Photo: Andrew Lipovsky / NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
  /  05.24.2018

With Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys spending a third consecutive week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, it’s safe to say that trap&B has become one of the most dominant contemporary subgenres of American music in the past decade.

Often regarded by interweb critics as “garbage,” trap has arguably permeated mainstream culture full force — wrapping its tendrils around every musical genre imaginable. Although traditional layerings of R&B no longer seem like the go-to on pop and urban radio formats, hip-hop’s leading enforcer has revitalized it, becoming a key soundtrack for Millennials and Generation Z. While trap&B often exhibits repetitive beats matched by laxed vocals and oft-incoherent lyricism, the subgenre has developed into one that subtly displays the story-telling genius of literary greats — exemplifying their motifs, character archetypes, and moral lessons.

Welcome to REVOLT’s master class on trap&B.

This lesson starts with Kanye West and his fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak. Needing to recover from the tragic death of his mother Donda and a broken engagement from his fiancée Alexis Phifer, Kanye recorded the LP during secluded sessions on Hawaii (hence Honolulu’s 808 area code). His musical genius would match that of Victor Frankenstein, the main character of Mary Shelley’s 1818 fictional novel The Modern Prometheus a.k.a Frankenstein. Through his alchemy, West invented his own misunderstood Frankenstein Monster: the subgenre of trap&B.

The sound of Heartbreak was comprised through the primary usage of a Roland TR-808 drum machine and West’s auto-tuned, rap-singing vocals. The album would include the No. 3-peaking single “Love Lockdown” and No. 2-reaching “Heartless.” On these cuts — also including “Paranoid,” “Say You Will,” and the Kid Cudi-featuring “Welcome To Heartbreak” — West displayed characteristics of the Byronic Hero.

The Byronic Hero is a tragically flawed male literary archetype based on the 18th century English poet Lord George Byron. This anti-hero is romantically hedonistic, letting his pride get in the way of his relationships. 808s & Heartbreak also includes a guest appearance from Lil Wayne (“See You In My Nightmares”) who had previously displayed this smug behavior on the No. 1 hit “Lollipop.”

As 808s & Heartbreak faced polarizing first-impression criticisms that any Kanye West record endures, it would eventually revolutionize and inspire the modern soundscape. The most notable example of that would be Future’s 2012 single “Turn On The Lights,” which reached No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, and appeared at No. 14 and 49 on Complex and Pitchfork’s year-end songs lists, respectively. The Mike Will Made-It produced sleeper hit further extended the 808s blueprint with the addition of heavily-flooded hi-hat production. Future’s oft-indecipherable crooning about finding love in a nightclub’s VIP section, gave a presumed hip-hop song its R&B identity, ultimately guiding those wanting a trippy-trappy, rhythm and bluesy, spacey-hit. From that point on, Future Hendrix would continue his Byronic Hero narrative on his history-making, joint released 2017 LPs centered around his musical moniker.

Later in 2012, Future linked up with Rihanna for her Unapologetic single “Loveeeeeee Song.” On the post-modern slow jam, the pair would exhibit back and forth banter akin to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice protagonist Elizabeth Bennett and her Byronic opposite, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Known for her snarky wit, Elizabeth Bennett is regarded as one of literature’s favorite heroines for her defiant demeanor and independence. Throughout her career, Rihanna has more than accomplished a similar feat as the self-proclaimed Bad Gal — Unapologetic being the trap&B-filled springboard to initiate the attitude. We could even tie in her role as the leading ingenue of Kanye West’s “Paranoid” music video during her Rated R-era as an early indicator.

On Unapologetic, Rihanna also displays the behavior of a Trap Queen who craves autonomy, wealth, love, and power. Similar to Emma of Gustave Flaubert’s 1856 French novel Madame Bovary, she takes on an anti-heroine role with the help of trap-styled EDM, giving her a new worldly outlook. Rihanna conquers fashion in “Phresh Out The Runway;” pushes ecstasy in “Numb,” and templates a madame stripper archetype on “Pour It Up.” Her next album, ANTi, would continue this narrative but with the spirit of Lucy Graham from Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s 1862 novel Lady Audley’s Secret. Here, she’s just as “savage” with men, like the notorious literary femme fatale, on cuts such as “Needed Me.”

The best follow-up to Unapologetic would be Beyoncé’s self-titled, surprise visual album, which was released a year after. Here, we witness Queen Bey rapping about her nickname “Yoncé” and playing the role of a “gangster wife” matriarch in “Drunk In Love.” On the LP, she embodies a female warrior archetype — a.k.a. an Amazon (like Wonder Woman or Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games series) — who celebrates feminism on “*Flawless,” while warning she’s “No Angel.” That narrative is continued on 2016’s Lemonade, where she’s a bit more vengeful on “Sorry” and “Formation,” with “6 Inch” taking a few cues from Rih’s “Pour It Up.”

Through these aforementioned pioneers of trap&B, the overall theme of “love and hustle” (a spin on the classic 2000 film, Love & Basketball) became prominent on radio. R&B is the genre of passion and heartbreak, while trap music portrays hardships in streetlife, drug-trading, and inner-city poverty. The marriage of both genres revolve around surviving the ups and downs of romance, while also striving to obtain riches in order to get out of misfortunate circumstances. Someone who tackled these themes as best as mainstream radio could is Fetty Wap, as he laid out love and hustling on 2015’s “Trap Queen,” and further cemented those ideologies on “Again” and “My Way.”

The tragic views on adoration from Kanye, Future, and Lil Wayne would later on be exhibited by the likes of Post Malone, PNB Rock, Drake, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, and 6lack — who all brag about their stacks and god complexes, but can’t seem to leave their exes alone, while constantly battling their egos. Bryson Tiller would make one of the best impressions — offering his own trap&B take of Dante’s Inferno with his 2015 debut TRAPSOUL.

On the opposite end, Tink, Jhené Aiko, Alina Baraz, and Tinashe uniquely replicate the femme fatales and Amazon heroines Rihanna and Beyoncé set forth. The airy synthesizers and drums on Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage and Sevyn Streeter’s Girl Disrupted really hone in on a trap&B superwoman aesthetic, while SZA and Travis Scott’s linkage on “Love Galore,” as well as Normani and Khalid’s on “Love Lies,” best replicate the romantic foil dilemma first exhibited on “Loveeeeeee Song.”

Throughout the years, trap&B has adopted the language of its hip-hop parent. Some of the best examples in giving a crash course on the vernacular and lexicon would be Mila J’s “Move” and “Dirt” as these songs about moving on from a playboy are full of basketball references (“ballin like Jordan,” “Kyrie Irv with the moves”) and car allusions (“skrt, skrt,” “drop top with the roof gone”). Trey Songz’s “Foreign” glorifies luxury whips and exotic women from overseas. Mariah Carey asserts the notion of a jilted admirer being “Thirsty” for attention. With the addition of features from trap rappers on other songs — such as Offset’s role on Tinashe’s “No Drama” and Cardi B’s on Jennifer Lopez’s Nikes-endorsing and money-minded “Dinero” — this language has now become second nature in R&B.

Literary thoughts aside, trap and its R&B offspring have built a strong presence by referencing pop culture (or making it), while also sampling classic black music references. Rihanna popularized the saying “Bitch Better Have My Money,” which would eventually be used as a protest chant by HBCU students. Beyoncé created an anthem based on her love of “7/11” slurpees. Justine Skye examined falling head over heels in “Love Song” by interpolating Lenny Williams’s signature “oh” riffs from his 70s jaunt “Cause I Love You.” Travis Scott’s “beibs in the trap” has Nav sounding as if he is Justin Bieber tackling the genre.

Listen to REVOLT’s A Master Class on Trap&B on Spotify

Speaking of Bieber, even the world of pop has experienced an usurp of trap&B — for him, those cuts include “No Sense” and “I’ll Show You.” Katy Perry would be the first to play a temptress when her 2013 single “Dark Horse” featuring Juicy J went No. 1. Other artists to join in on the fun included Niykee Heaton, Halsey, Demi Lovato, and Taylor Swift — who all play seductive damsels in the world of trap-pop’n’B. Recently, Christina Aguilera linked up with 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign on the Kanye-produced banger “Accelerate.”

Meanwhile, Adult R&B radio formats have also been graced by trap influences. While the diction is a bit more clear and the vocal performances taken a bit more seriously, the same themes persist. Mary J. Blige fights through her divorce on “Thick of It” and vows to “Glow Up” on her album Strength of A Woman. Tank tackles sex head-on with his smash “When We.” Ledisi gets soulful-trap on “High,” as did Chrisette Michele on “Steady.” But we can’t forget to mention how Erykah Badu lead the way with 2015’s neo-trapsoul cut “Phone Down.”

Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys No. 1 jaunt “Rockstar” best embodies the state trap&B now finds itself: The genre has transformed into the new pop. As R&B seems to be slowly finding its way back to the forefront of the mainstream music scene, trap has (in many ways) given it new legs to walk on — just as hip-hop collabs did in the aughts, electro-pop did in the late 90s, and New Jack Swing in the 80s. The slow building rise to success for trap&B may be shocking for some, but its current fate had been articulated the whole time.

More from Da’Shan Smith:



View More



View More


Walmart has everything you need for the tech enthusiast on your shopping list

Check out our gift guide that highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds in time for Black Friday.

  /  11.10.2023

5 things you need to know about the 2023 Billboard Music Awards

“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.

  /  11.20.2023

Walmart's HBCU Black and Unlimited Tour kicks off at Central State University

On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.

  /  11.14.2023

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour visited Mississippi Valley State University

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.

  /  11.22.2023

Walmart has the home essentials for everyone on your holiday shopping list

Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.

  /  11.24.2023

Walmart continues HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour during lively Virginia State University stop

After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.

  /  11.14.2023

Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University

On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

  /  11.15.2023

Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'

Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.

  /  11.15.2023

Pheelz talks expressing himself through music & his biggest inspirations | 'On In 5'

On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!

  /  07.11.2023

Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'

On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!

  /  07.10.2023

Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'

On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.

  /  07.12.2023

BNXN talks leaving IT for music, linking with Wizkid, going viral & new album | 'On In 5'

For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!

  /  08.08.2023

From city lots to lush gardens: The power of urban farming with Karen Washington

This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.

  /  11.17.2023

Investing in stocks in a recession | 'Maconomics'

Host Ross Mac provides useful advice for preparing your personal finances in the event of a recession. He emphasizes the importance of budgeting properly, building an emergency fund, and maintaining discipline when investing.

  /  11.21.2023

Madam DA Fani Willis proclaims, “A lie has been told on African American men”

“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.

  /  10.11.2023

Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money

At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money. 

  /  10.26.2023

Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling

“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.

  /  11.03.2023

Halftime Report | Professional athletes who've dropped rap albums

From Master P to Chris Webber, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Deion Sanders, Damian Lillard and more, these athletes got bars. Check out our list here!

  /  11.01.2023

Machel Montano opens up about life as a child star, new music, and exciting business moves

In an exclusive interview with REVOLT, Machel Montano dove into his musical journey, childhood stardom, and an exciting new chapter in business.

  /  11.03.2023

Lauren London says Nipsey Hussle inspired her eldest son’s interest in finances

“I have those conversations with my son about abundance,” Lauren London said at REVOLT WORLD. 

  /  11.06.2023
View More
Revolt - New Episodes