Trap Music: A Response to the Civil Rights Movement?

Southern hip-hop is rooted in generational tension between younger and older Southerners

A Trap and a Dream by Toni Raines and TreMediaBottom of the Map Podcast

Music as protest

In celebration of the 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, the Bottom of the Map podcast partnered with the Trap Music Museum for an event called "A Trap and a Dream: Is Trap Music a Response to the Civil Rights Movement?" If we have indeed reached the mountaintop that Dr. King prophesied about, podcast hosts Dr. Regina N. Bradley and Christina Lee posit, then the mountaintop ain't flat. In Atlanta, music is a way to navigate that terrain.

The United States of We Built This Sh*t for Free by DL WarfieldBottom of the Map Podcast

American realities

Trap Music Museum curator, visual artist, and former LaFace Records art director DL Warfield joined the hosts of Bottom of the Map for a discussion about the roots and function of trap music. In speaking to less-than-respectable experiences, trap music acknowledges that the civil rights movement didn't fix everything and presents accessible conversations about economic and social inequalities.

Goodie Mob by Austin Blue (mural), John Ramspott (photograph), and Courtesy of the City of Atlanta - Mayor's Office of Cultural AffairsBottom of the Map Podcast

Constant struggle

"But I won't accept that this is how it's gon' be," Goodie Mob says on "Free." Sometimes protest is not a larger collective movement. It's fighting to see another day.

Tip "T.I." Harris by Michael Johnson and Courtesy of the Trap Music MuseumBottom of the Map Podcast

Can't you see?

T.I.'s "War Zone" and its evocative video emphasized the tragedy of black lives taken -- by replacing black victims with white ones.

Kawan "KP" Prather by Courtesy of Kawan "KP" PratherBottom of the Map Podcast


Longtime music industry veteran Kawan "KP" Prather co-wrote Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," the arguable anthem of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Protests also used a remix of Crime Mob's "Knuck If You Buck." Lil Wayne's searing critique "Georgia... Bush" sampled "Georgia" by Ludacris and Field Mob.

Jeezy by Cam Kirk and Cam Kirk StudiosBottom of the Map Podcast


Jeezy's "My President" was a rare example of hip-hop rallying for a politician. Prior to this song's release, hip-hop had shown a lot of discontentment towards politicians. And with this song, Jeezy challenged the delineation between a conscious rapper and a trap-or-die artist.

Kap G by Harrison Oyler and Cam Kirk StudiosBottom of the Map Podcast


Kap G's "Day Without a Mexican" is a direct response to immigration policy. An anthem for his community, the song is uplifting in its tone and pointed in its question, "What's a day without a Mexican?"

21 Savage by John Canon and Cam Kirk StudiosBottom of the Map Podcast


"Been through some things, but I couldn't imagine my kids stuck at the border," said 21 Savage during a live performance of "A Lot" on The Tonight Show. Days later, he was arrested by ICE.

Scenes from the trap by Zach Wolfe and Courtesy of the Trap Music MuseumBottom of the Map Podcast


Over the course of hip-hop history, we see different types of voices and different points of view come to the forefront as forms of protest.

Credits: Story

This exhibit features excerpts from "Know Justice, Know Peace: Hip-Hop as Protest," an episode of the Bottom of the Map podcast.

Bottom of the Map is hosted by music journalist Christina Lee and hip-hop scholar Dr. Regina N. Bradley. In each episode, they explore, explain and exalt Southern hip-hop culture.

Cam Kirk Studios provided the photography for this exhibit. Additional images courtesy of the Trap Music Museum, DL Warfield, the City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs and Kawan "KP" Prather.

Bottom of the Map is produced by WABE, Atlanta's NPR station, and PRX, and made possible (in part) by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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