Quit Screwing with Trap Music: An Interview with Houston-Born Producer Lōtic
Club kids drawing on the sounds he grew up with doesn’t bother him, exactly. It’s just that, to his ears, most of these so called “trap” tracks are soulless, saccharine approximations of the latest Top-40 trap street hustler hit.
“Trap music” is one of those broad musical genre-terms that does little to warn you that it includes such diverse sounds as the shallow intensity of Lex Luger’s midi-horns on “B.M.F.” and the Promethazine dread of UGK’s “One Day.” Thus it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that trap is having it’s moment as a signifier of rugged authenticity for young, mostly white, electronic music producers. Searching through SoundCloud, there’s thousands of tracks labeled “trap” and “trap music.”
Houston-born, Berlin-based producer Lōtic isn’t impressed. Club kids drawing on the sounds he grew up with doesn’t bother him, exactly. It’s just that, to his ears, most of these so called “trap” tracks are soulless, saccharine approximations of the latest Top-40 trap street hustler hit. He wants to set the record straight for producers claiming inspiration from Trap sounds who have no awareness of the history of mixtape-dependent, car culture-driven, independent touring circuit history of trap rap. Rather than bitch on Twitter or simply wait for the wave of interest to past, Lōtic decided to cook up his own response in the form of a phenomenal mixtape highlighting diverse trap sounds alongside his own compositions honoring the experimental tape traditions of The Originator DJ Screw.
I grabbed Lōtic between shows to ask him a few questions on why he feels personally responsible for telling the real story of cities like H-O-U-S-T-O-N and the unsung heroes of trap rap. Listen to his mix and, as a Motherboard bonus, download an exclusive copy of his recent remix of Chant’s “Night After,” out now on Dutty Artz.
For people who aren’t up or haven’t noticed can you get us up to date on the trap movement?
Trap is the It-Genre of the moment, characterized by crisp snares, sweeping sub-bass and pitched-down vocals, among other things. Think Juicy J and Waka Flocka Flame and then think about their reach and how easy it is for people to mimic things these days.
What bugs you out specifically about these developments?
The movement is just de-contextualized. A lot of the sounds and ideas in trap can be traced back pretty far, but people are only going back a few years for “inspiration.” It’s just really clear that there’s a lot of bandwagoning rather than real appreciation.
A lot of it is happening via SoundCloud by producers that are claiming to be inspired by Southern hip-hop but who only list people like Lex Luger as influences. Of course, this isn’t entirely incorrect – people like Luger have had a lot to do with trap’s current sound and subsequent popularity. But there’s more to the sound and there’s more to the story. Texas was actually responsible for a lot of what they credit other people for.
Lōtic’s “Origins” mix, check the tracklisting on Soundcloud.
Why make a mix in reaction to this work? How does this work relate back to cassette/car culture and Southern networks of production and distribution? What’s Houston’s importance in all of this?
I felt that doing a mix was the most direct and effective way of dealing with my frustrations. DJing is part of my art, after all. It was a way of reconnecting with music from a forgotten, overlooked time, both in terms of the music industry and in terms of my own personal journey. I wanted to engage with it on a deeper level rather than simply appropriate it for SoundCloud plays or a “Trendy Label” release, hence the acousmatic portions. I wanted to give the music new life, but in a respectful and unique way. Many of the artists I featured have passed away; I felt I had to honor them since no one else has.
The mix makes particular reference to screw tape culture and being from the Gulf Coast because that’s a big part of what I know and remember musically. Much of the music was designed to be listened to while sippin’ syrup, swangin’ and bangin’ and has consequently been slowed (or screwed) and chopped. It was the 90s so everything was on cassette; the tapes were just another way of making money.
People seem to know about DJ Screw but I haven’t seen references to many of the local artists he’d have on the tapes. Lil’ Keke, Fat Pat, and the rest of DJ Screw’s Screwed Up Click lived there, so Houston has had a lot of influence on the Southern sound.
Much of the music was designed to be listened to while sippin’ syrup, swangin’ and bangin’.
How has your work been inspired by these sounds?
It’s hard to say how, exactly, my work has been inspired by these sounds because I heard so much of it for so long that I probably wouldn’t be able to tell. But I like a pitched down vocal and some relentless sub-bass just as much as anyone else, and that probably has a lot to do with growing up with the Southern sound and hearing people swerving by with sub-bass so loud it rattles the car.
What upcoming projects do you have?
Trying to get material together for an EP, but I’m taking my time, so I’m not sure where it’ll end up. Also working on some collaborations that may or may not fully pan out, haha. Just a lot of experimenting, really. I was pretty distracted for a while with moving to another country, but now I can focus again.
Any last thoughts?
I hope it’s clear that I’m not hating. I love Juicy J just as much as the next person. But I’m also coming from an academic musical background, so I feel I have some duty to educate people when I can. If people are going to appropriate or be surfers (riding the wave), then they should at least be informed so they can do it right.