At the age of 20, the Wisconsin-based rapper Trapo has put out a catalogue most rappers would envy; however, in the young artists view, he’s just getting started. When he was 17, he made his debut with The Black Beverly Hills EP, a dizzying and blunt collection of songs reflecting on the cold, hard realism of life. Four months later, Trapo dropped SHE and then in November 2016, he released Shade Trees; the two EPs went on to become critically acclaimed for the way he maturly tackled race and heartbreak in a way you would not expect from a then 18-year-old.
Having already opened once for Vince Staples, Trapo is just coming off of the release of his project, Oil Change, which has already turned more heads for its sincere statements. In the rapper’s own words, he wants “to be the go to for people looking to just feel good when they press play.” We had a chance to chat to the artist over email about his first memories of music, influences and long-term goals in hip-hop.
Music has pretty much been all you’ve known, what was your first memory of it?
The first strong memory for me is when my uncle had a set up in the kitchen, he used to record music and would ask me to get on a lot of his music. I sung a lot at the time, I used to record choruses and sh** for em.
You started releasing music at 17, an age most teenagers have no clue what they want to do with their life. How did you know music was the right direction?
I knew it was the right direction because it was something I just loved a whole lot, I never got the same feeling from anything else. When I look back on the stuff I made it’s real funny to me cuss I know now I had no idea what I was doing back then and hadn’t even did the research I probably needed to before deciding what to rap about and what road I wanted to take.
Being from Wisconsin, where did your influences come from?
I’m influenced by my life a lot. I’ve had a lot happen in my family, sh** that shaped the way my music was turning out. Early on when I started music I didn’t always explain my situation the best and now at 20 I feel like I’m just about ready to start telling my story better then before. Being honest, being unfazed by criticism, judgment, or anything negative somebody has to say about what I do as I grow older.
When I first started listening to ‘Shade Trees’ I was in awe of how vulnerable it is, was writing something that came natural to you or was it more of a practice-type thing?
It came real natural, I wasn’t practicing at all at the time. I just rapped out loud what I was feeling, it was really easy actually. I didn’t have to think about anything I said.
With everything you have released, what were the easiest and hardest tracks to create?
Everything I put out was very easy to make, cuss like I said, at 20 I’m just starting to put my concentrated thought to the songs I put out instead of just pressing record and acting out. That was my younger self; I would just say sh**, random sh**, fact and un-factual sh**. I would just rap to to rap. These days I’m much more honest and real about everything I do. So Oil Change and my upcoming project are probably the tracks that were the hardest to make.
Getting praise from NPR, XXL, BBC Radio 1, The Fader and Pigeons & Planes must’ve been huge, how have you been handling it all?
All that coverage was real cool to me, thing is now that I’m putting more concentrated thought towards things; it makes me wish I would’ve got that attention a little later in life and I’m sure it will happen when I put out my future music cuss I plan on doing this for a while. But I love that it happened cuss maybe my audience wouldn’t be here like they are had it not happen. Like I said, now is the time to highlight what I do moving forward. Things are about to get way more exciting and heart felt. My growth is about to be something special to see.
With ‘Oil Change’, what served as the main inspiration?
The inspiration for Oil Change was me telling myself to just say everything I felt was necessary to say. I wanted to update people on where I was In life, I also wanted to just show the world who I was becoming and how I planned to take things to another level. I wanted to demand more respect for myself and to basically just tell the world I’m more than what they might think, that I’m not the one to label or count out too soon. Seeing that most of my highlights started at the age of 16 for me, It’s 4 years later and I’m a whole new person.
Can you share what your creative process is like?
My creative process is simple, I sit and think on what I want to talk about and just attack it that way, I can’t give too much of the process up haha.
What would you say is the biggest difference from ‘Oil Change’ compared to your earlier music?
The biggest difference in Oil Change from my older music is when I was younger making that music, I was just really into creating something new and experimental. Nowadays I’m still into being innovative and new difference is I’m more calculated in how I do that. I’m not in the position to make any more music I regret or don’t think is worthy enough to be out under my name.
In ‘Drunk Punch’ one of the lyrics that stuck out to me was: “I don’t need help, though I could use a hand / In desperate need of a cure.” Can you walk us through what this means?
That Drunk Punch lyric was a personal line about issues I feel I have or any insecurities I wish I could be relieved of. I know it’s a line a lot of people can relate too if they feel the same. It’s also just me being honest about guidance and maybe some good game I need. I feel like people look down on asking for advice or resources to do better, so that line was me dropping my ego and at the same time just speaking on where I’m at in life and how I’m cool with admitting I’m not all the way put together 24/7.
What is your long-term goal in hip-hop?
My long term goal in hip hop is to really cultivate a growing fan base and be impactful on people’s lives like music is supposed to be. I want to make people feel good with the sh** I put out. I can’t even listen to a lot of music cuss I can’t help but feel offended when I hear the sh** people are talking about. I want to be the go to for people looking to just feel good when they press play. Of course, I hope to be financially stable along the way to keep doing what I love on a major scale.
If you weren’t in music, what would you be doing instead?
If I wasn’t in music and didn’t just do it on the side for fun, I’d probably go to school to make some good bread and do something creative on the side still. If it couldn’t be music, maybe I’d write sh**, poem, books etc. I’d be a writer and try to get my work published somewhere and paid for.