The Trap sees Minor at his most vulnerable and honest as he critiques the unchecked systems of power and abuse that have disproportionately affected minorities, specifically African-Americans, and perhaps most tragically, the church's own failure to address these issues. Though he raps on the titular opening track "This record might be the end of me," he nonetheless remains rooted in his convictions and says, "This what the Lord been giving me / Someone to re-envision our history." Thus, Minor seeks to do more than just craft music based in the trenches of reality and critique solely out of anger, but keeps one eye to the sky, wishing and working for a better future.
But before Minor can dream about a better tomorrow, he must acknowledge the issues of today and the authenticity with which he describes the issues here is unapologetic yet judicious. Deep and pithy cuts like "It Is What It Is" and "God Bless The Trap" talk about how, in impoverished neighborhoods, for many the prospect of using education to find better opportunity for oneself seems implausible and difficult, largely in part due to the systematic racism and oppression. As a result, many communities "create their own economies with dope money as their salary", which further perpetuates stereotypes and promotes a destructive cycle of survival. "Robin" shows the consequences of such a culture and is a sobering look at how, in the trap, "there are no heroes" because many fathers have been given life sentences for petty crimes. This results in many young men having the responsibility of taking care of their families and how their choice to resort to violence, robbery, and drug selling to make an income stems both from a deep love they have for their families and a willingness to do whatever it takes to provide for them. Throughout all these experiences, Minor articulates how the trap is more than just a physical place but a mindset as well, and that those who "escape" either find themselves still resorting to habits despite being a "regular" member of society, or they simply forget about the neighborhoods from which they came. Yet, the emcee never tackles these issues head-on and is egalitarian in sharing his minutes with fellow featured artists. Thi'sl, Greg James, and Propaganda spit the most convicting bars on their respective tracks.
In addition to having a diverse consortium of guests, the album deviates sonically by not consisting solely of typical trap beats. "I Have a Dream" listens more like a spoken word piece and over heavy drums, where the emcee prophetically envisions a world where "The #MeToo Movement was not needed and all of our women like queens we were treated." Of course, Minor is also a veteran at weaving bangers and club hits in between his more socially conscious raps, and with labelmate Byron Juane, he celebrates his successes of making it "out of the bottom" while reminding listeners that "It's never been about the money for me / it's always been about the Kingdom, dummy." "Don't Cry" is an album highlight and with electric guitars, The Wright Way's chorales, and Aaron Cole's silky vocals, it transforms the album into pure lucid harmony. Likewise, while a less-seasoned emcee may have resorted to simply venting and complaining about issues, Minor employs a whole array of storytelling tools best exemplified on "Decisions," which, over a haunting instrumental, he raps about a boy who gets brutally shot and killed by a police officer, sadly stating how even the best intentions can still shape bad perceptions. Read More Here
What is the Trap About?
Derek Minor: “The ten-thousand-foot view from the airplane of the album is, everyone, or most people, if you don’t know what the trap is; when you talk about it from Atlanta, T.I., Gucci Mane, invention of that whole scenario is a house where they’ll call it the trap because that’s where drugs would be sold. The reason why they would call it the trap is because usually it’s a very narrow situation to work out of, it’s an abandoned house, and it could be a trap. Police could raid it, and you get trapped inside. So that’s the whole idea of it. So I wanted to take that and apply.
That’s the big thing in music, especially in rap music. It’s been telling the story of living. It’s making the music and telling a story. Often times the story in rap music is [the] ‘from-zero-to-hero’ situation. The guy that starts off poor, works his way up through the streets. And that’s the narrative – works his way up through the streets, to go from selling drugs to being a superstar. Usually, the music details those journeys. So with commercialization, it’s crazy the idea that drug dealing and things of that nature have become a commercially viable form of entertainment. It’s mind-blowing. But that’s what it is, that’s where we are. I think often times when people hear those stories, most of those stories come from actual real-life events from the artist themselves, or people that they know, or just the environment that they grew up in and what they’ve seen over time. Read More Here
Derek Minor Breaks Down Songs From ‘The Trap’
I intentionally made it beautiful at the beginning. It’s live strings, pianos, etc. I intentionally made that because everyone’s life is a beautiful thing. God gives it to us and God brings us into this world. For most of us, we have this innocence in how we see the world. That’s everyone. When the drum drops, that’s the loss of innocence, we’re talking musically.
It this dark ballad that is beautiful musically, but when you listen to the words they are horrifying, like blow your brains out on Facebook live. I was actually inspired by that line. I remember seeing, there was this older man on Easter who was walking home, and a guy walks up to him and boom, blows his brains out. That’s what inspired that line. So there’s ‘Mama told us that we need God but the rent due. It’s the most high, the trap’. The ‘rent due’ is like ‘Hey, yes, the rent is due and it’s really high’, but it’s also the rent is due, it feels like it is God. Mama told us that we need God, but right now my god is getting this rent paid. It’s a double entendre in that sense. It’s beautiful, and then boom – the drums hit.
You hear ‘Yeah, I know a couple dope dealers and a couple gang bangers’. That’s the realization of what reality is for some people. It’s the loss of that innocence. Then you get into the end and I say, ‘By the way, they say when you get paid and you get a little fame/ that everything change but I can’t tell, I still feel the same because whenever I’m in a store the police watchin’ me’. This is actually when I get personal, not just overall, but I actually talk about myself. The level I’m at as an artist. I’m successful in the sense I have my own business. I work for myself for a living. I live in a very nice neighborhood. No one in my neighborhood has ever necessarily bothered me but you could just tell they all have been trying to figure out what I do.
God Bless the Trap
Often times we look at people who are poor or look at these drug dealers and say, ‘Man, they should just get their life together’. Especially Christians, which is weird. But we forget that God had to insert Himself into our own lives for us to get ours together, not the opposite. We didn’t get our lives together and then God started working. I’ve seen this crazy thing with the church where it feels as though rather than us saying, ‘God, bless people that are broken, bless people that are hurting, bless them to be able to see who you are’, we curse them. I want to be like, instead of saying, ‘Let’s curse the trap, these people have no value’ let’s say, ‘God bless the trap’. Let’s change their lives.
There’s multiple layers to that. What I wanted to show in this song was: 1. People don’t often choose the situations they’re in, they’re given to them. So ‘Open up the fridge, nothing but old milk and rice in here’. A person wakes up in the morning.. The most bare necessity is nutritious food. In most poor environments, the worst food is the cheapest food. I want to capture that whole idea that the bare necessities for most people are things we take for granted. Some people don’t have them when they open the fridge. And after a while, that begins to weigh on you.
And the question in ‘Robin’ is: what makes someone so desperate that they would do something like rob a store? What inspired that was, my wife is a pharmacist, and someone robbed a store in her area. I told her, ‘Look, if someone robs your pharmacy, give them whatever they want’. But the pharmacy she works for is a 99.9% out of 100 percent fail rate because as soon as you rob the store, they hit the button, and the cops are there in 30 seconds because it’s a pharmacy. The question is, most people know that, so what’s the desperation that would make someone go in and rob a pharmacy. That’s what got my mind thinking about that.
The first verse is a man that’s THAT desperate. He goes on a mission, and he gets arrested. So now we have this man who says, ‘I look at my kids and I got to feed my kids, so I got to do something that is illegal and almost irrational’. If you listen to the second verse, it is his son. He starts off by saying, ‘Open up the fridge, ain’t nothing but old milk and rice again/ My mama on dope and she ain’t here/ What we finna do my daddy in the pen’? His dad went to jail in the first verse. This kid picks the same thing his dad picked. Not because he looked up to him, but he thinks ‘Well my mom’s on drugs, my dad’s in jail, I got to take care of my siblings’. Out of desperation, he goes and picks the same thing.
It is What It Is
That transpired from a conversation I had with somebody who is really close to me that sells drugs. We were just talking about it and he’s like, ‘Man, you know how it is; there’s no jobs, no nothing’ and it was a perspective of ‘It is what it is’. He’s like, ‘This is the game. This is the hand that was dealt. I got to deal with this. This is where I am at’. It kind of broke my heart because 1. I didn’t have an answer as far as options for this person. I didn’t have an answer to be able to say, ‘Naw, you know you don’t have to do that. Here just go to this place, barely graduate high school with no college degree’. There’s not many jobs you can get, especially where he lives at. So just the idea of, ‘This is the life I have’ and accepting it’. I wanted to say; what would that person say if they had an opportunity to speak with the world, what would he or she say? It’s me putting words to those emotions.
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Interview conducted by Justin Sarachik, transcription provided by Ed Boice.