20 Reasons Why Atlanta is America’s Music Capital

We are trap

Atlanta is the best city for music

Photograph by Kevin Winter/Getty

It’s not just rap with a T. Trap music is its own genre, a form of hip-hop born in Atlanta and characterized by a lazy-sounding vocal style, samples from a Roland TR-808 Drum Machine, triplet hi-hats, and snapping kicks and snares. The name is a nod to some rappers’ humble roots, the places where drug deals happen and people can get stuck. But trap has also provided a way out.

Atlanta’s Clifford Harris, better known as T.I., brought the genre mainstream with his album Trap Muzik in 2003. Artists like Gucci Mane, Jeezy, and Waka Flocka Flame followed. “Whenever you make something that just moves the cultural needle, then the masses will find it,” says Christopher Hicks of the City of Atlanta’s Office of Film and Entertainment.

Listeners have embraced this sound “because they know it’s coming from the originators,” says legendary manager Pap Kola. “The trap taught us how to infiltrate the industry from the streets. The tales we told of our traps embodied doing what you have to do to make a way out of no way.”

Trap music has taken over the charts, with Atlanta trio Migos and rapper Future both topping Billboard’s lists. Atlanta-based acts Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, 2 Chainz, and Young Thug are all over the radio. “The melodies. The cadences in raps. The sound is everywhere,” says Atlanta music tastemaker Stephen Dacres.

Naturally, elements of trap music are finding their way into dance and pop music. In this year’s hit song, “Havana,” that Camila Cabello recorded with Young Thug, she sang, “he took me back to East Atlanta.” Dacres says, “She’s never been there in her life! But I love the shoutout. It’s more about the sound and less about the background of the artist’s life. In the beginning, it was the reverse.”