Trap Music Orchestra Transcends Structured Genres

Ryan Easter rapping with the Trap Music Orchestra in the Stood. Photo by Zoë Hines.

By Zoë Hines

Trap Music Orchestra performed Saturday, March 12 at the Stood’s 23-hour show. They gave a lively performance channeling a variety of different hip-hop tracks. Before they took the stage, The Beat spoke with Ryan Easter, Trap Music Orchestra’s director.

How did you all come together to form Trap Music Orchestra?

I was sitting in a library; I think summer 2014. I have done experimental music around the notion of Chief Keef and Young Thug before. I decided to make an orchestric[sic] and make it a bigger idea so I sat down and started writing. I came up with a flyer for people to audition to be in a band. People thought it was a class, so I had to re-explain the whole thing many different times. It really just became out of an accident. Our first show was kind of by mistake. I didn’t even have a band at the time and just had to grab some people, and from then it kind of gets way bigger then we think it will.

How did you come up with the idea of fusing classical music, jazz, and trap?

Those were just the idioms of the music that I latched onto growing up. Chris Rock said the time you start being attracted to other people; that’s the time when the music you listen to really starts to mean something. I guess for me that was the time where Jeezy and Gucci Mane were starting to come into prominence. I remember listening to Stillmatic when I was in elementary school. By the time I could gravitate towards it and understand it, it was all trap music starting to emerge out of things. At the same time, I played in middle school and high school bands, so you learn classical music. I was fortunate enough that my extended family knew I played trumpet, so one of them sent me Chuck Mangione and a Miles Davis CD, so I kind of took off from there. My little sister danced in ballet so we would go see her in the Nutcracker and that was Tchaikovsky. Being exposed to all these idioms of music, it kind-of made sense to me that especially with hip-hop, we haven’t taken advantage of how we can extend it. It seemed naturally fitting to not only combine how progressive hip-hop is getting in culture now and how distant minorities have come from the foundation of things like big band music from the early 1990s. It just felt natural that we have to combine the two.

Growing up, who was your musical influence?

I would say any jazz artist from Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones, Duke Ellington. If we go into hip-hop we say people like Biggie, Big L, Gucci Mane, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West. I would listen to Portuguese music now and then.

That’s what it was really growing up. Try to keep a really eclectic foundation to build off of.

Who is your favorite trap artist?

Oh man, I would have to say currently as of right now today, I would say ManMan Savage.

What is your definition of trap music?

It’s a combination of things. A lot of people think it’s strictly cause of the subject matter. If you want to take the pathway that “hardcore hip-hop” has taken through history, it started from the ground running. Trap music is an extension of anything that came from NWA, Scarface, Geto Boys, early Biggie, early Pac. It’s a combination of things that come from urban struggle. That’s it from a subject matter standpoint. It’s also specifically from the viewpoint of the person that is inside of it. From the person that’s inside of that box or “that trap.” For me, it’s also an essence of really deep African based rhythm. Combining all those things really makes trap music to me especially when you bring it into the light of how the object is to talk about the box enough that you can get out of it.

If you had to choose your favorite song to perform live, what song would it be?

Right now it’s got to be “That Part” but it’s about to be a song that I just finished writing, but I can’t talk too much about that yet.

Are there any artists that you want to perform with live?

Currently, the top five would be Future, Gucci Mane, Desiigner, Father and 21 Savage.