“Google Latin trap!” Eva Arreguin exclaimed to Rafael Tamayo.
Arreguin didn’t need to Google it because she hasn’t heard of it. Arreguin is no hip-hop or latin music novice. And neither is Tamayo. The two host De Colores, a Dallas-based podcast about news, pop culture, arts and Latinidad with a “southern hip-hop flare.”
They Googled it because the subgenre is not an easy one to define. Trap music is a hip-hop style which originated in the southern U.S., while Latin trap is a sub-genre of trap which originated in Puerto Rico.
As songs like “Amorfoda” and “Estamos Bien” by Bad Bunny make their way into the headphones of Spanish and English speakers alike, those like Arreguin and Tamayo are attempting to define it.
“We be out here trappin’, we be out here trappin’,” Tamayo said jokingly.
“Oh my God,” Arreguin responded. “The Latin way. I meant... not with the drugs.”
The two erupted in laughter, and although Arreguin referred to the “Latin way” as a joke and nervous response, it’s exactly the absence of drug pushing that makes Latin trap difficult to define for them.
Trap is not only characterized by 808 bass kicks and Migos ad-libs; it’s characterized by its documentation of drug pushing. Latin trap doesn’t make this reference to the same degree, Arreguin said.
That’s what confuses the pair in trying to differentiate Latin trap from its older brother, reggaeton. Reggaeton was the Latino response to hip-hop music in the 2000s.
Tamayo and Arreguin said it had to do more with the sound. Latin trap is more like Latin hip-hop with an added Latin flair, she said.
Public relations senior Akotoh Angwafo said this is common with other trap subgenres. Angwafo is also a rapper who goes by the name Koto, and has released music under the genre of Christian trap. He said that these trap subgenres, such as trap soul, gospel trap and Latin trap, have different rules. The lyrics are independent from the “trapping” lifestyle. He said it’s more about adding a beat that you’re familiar with and love.
Defining the genre may be complicated, but understanding why the genre works is simple.
Arreguin first heard the genre around four years ago while in college. She said it made sense to her right away. The bass and the sounds were all there, she said. It’s also not surprising when the Afro-Latin roots in countries like Puerto Rico are considered, even though it’s often not acknowledged.
Tamayo thought it was only a matter of time for reggaeton to update and respond to hip-hop trends in the U.S.
“I was thinking it was only a matter of time,” he said. “When I thought I heard something that was like Future rapping in Spanish I was like, ‘Oh snap! We got something!’”
But he said Latin trap is not a mere translation of trap, which is perhaps why the genre’s other name, Trap en Español, is less common.
“You can see the influences from either side, but it’s definitely unique in its own right,” he added.
Although it is trap, it’s also very Latin, he said. Trap sounds often consist of hi-hats, synth and triplet flows.
“There’s a snare pattern of hi-hats often in reggaeton too, but that’s uniquely reggaeton. It’s hi-hats in a way that wouldn’t be heard in a Migos song.”
The snare in Reggaeton is similar to a sound used in Latin trap, Tamayo said.
He said the triplet flow found in most trap songs such as “Versace” pairs naturally with Spanish.
“There’s that joke of that secret language or whatever that a lot of Mexicans do where they follow the vowels,” he said. “We play with things like that because we understand the musicality in speech.”
His family even calls him “Ra-fa-fa-fa” at times.
Arreguin said the growth of the genre depends on the Latino community to celebrate it and other communities to consume and contribute to it.
If people from outside the Latino community hear “Gasolina” at a quinceañera and “everyone’s getting lit to ‘Gasolina,’” they also celebrate the music too, she said.
“They know that as our jam but they also think of it as their jam,” she said.
Because Angwafo doesn’t speak Spanish, he usually doesn’t download songs in Spanish. But when he heard “MIA” by Bad Bunny featuring Drake, this changed.
“The hook gets me,” he said. “I’d actually download that and learn the lyrics.”
The track, released earlier this month, became the first entirely Spanish song to be number one on Apple music’s top song chart in the U.S.
Mia means “mine” in Spanish. But the tune’s popularity proves that this song doesn’t only belong to the Latin culture. Like Arreguin said, it becomes their jam too. Mia y tuyas.