Available on: Warp x Lucky Me LP
There’s been a lot of talk about “trap”, as a style of music, in the last couple of years. It’s iffy ground for several reasons – first, as The Wire / Cocaine Blunts writer Andrew Nosnitsky recently made a point of reminding people on Twitter, the phrase “trap” refers to an area where drugs are dealt (as in “trap house”) before it does a drum palette, and second, because said drum palette – simply put, usually overdriven or heavily compressed 808 kick drum samples, quick rolls of hi-hats and cutting, military style snares – has been going since the ’90s, most notably when Three 6 Mafia and other Memphis groups were pairing a much more underproduced version with old soul and funk samples. But, regardless, in the last two years it’s graduated from an underground sound to something that’s infiltrated chart hip-hop – in no short part thanks to Lex Luger’s productions for Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame, and hits like Roscoe Dash’s ‘Good Fucking Night’, which even references the style (“swear those 808s and snares make me go insane”). Basically, regardless of its history, it’s very much now A Thing, and with that comes reinterpretations.
Since Kuedo used trap-style drum grids as a foundation for astral synth-play on last year’s Severant, TNGHT have been the highest profile act from the dance music world to take it on (I suspect that neither Hudson Mohawke nor Lunice would describe themselves as dance producers, but the majority of their fans certainly come from that world). More than a reinterpretation, however, TNGHT’s debut EP feels like a public pitch: a demonstration of the destruction that they could cause teamed up with big US rappers. And as such, it’s very impressive, but it often feels like there’s something missing. Whereas underground artists like Morri$ and Sinjin Hawke are flipping the trap style into something that already sounds complete without vocals, the tracks on TNGHT sound like they’ve been very deliberately made with space for vocalists in mind (in a recent FACT TV interview, they in fact confirm this).
TNGHT’s sound has been compared with Timbaland, still for many the God of weird, minimalist hip-hop, but I don’t know how much of a comparison is there to be made. Timbaland’s tracks were simple, but often very subtle – on a track like his and Keri Hilson’s ‘Miscommunication’, for instance, the lead melody is so powerful that it might only be on your fourth or fifth listen that you notice those pin-prick drums pulling it taut. There’s nothing subtle about TNGHT: every element on these tracks is huge, their stature often emphasised by reverb trails that last six or seven seconds. ‘Higher Ground’, for instance, pairs one of those lumbering, pirate-swagger melodies that’s unmistakably Hud Mo with a diva vocal sample and Lex Luger aping risers. It’s also one of the only tracks on TNGHT where the pair resort to the rapid-fire hi-hats that are so common in trap-style beats – usually, here, the drums are dominated by kick and snare sounds, which only adds to the EP’s Godzilla-size feel. On ‘Bugg’n’, there’s an almost ADD mentality to the pots ‘n’ pans lead melody.
In short, it’s big, dumb, and a lot of fun, but the overriding feel to TNGHT is that it feels closer to being the start of something great than a great record in itself. Considering that the pair have just done an official remix for Waka Flocka Flame, and were recently in the studio with Danny Brown, we’ll probably see the project’s full potential sooner rather than later.