I told my mother only way ima stop is when my heart stop pumpin ? pic.twitter.com/8G2hzQ4lQk
— FettyWap1738 (@fettywap) February 13, 2015
The catchiest new song — well, newish song — which zipped up the charts out of nowhere, is Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen”. (Currently ranked #2 on the Billboard hip-hop chart; last week it was #3.) If you haven’t heard “Trap Queen”, check it out before learning the backstory:
Great for singing along, but what the heck do the lyrics mean? Well, anyone can figure out that “Trap Queen” is about hanging out with your cute girlfriend and having fun. “I get high with my baby” is not difficult to interpret. But if you don’t understand a few key words, the rest of the song is mysterious. After hearing “Trap Queen” on the radio, I was genuinely confused. So I looked up the nitty-gritty details on Rap Genius, which led me to other research.
The first essential term is “trap”. In essence, a trap is a place where drug dealers hang out and conduct their business. When it comes to music, the definition is more nebulous. According to David Drake on Complex:
“The genre [of trap music] was created by rappers like T.I., Young Jeezy, and Gucci Mane, who were referencing a life of drug-dealing, and producers like DJ Toomp, Shawty Redd and Lex Luger, whose aggressive production framed the intensely dark subject matter.”
Drake continues to explain:
“[T]he original meanings of ‘trap’ in a hip-hop context are difficult to nail down because the term has always hinted at multiple meanings. It is, in a literal sense, the place where drugs are sold, but could also imply something about the mentality of the people working there, or the nature of the work itself, or the hopelessness that propels people into those situations.”
In order to really get “Trap Queen”, you need a little familiarity with drug culture, particularly the kind of drug culture that develops in urban minority-majority areas where there aren’t a lot of other opportunities to make money. For starters, I suggest listening to the song “Go Boi” by Oakland-raised rapper Daveed Diggs. The most telling verse goes like this:
“You ain’t never seen me in a trap, befo’.
You ain’t never seen me strapped, runnin’ from the po’.
My family had been destroyed by the crack, so,
don’t see how I could glorify it in a rap, though,
I do love crack raps; slap it in my car,
rollin’ through the Dirty Thirties tryna look hard.”
Diggs asserts that he’s not mixed up with drugs, however much he talks about them. Fetty Wap is the opposite. Interviewer John Kennedy asked who qualifies as a trap queen, and Fetty Wap said:
“She gotta know how to cook. She gotta know how to wrap them things and send them things. […] As long as she ain’t gonna rat you out and she’s gonna hold you down, she ain’t gotta necessarily do no bid for you, because if you’re a man, you gonna do that bid for yourself. […] My whole thing is loyalty.”
“Bid” means prison time. Fetty Wap also told Angel Diaz of Complex, when asked what inspired the track, “Honestly, being in the trap. I was just dealing with somebody at the time, and she was holding me down.”
When Fetty Wap says that his girl needs to be a good cook, he’s not talking about flipping pancakes. Same goes for the lines “Married to the money; introduced her to my stove” and “I be in the kitchen cookin’ pies with my baby” — in this case a pie is a kilogram of coke. Not coke like Coca Cola. The other kind.
Note: Rachel Otis mentioned on Facebook that “he says he’s going to ‘cook her a pie’ but in the video, the womyn is doing the damn baking!” Good point! Ugh, men.
The rest of “Trap Queen” is about livin’ large and livin’ it up, throwing cash at the strip club and cruising in a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. This hides the real poignancy of the song.
“Trap Queen” isn’t just another party track. It’s about a Millennial couple’s economic partnership.
They make money together and they spend money together. Fetty Wap and his trap queen are a team! Most people don’t want to sell drugs, but almost all of us can relate to the desire for a solid dude/lady/whoever. Someone you can count on emotionally and practically.
How ’bout it? Do you agree with me that “Trap Queen” is romantic?
Editorial note: The first version of this post contained language that readers called out as offensive (DCentric has a good explanation of why). I apologize for being insensitive and overstepping my bounds. Thank you for the feedback!