If you’re reading this, you likely already know that Latin trap is the new wave. Bad Bunny, Arcángel, Ozuna, Farruko, Anuel AA, and De La Ghetto — these are some of the biggest names in Spanish-language music, and they’re all making songs with sonic roots in the strip clubs of Atlanta. But if you haven’t noticed, most of the artists getting all the shine are Puerto Rican. And while the star-studded posse cut “La Ocasión” is generally considered to be the track that took trap en español worldwide, in part, the Latin trap tsunami started as a small earthquake in New York City clubs, set off by U.S.-born artists of Dominican descent.
Even the Puerto Rican stars will admit that it was the influence of artists in New York that shaped the sound we recognize today. And while they’ve largely been neglected in the conversation, the people that helped Latin trap pop off are still here, still making music, and still influencing other rappers.
At the movement’s epicenter lies DJ Flipstar, a club and radio DJ born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York. It started with a simple idea: translating popular club bangers into Spanish. “I was just trying to do what hip-hop artists do to this day,” he says, “which is do remixes behind famous songs or hits popping at the time.” The song that got everyone’s attention, Messiah’s “Sí Ta Bien,” was seemingly willed into existence in 2014 by Flipstar; his job at Power 105 got him access to the instrumental before anyone else, he physically brought the track to the studio for Messiah to record his vocals, and then pushed the record in his DJ sets and to all his connections in the club scene. Thanks to the ever-evolving cultural exchanges of the diaspora, the music headed to Puerto Rico, whose musical exports now dominate the charts.
But before we explore just why Dominicans aren’t sharing the spotlight as much as their Puerto Rican cousins (or in the case of Ozuna and Arcángel, their other half – both are Dominican and Puerto Rican), it’s worth asking: What is “trap,” really? The word itself is fraught with dire social implications; before it was used to describe a genre, “the trap” referred to neighborhoods – typically in Atlanta – where drugs were sold on the street. It was “the trap” because if you lived there, you felt just that: trapped. Rappers have been rapping about the trap since hip-hop’s genesis, but the rise of its current usage dovetailed with Southern hip-hop’s.