PDN Photo of the Day

Where Trap Music Was Born

In his first monograph – The Trap – the documentary and portrait photographer Vincent Desailly captures the source of one of the past decade’s most successful musical genres: trap. He tracks down the places where the music originated in impoverished areas of Atlanta, Georgia.

A “trap” is a snare, but it is also a slang word for places where dealers sell drugs. In the early 2000s a special form of hip-hop, which quickly became known as “trap,” arose in some quarters of Atlanta. Among the most striking musical features of this subgenre are shuffling rhythms with very deep bass drums; rapid, hissing hi-hats; and deep bass lines that create a lot of space for what are often distorted vocals.

The commercialization of this sub-culture occurred so quickly that by 2017 at the latest, even the superstars of international pop, such as Katy Perry or M.I.A, were adopting the musical style and slowing down their beats. Reason enough for the photographer Vincent Desailly to track down the origins of this worldwide phenomenon.

His photographs are testimony to the sense of life and atmosphere that generated this music. There are haunting portraits of dealers, musicians, strippers, and ordinary neighborhood residents. You see guns, or tables where drugs are measured out, but you also see scenes of everyday life on the streets or in homes. The photos are seductively beautiful and narratively elegant, poetic in a sense. In these photographs the depiction of everyday life starts to correspond to the music – in pace and narrative.

The genre itself has long outgrown the places where it originated, even though they are still tied to it lyrically. Gucci Mane, one of the founding fathers of the trap scene, summarizes this in the foreword to this new volume of photos: “What we were making wasn’t radio-ready and definitely not destined for the charts. When I think about trap I think about something raw. Something that hasn’t been diluted. Something with no polish on it. Music that sounds as grimy as the world that it came out of.”

The Trap
Vincent Desailly
Published by Hatje Cantz (November, 2019)

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