“The only thing on my mind, I’m tryin’ to keep on the lights
I call up my slime, I need a kilo tonight
Everything went well, I’m eatin’ steak, no more soup
Then I parked the Caprice, I went and bought me a coupe”
–  “Hold me Back” Rick Ross

I love rap music.

To be more specific … trap music.

What is Trap Music

How to define such a thing as trap music …

It’s the music they parade as negative examples of black culture. The music you don’t play in mixed company. The type of artists who get brought onto CNN to debate someone about the downfall of black society. The artists with “Lil” in their name, like Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump, Lil Boosie, etc.

Popular artists include Gucci Mane, Migos, Future, Desiigner, etc. Usually, from the south, the music usually tells tales of drugs, money, violence, women, and the club. A lot of being in the club actually.

Yes, that music.

Still lost? Watch Noisey from Viceland go to Atlanta in “The Trap” to define Trap Music.

Before my ode to trap music, let me acknowledge the negative aspects of the genre. It’s can be ignorant. There is a lot of profanity, detailed recounts of criminal activity, and all around lack of tact and positive imagery. I don’t plan to let my son listen to it (kind of), and I don’t think children should listen to it.

Now that’s out of the way.

My close friends who are fans of hip-hop, constantly berate my “poor” taste in music.

“You know you’re too smart to have Three 6 Mafia on every time I get into your car”
“You’re paying money to go see Migos in concert? MIGOS!?!?”
“He’s not talking about sh*t! Stop listening to this garbage.”

So, in hopes of sharing an important part of my life and putting an end to the hating, I share …

Why I love Trap Music

One word: Motivation.

Behind the superficial surface are stories of struggle and triumph. Tales of determination in the face of insurmountable odds. Depictions of setting, working towards, and achieving ambituous goals. Monologues showing a desire to enjoy life and the spoils of success. This is what I hear in trap music.

When I was younger, the desire to live like a rapper helped drive a healthy obsession with money. My desire to buy brand new Audi R8 and drink $1,000 champagne kept me working on myself and career. Once I had enough money to do it, I decided long term wealth creation was more important. But … I needed something more relatable at the time to get me there.

In order to highlight how my mind translates Trap lyrics into life lessons, let’s dissect the quote I opened this post with.

“The only thing on my mind, I’m tryin’ to keep on the lights”

Here we see the impossible odds of our protagonist, Rick “Rose” Ross. His current financial situation has him struggling to pay the electricity bill. Electricity in America is considered a basic necessity, and it’s one Rick is having trouble obtaining. To make matters worst, Ricky told us earlier that he has kids. If you know the artist, you know he lives in a bad part of town, has not been privileged with a good education, and faced the same dire straights as others in his situation.

“I call up my slime, I need a kilo tonight”

Digging into his entrepreneurial mind, he taps into his network to structure a business deal to make the money he needs. He’s looking to acquire a kilogram (aka kilo) of cocaine, with the hopes of selling it at a high-profit margin. Sure, it’s illegal, but he doesn’t have access to the resources others have. This is his version of raising debt to pull off a high leverage business deal. Impressive hustle if you ask me.

“Everything went well, I’m eatin’ steak, no more soup”

Success! He was able to correctly navigate this risky deal and find a return on the other end. Because of his success, he now can enjoy a real meal instead of surviving on soup. The first thing he does with his gains is upgrade his eating habits.

“Then I parked the Caprice, I went and bought me a coupe”

Doing more than just keeping the lights on, this deal put Ross in a place to upgrade his Chevy Caprice, a well known vehicle in the trap, to a two door coupe. We can assume, for those who know Ross, that this coupe is probably expensive and produced outside of the US. He is unapologetic about using the spoils of his business acumen to purchase nice things.

The rest of the song highlights other struggles he had to overcome and how he used his gains (although often ill-gotten) to better his family and friends.

I literally listened to this song driving to work to get me ready for the day.

And this isn’t an anomaly. Many of the aforementioned rappers talk about struggle, overcoming odds, finding ways to make money, and the societal issues that led them to their dilemma. On “24 Hours”, Gucci Mane is up 24 hours with “no sh*t, shave, or shower” because he’s “gotta get [his] money up”. You know how many late work nights that song got me through?!

In order to derive the same life changing motivation from this music, you have to know how to listen to it.

How I listen to Trap Music

If I had my way, everyone who listens to trap music would take a class and get a certificate before buying one of these albums. I say this because when taken at face value, you would be convinced the secret to life is acquire a kilo[gram] of coke, possibly by robbing someone, flip it for quick cash, buy a Bentley, and pour $1,000 bottles of champagne on women.

More like the secret to being broke, arrested, and disrespectful to women.

I personally translate what I’m hearing into terms that make sense for me and my journey in life. I understand this particule course of action may have worked for this person, but is not the “right way” for me.

Empathy is key. If you view the music through your own eyes, it’s impossible to relate. Not everyone has the same access to family, education, money, and other things you may take for granted. It’s not an excuse for the actions, but it’s the context needed to appreciate the genre.

As I’m hearing it, I’m rewriting lyrics to my personal situation. And that makes all the difference.

“Buy me a Bentley” is “Buy me a rental property”

I can’t justify spending 6 figures on a car. It’s a depreciating asset that increases in cost through maintenance and repairs. But, I can get behind the idea of revenue producing assets.

“Sell drugs” becomes “Make money … legally”

As comfortable I am with risk, getting shot or arrested is too much. Yet, I appreciate the fact this was the best option for this person. So I translate this into something I can relate to. Buying a new property, put some cash in a hedge fund, buy more ETFs. A lot less exciting … but that’s my life.

“Make a million” is still “Make a million”

My approach will be different, but who doesn’t want to be a millionaire?

“So Icy” becomes “High net-worth”

Instead of a diamond studded watch,  a 7-8 figure net-worth feels so much better to me.

“Popping bottles” becomes “Pop a bottle”

I’ll be honest, standing on top of your own table in the club with a bottle of champagne in your hand feels good. It doesn’t matter if you made the money flipping a key (a kilo of coke) or exiting a leverages short position (borrowing money and betting against a stock), you still made money. But, instead of dropping $5k in the club, I’ll probably stop at $500.

Enjoy the Trap

Wanted to end with some of my favorite songs. You are officially entering the “no judgment zone” by listening to any of them.

Hopefully, you can find a new appreciation for these songs or get your first exposure to the trap. You can check out my main Spotify playlist for up-to-date inspiration.

“Hold Me Back” by Rick Ross

“24 Hours” by Gucci Mane

“Understatement” by 2 Chainz