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What’s the Difference Between Rap and Trap?

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Since the beginning of hip hop music, there has been much debate over what really counts as hip hop.

When hip hop was created, there was no strict definition of what hip hop could be, so there are so many different styles and branches of hip hop. Two of these happen to be rap and trap.

The primary difference between rap and trap is the main musical focus. Trap music focuses more on the synthesis of instrumentals and beats, whereas rap focuses on the lyricism and rhythm of the words to the song.

If you want to learn more about two of the many different branches of rap, then this is the article for you. Here we will be discussing all the differences between some of hip hop fans’ most beloved subgenres.

What Is Rap?

Rap is one of the four main pillars of hip hop. When hip hop first started becoming popular, back in the 1970s, there were four main components: rapping, breakdancing, DJing, and graffiti.

Over time, rap became the most popular of the four pillars, which is why we consider hip hop to be more of a genre than a culture today.

Rapping, also known as MCing, is the vocal delivery of words with emphasis on rhyme, rhythm, and slang. Similar to spoken word poetry, words in rap songs are seldom vocalized, but delivered in a speech-like manner.

The difference is that rap music is typically set to an instrumental or beat of some sort.

Rap origins go back much further than just the early era of hip hop. Rap and spoken oral performance can be traced back centuries to African roots.

In historic African cultures, the art of storytelling was practiced in a much different way than we have heard our bedtime stories growing up.

African culture spent many nights speaking their stories in rhythm over some sort of percussion, or other cultural instruments. These stories were passed on between generations and generations.

Not only did this practice contribute to the birth of rap, but it also had a major influence on jazz, blues, and even musical theater.

This narrative style of early rap is what made it such a good outlet for the angst and frustration the African American communities began to feel in the mid to late 1900s.

In the United States, there was a serious problem with racial inequality in so many aspects of life. Hip hop, and furthermore rap, were born out of a need to express this anger they were feeling due to the injustices they were facing.

Rap’s roots are what make it an amazing and compelling genre to this day. The storytelling aspect of rap music is what sets it apart.

After forty years of existence and increasing popularity, rap continues to tell stories that people enjoy hearing; and therefore, it continues to topple the charts.

What Is Trap?

Trap music is another branch of hip hop that is relatively new compared to rap. Though it is not one of the four main pillars of hip hop, it is one of the most beloved subgenres of the 21st century.

Trap music began in the 1990s in the southern United States. Trap, though very similar to rap, placed a great deal of emphasis on instrumental sounds as much as, if not more than the lyrics themselves.

In these instrumentals, drums were often synthesized, and attention was drawn to complex patterns of high hat usage and utilized a huge array of instruments.

Trap music came to be a much bigger sensation in the 2010s. As rap and hip hop were getting bigger, so was trap music.

It was rapidly contributing to the growth of the genre as well, and by 2018, hip hop music was coined the most popular genre, largely credited to trap music’s rise in popularity.

The complex synthesis of music and instrumentals was and will continue to be a huge factor in what sets trap music apart from so many other genres.

Up until this point, many genres focused on the pure sounding instrumentals and relied on the instruments more than they did technology.

Trap music utilized the inherent beauty of traditional instruments while also incorporating new technological aspects. This not only changed the way that hip hop was produced, but it also bled into many other styles of music as well.

Some rappers incorporate trap instrumentals, and trap influences are even seen in pop, k-pop, reggae, and even country.

Artists as big as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Beyonce have included trap influences in their music. Trap has truly changed the face of the entire music industry today.

So, What Are the Main Differences?

From a very technological and music theory-heavy perspective, rap and trap can be compared in very quantitative ways. For starters, rap typically utilizes ¼ beats with tempos around 80-95 beats per minute(bpm).

However, trap music typically has ¼ beat as well as ⅓ and ⅙ rolled percussion beats, at 130-140bpm.

All of this may sound like gibberish if you aren’t super into music theory. In short, this basically means rap utilizes steadier beats at slower tempos, whereas trap utilizes less consistent beats at much faster tempos.

Additionally, trap music heavily relies on the use of the 808-drum.

Another huge difference between rap and trap is the focus of the music. The main focus of rap is the lyricism and poetry of the songs. The focus of rap is more about the overall sound of the song rather than the words alone.

Though they sometimes put careful consideration into words, sometimes trap can be mumbling or yelling that sounds good and makes you want to dance.

Another difference involving trap has a lot to do with the derivative of its name. “Trap” is slang for a place in which drugs are sold illegally.

Therefore, a lot of the themes in trap music revolve around drugs and other illegal substances and activities.

Sometimes, this is portrayed in the sense of partying and using illicit substances for enjoyment.

However, other times the illegal activities in trap songs are represented in a negative and sometimes traumatizing and abusive light. Sonicbids describes trap as cover topics as wide as “pain to fame.”

Trailblazers in Trap

As trap music was becoming popular, there were definitely artists that stood out and blazed a way for new trap artists to influence the music industry. Here are just a few of the most influential trap artists:

Though these are the artists that set the scene for trap music, there are many iconic trap artists that have changed not only rap and hip hop, but all of the music industry as well.

Here are just a few of today’s artists who are continually changing the way we listen to music:

These are just a few of the many trap artists that are producing music today and have produced music over the last many decades.


Hip hop has been and will continue to be one of the vastest and influential music genres of pop culture. It is incredible to think that in 40 short years, hip hop has become the most popular genre.

Rap and trap are both branches of this amazing genre and loved by many. Rap and trap alike, no matter how different they may be, will continue to work together to change the music industry entirely.