One thing is for sure; pretty girls are not the only ones who like trap music — Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz has made that perfectly clear.
What began as a marketing ploy for his latest project, “Pretty Girls like Trap Music,” has sparked a media frenzy and inspired conversations even as the campaign is over.
Michael Wortham, minister of young adults at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, thought the move – painting a modest house in the metro Atlanta area pink to resemble the album cover of his latest project and painting the words “TRAP” broadly across the front – was a dope marketing campaign.
“I can’t deny that. I haven’t seen anyone put a marketing plan together for an album like that,” he told NBC News, adding that as a fan of the genre, he appreciates not just the musicality but also its art form.
Trap music emerged as a sub-genre of hip-hop in the 1990s thanks to Atlanta artists like Outkast and Goodie Mob. However, it would not be until recently that the culture began to dominate popular culture.
Fans of the music have began associating the word with just about everything, glorifying what Wortham considers a complicated situation.
“The ‘trap’ is a real situation for a lot of people,” he stated. “There are real life people out here struggling with the trap reality each and every day. The music highlights those experiences – the music is the expression of those living it.”
Which is why Wortham is concerned by the attention trap culture has received recently.
“We cannot consume certain entertainment and culture without honestly dealing with the issues that create the culture,” he said. “There are real life experiences that inform the music. We have to be careful not to do the same kind of cultural appropriation we get mad at other cultures for doing.”
In addition to the house, 2 Chainz himself has also done a few “pop-up” trap salons. There is even a group doing a trap fitness boot camp at one of the local parks in Atlanta.
The campaign, which was only supposed to last for a couple weeks, attracted countless tourists and visitors – snapping selfies with the house in the background and sharing them on Instagram, Facebook and SnapChat.
And as the popularity grew of the house via social media, Wortham jokingly commented on his Facebook page, “Trap Karaoke…Trap Brunch…Trap Fitness…It’s only a matter of time before someone hosts ‘Trap Church.’” A few days later, he would be the one along with several community and organization leaders hosting such an event.
The house was sparking something more than promotional attention. Following Trap Church, the house served as a temporary health clinic for HIV testing on the 4th of July.
Donald Coleman, a native of Savannah now living in Atlanta, was one of the many to make a visit. He went, he said, for the culture.
“I came from a low socioeconomic background so I am no stranger to what real life trap houses are and their effects on the community,” he told NBC News. “Our culture may not always be mainstream but when people take notice it becomes so, as is the case with the trap house.”
Coleman agrees the campaign was marketing genius and admits that he is a fan of the genre.
“But I can’t get with all aspects of the music,” he said. “It depends on the artist – I am the same way about all music that I listen to. Sometimes I may like the beat or can relate to the lyrics.”
On the day he visited the house, Coleman said he could not help but notice the myriad of backgrounds and ethnicities represented that day. He is aware, he said, that there are a number of people who enjoy trap music, but have no real connection to the realities those living the “trap” lifestyle.
“I don't know if the house brought awareness to this, but there may be positive partnerships that occurred because of the popularity, such as the Trap Clinic,” he added.
2 Chainz, who was unavailable to speak with NBC News, alluded on his Instagram account that his efforts may have been about more than simply promoting his album.
The day the house was repainted by its original owners to be placed back on the housing market, the rapper shared a photo of the house partially painted white with the caption, “Gave my city an unforgettable experience that the whole world took notice to… that will be carved down in history!!”
Regardless of the intent, Wortham considers the moment an opportunity, which is what led to Trap Church, to deal with the issues that trap music addresses.
“If I throw Jesus on it, that is what he talked about – setting the captives free, preaching good news to the poor,” he said. “There might have been a lot of people who came there to just take pictures, but hopefully there were moments where someone was led to see the trap life from a different perspective.”
Yes, he said, on one hand trap music is black music and is part of hip-hop culture.
“But we must also remember, life imitates art,” he said. “This is not an holier than thou moment – trap church forced me to even check myself. If we aren’t going to do anything to deal with the conditions that created the music, we cannot get upset about the glorification or the cultural appropriation of it.”