Reality of Trap: Trap Music and its Emancipatory Potential

Author: Jernej Kaluža, Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana and Radio Študent, Slovenia
Published: August 17, 2018

Citation: Jernej, K. (2018). Reality of Trap: Trap Music and its Emancipatory Potential. IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 5(2).


The reality that has been presented in rap music and its celebrity culture has always been connected with two extremes: the reality of the “thug” life of the streets on the one hand and with a specific sort of “American Dream” reality that presents climbing from bottom to top on the other hand. This article explores the reasons why trap music, which originated as a type of rap music in the south of the USA, is now with its specific mixture of hedonism and nihilism, darkness and joy, becoming the music of our times. It argues that this is not a coincidence: the two-fold reality, the cruel reality of living “in a trap” on the one hand and the idealized, dreamy reality full of gold and diamonds on the other hand, is the main allegory of “real” life in late capitalism. How to get out of the trap? In the article, I investigate some crucial problems of contemporary theory regarding class and racial differences and argue that we can extract far-reaching social, political, and theoretical statements through interpretation of music that is often presented as apolitical, vacant, and of poor quality. Interpretation of contemporary development in pop culture will be combined with readings of theorists such as Foucault, Mbembe, Balibar, Marx, Moretti, and Deleuze and Guattari. I argue that identification with trap music, even if it seems conformist and non-critical, is producing paradoxical minoritarian universalism, that could, if we understand the universalization of a dream of individual success as an implicit request for egalitarian society, present certain emancipatory potential.


Trap music, universalism, race, class, becoming, identification, American Dream