Framed by white curtains and stood against the red brick tower blocks of the city, West-London born, British-Serbian artist TRAPY looks down from a window at his beloved London — the place he says he’ll never leave — with the capital’s name inked in striking, bold letters across his shoulder blades. It’s grey and miserable, like the capital mostly is — but he adores it. The image is a still from the video for his new track, ‘MILLIE’, and it’s the very first taster of his forthcoming debut mixtape as TRAPY.
There’s a chance you already know of TRAPY, be it from his tattooing moniker Traphouse, or his graffiti tags that embellish buildings across the world. He’s inked everyone from A$AP Rocky to Skepta, and prior to the pandemic, travelled every other week to different cities to tattoo his designs of girls in Louis Vuitton-clad bikinis, souped-up sports cars, Stone Island badges and Nokia 3310s onto the fans of his tongue-in-cheek style of Y2K body art.
With the down-time of the pandemic last year, and the subsequent closure of tattoo shops, TRAPY finally had the time to focus on one project he’s been chipping away at behind the scenes: his music. Brutally honest about his beginnings, music has been the MC’s constant, keeping him focused and centred, even during his turbulent, formative years. “I went to go and live with my dad at 13, and we were homeless,” TRAPY says over the phone, taking long pulls on a cigarette and considering his words carefully before articulating them in a deep London accent. “The council gave us temporary accommodation in a couple of different places, so we bounced about before we got a permanent flat. Obviously, in those days, moving around... I was a little demon.”
From being arrested “almost every weekend”, to being banned from his friends’ houses by their parents, he was a self-confessed troublemaker. “Even through all that though, I’d still go back to West (London) for youth club because they had a music programme there,” he says. “Fruity Loops was the only thing around, and that’s where I first learnt to make beats.” He’d go and see his friends in Fulham, watching their older brothers making tracks, and eventually managed to get his hands on a CD copy, as well as a computer.
“My cousin gave me a PC. It was a big fucking monitor with an arse on it, and a PC tower that would hum, with those two little Logitech speakers and sub that everyone had. I was aggressively poor for a long time,” he continues, earnestly. “I never had no internet, no landline, nothing. The only way I could make music was to sample from CDs I’d stolen, or go to the charity shops and get like five CDs for £1 or whatever.”
The impact of those early brushes with production, though, are integral to TRAPY’s music-making process now. He produces all his own beats, sampling old soul and funk records, as well as hip-hop and rap, chopping and screwing tracks he heard growing up, and still using FL Studio to do it now. His digging for hidden gems and diverse tracks to sample is largely due to his father too, who’d make a young TRAPY listen to whatever he was playing at the time.
“He never played (instruments), or made anything — but he was an avid consumer of all genres,” he explains. “I’d be in the motor with him, and he’s got a tape or an album, and he’s telling me, ‘You need to know who those people are’. We’d go on a car journey and go from Smokey Robinson to Metallica, then it’d be Prodigy and Sizzla.”
TRAPY initially dropped his first mixtape back in 2016, under his Traphouse Tyler alias. It wasn’t really the right time for him though, and the focus turned back to tattooing for a little while. He’s a private person, and it’s a time he isn’t willing to delve into. “During the last couple of years as Traphouse, I’ve gone through a lot of shit,” he says. “A lot of bad things have happened. I got nicked like three times, I’m just not shouting about that shit online.”