By DJ 100K
So I tried to be a serious rapper once…in college…in the early aughts.
I was super into intelligent, lyrical content, as was most of the rap industry. The best rappers, were the rappers who could rap the best (makes sense right? lol) Despite placing way too many syllables in my bars and being all “spiritual, lyrical, miracle face; I still had a sizable following…online. My Myspace was popping with about 10,000 “friends” who actually looked forward to my music and I got a lot of fans…and a lot of girls from it. Over the course of four years in college, I released three jacking for beats mix-tapes and looking back…They All. Sucked. Really. really. Bad! But I did learn a lesson from the experience about art and fans of said art. If you build it, they will come.
I didn’t really think about music too much after college. But after a crappy corporate job, I started working at an arts non-profit, which had a recording studio inside of it. All of the teenagers would record music every day and despite a few standout students; I couldn’t stand most of their songs. It mirrored (what I perceived to be) the thoughtless, uninspired rap music of the times known as “Trap”.
This hip-hop sub genre had been around for years and was based in emcees rhyming stories of Southern, urban, folklore about surviving and thriving in less than ideal living environments, from which there was seemingly no escape…aka the “Trap”. These lyrics were often delivered over dancey, thumping, instrumentals, which quickly gained the attention and affection of the youth. At the time, Trap had just burst out the hoods of Atlanta and reached mainstream national attention. It was everywhere from car commercials to Mariah Carey songs. In order to counteract this “depravity” in the studio (and seemingly save hip-hop); I begin to teach songwriting classes at the after school program. They included counting bar structure and complex rhyme schemes, mixed in with song concepts and literary devices, all meant to improve the music that the kids were making. It didn’t take.
One day after work, I was joking with a co-worker about the elementary school rhymes the high school kids were creating on a daily basis. Out of sheer frustration, I loaded up a Trap instrumental in ProTools, turned on the mic and screamed the dumbest, most mentally challenged, thing I could think of…
”Tattoos on my faaaaaaaace! Tattoos on my faaaaaa-aye-aaace!”
This somewhat random subject was probably on the forefront of my brain because facial tattoos were becoming an inexplicable trend in my neighborhood (which still persists today). The song was done quickly, because I freestyled the entire thing which literally included bars about Dr. Seuss and fish. My co-worker and I had a good laugh and then I went home.
The next day, I came into work, and like always, the kids went directly into the studio. This is the same studio, in which I had forgotten about the crazy song that was recorded the night before. It was still loaded on the screen. I dashed into the room in horror, but before I could get to the computer, I stopped and realized that they entire building was rocking to this nonsense. Some kids were asking each other who made the song, while others were singing the hook.
These teens were screaming “Tattoos on my faaaaaace” just how I did in the chorus.
They played the song back to back to back what felt to be at least 100 times and I slinked away, like the Homer Simpson in the bushes meme. But after work, I immediately exported the song, erased the session and e-mailed the track to two of my closest friends, with a subject along the lines of “Listen to this dumb song I made. The Kids liked it.”
Both of my friends replied back within minutes…Both saying that this song was a hit! I literally could not believe it. I’ve tried to forget about the song, because really…it’s stupid. But every once in a blue moon, one of those friends will call and say, that the “Tattoos” song came up in my iTunes. It still goes so hard! I would always give an awkward laugh and then quickly change the subject matter.
Nowadays, I’m a full time DJ and music producer. I have been for the past 6 years. Of course, the genre du jour (for the past 6 years) has been Trap music. There’s no denying it. Pioneered by the Gucci Mayne’s and TI’s of the world; Trap music has been and still is in high demand. No matter the event I played, an 80’s night, a sweet 16 birthday party full of Caucasian youth, a wedding etc. Every race, every age, every demographic has requested that I play Trap. I’ve watched the visceral reactions of people, bouncing to the bass of the 808s, twerking to the handclaps of the hook and despite the lyrics, I’ve have had to acknowledge the fact that Trap music just connects with people. And I must admit that Yo Gotti, Young Dro and Rae Sremmurd have a permanent place in my workout playlist.
The demand for Trap has spilled over into Trap Soul, Trap Jazz and eventually into my production and songwriting. Most of the music that I produce for myself is House music or a derivative of. I love the genre and I think it’s universal, but when clients find out that I am in fact a music producer, the first thing they ask for is “U Guessed It”, a trap record. This occurrence parlayed into me ghostwriting many a song and chorus for these Trap instrumentals in an effort to help sell them. (In fact one track I pitched, got stolen and reworked into a major song for The Migos. I can’t prove it but I’m pretty sure.) Years passed and despite trying, I never quite forgot about Tattoos on my Face. In the back of my mind, there was always the thought,
“What if I would have just released the song to the public? Would I be famous now? Would I have been a one hit wonder? Who knows?”. And then inspiration struck in the weirdest way.
Last week, I found myself at a listening party, in the recording studio of a famous Trap producer. He’s conjured radio hits for Future, Drake and a million other artists. I’m accompanied by a woman friend at the event, who’s quite appealing and I noticed that despite the lyrics of the song literally saying “BITCH. BITCH. BITCH. BITCH. BITCH. FUCKIN BITCH.” that she and every other in woman in the room were dancing so hard to the record. My immediate thought was “I can do better than that. My subsequent thought was that “All pretty girls love trap”.
DING! The light bulb went off.
That phrase was the hook to a hit song. I just had to make it! I went home and it took all of 40 minutes to produce the full instrumental and write a verse and a half that became the song “Pretty Girls Love Trap”. Much how I did close to 6 years ago; I exported and e-mailed the song to my two closest friends.
At 4 in the morning, one of them called and said that her and her boyfriend have been dancing all. night. to. this. song! The next morning, my other friend called and said that she loved it and that I should make some more music to accompany the first track. So why not? I made 4 more Trap songs in two days, and called the EP “Sprezzatura”. It’s an Italian phrase, which roughly translates to “nonchalantly creating something of merit”, which is a perfect summation of this process. My Trap rapper alias is HNNDO (pronounced Hundo) which is millennial slang for one hundred, which mirrors my dj name, Dj 100 K! and the project is on iTunes because why not?
The great part about this entire experience is that I had to get into the mind of a Trap rapper. Throughout the process, I realized that it actually takes some lyrical dexterity to simplify ideas, concepts, and literary devices in a way that will be easily digested and repeatable by the masses. It’s a lot harder than it looks. After filling songs with double, triple and sometimes, quadruple entendres, and finding new ways to rap about money and women for every. single. song. I realized that despite how dumb one may perceive these lyrics, rappers, or this genre to be…it’s actually genius.
I’m saying it now. Gucci Mayne (the patron saint of Trap) is a genius. It takes intelligence to be clever and credible at the same time. There’s still a sense of lyricism, albeit in a different way. Successful Trap rhymes are all about the cadence or flow of your words in addition to the catchiness of your concepts. I discovered that the lines which contained the most humor, were also the most alluring parts of the song (Think 2 Chainz). And yeah, ad libs matter. A LOT. This is how Young Jeezy gained his notoriety. His signature sound was created by utilizing a style of extended, drawn out ad-libs (the background words in between the lyrics of a song) that no one was using at the time. Soon after, everyone was doing it.
So I was sure to focus in on my phrasing outside the verses as well. While, we’re speaking of Jeezy, most drug raps could be and should be interpreted as metaphors.
When Trap rappers (Trappers?) refer to a “Product”; It equals whatever it may be that you’re selling to your “customers” or fan base. If a rapper is “whipping up the work” that’s just another way of saying that they’re working hard to finish their rhymes or achieve their goals. Because face it, while a few have, most musicians aren’t out on the corner selling cocaine. It’s just too perilous of an occupation for most.
Also, (believe it or not) auto-tune makes everything better. I was a huge detractor of the trend during it’s T-Pain glory days and until this day; Rappers like Future, The Migos and Young Thug garble their words at every opportunity. BUT when you’re vibing to the beats, words really don’t matter (too much). Although, the digitally induced harmonics are very pleasing to the ear. I can’t sing a lick and my voice may honestly be too nerdy to be taken seriously, but with auto-tune, there’s something very cool about my drawl on these records and my hooks sound amazing. Besides all of this, Trap music is just…fun. Music and life in general doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. It’s a release and recalling my observations from the DJ booth, Trap music is an escape for people of all walks of life to live out their vicarious, hood fantasies on the dance floor, one song at a time. More importantly, I’m connecting with more people than I ever have as a music producer and there’s nothing wrong with that. So I’m going to roll with this experience/experiment/joke/ parody and see what happens. I wanted to create an entire album, but I REALLY didn't have the time to produce, write record, and engineer, 12 entirely different tracks about the same thing. If you want to hear it, the project is in digital music stores across the web.
If ANYONE buys this EP, it’s a super win for me. If I ever get paid to perform these random songs in public (which I would totally do), that’s also a win. If not, that’s good too. Subconsciously, the college educated, former kid mentoring, parent respecting, lyrical miracle emcee, part of myself doesn’t want anyone to hear the project at all. It’s kind of embarrassing and out of character to say the least. But as a creative, I do believe that we have to throw a line in the Universe sometimes…just to see what you may catch. I may never make a follow-up project and who knows how long this genre or character will even last, but at least I can say that i did it. Even though, I’m pretty sure that I’ll look back 10 years from now and think about how much this project sucks (much how my Myspace music did. lol). But while you’re on iTunes; Check out my regular music too. The full albums OVER and THURSDAY NIGHT BOUNCE are on iTunes as well under “100 K!”. So I encourage everyone to just try something new. Spit a few rhymes and you never know…maybe one day you’ll get to write an article like this. Oh, and here’s a link to Sprezzatura, my debut Trap EP. Please buy it. Tell a friend and then tell that friend to buy it too. AYE!