experiment with this new popular mesh of Southern Hip-Hop and Reggaeton.



The genre's growth and expansion has allowed it to widen its diversity as new artists move to push the boundaries of an increasingly captivating genre. This genre has allowed Anuel AA’s hard hitting lyrics about his life to co-exist with artists such as Ozuna who refrains from including profanity in his songs out of respect for his daughter. The beat compositions do however differ greatly also as Noriel has had great success with his signature foggy synths and this is far removed from the more up-tempo and experimental pop elements that Bad Bunny makes use of.


Push back to innovation is natural and Latin Trap faced similar hardships as it was unable to be played on the radio due to a petition decrying the lyrics of Maluma's hit single "Cuatro Babys". This petition was posted on Change.org and it demanded the song's removal from digital platforms as it was "demeaning to women." Despite this controversy, the popularity of "Cuatro Babys" has only risen with the song having gone quadruple Platinum. Maluma reacted to the situation on social media: "You'll always be judged for one thing or another. Just do what comes out of your heart, what makes you happy. If they talked about Jesus Christ, why would it surprise you to have them talk about you?


Other artists have also recognised these growing pains as Farruko addressed the misconceptions present within the genre when he stated "People have a negative concept of what trap music is. Trap is not always going to be sexual or vulgar. This is exactly how reggaeton was in the '90s".



The rapid accession of Latin Trap has increasingly garnered greater depths of American attention with high profile collaborations between the two sides of the Americas being prominent and this has seen Beyonce jump on the ‘Mi Gente’ Remix , Cardi B create a Latin Trap Remix for her chart topping song “Bodak Yellow” and Justin Bieber join Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee for a remix to the 2019 anthem “Despacito”.


The future of the genre is currently being marshalled by Anuel AA and Bad Bunny who have changed the Latin scene and dominated the US Billboard charts but many new artists are on the horizon and are patiently waiting to tap into a genre that started with a few synthesized drums and some complicated hi-hat patterns somewhere in a Memphis studio.






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