T.I., DJ Toomp, and David Banner Reflect on 20 Years of 'Trap Muzik'
The album was released on August 19, 2003, and birthed a subgenre that's dominating hip-hop to this day.
In the summer of 2003, the hip-hop scene in Atlanta, Georgia, was about to be hit with a new wave of music captained by T.I., a savvy street hustler turned rapper who altered the course of hip-hop history with his sophomore album, Trap Muzik. The album was released to the world on August 19, 2003.
The Bankhead native's second studio album established the rapper as a bonafide star. His debut album, I'm Serious, didn't reach the expectations T.I. and his team had in place, so the next go at the plate had to be a home run. They achieved that and more, as Trap Muzik put Tip on the map and established a subgenre of the same name that has been the most dominant sound in modern hip-hop.
The album put listeners on a front-seat ride through Atlanta's trap scene, where hustlers serve customers and try to survive while balancing their regular lives in a world designed to keep them in place. The hard-hitting production from Toomp, Banner, Kanye West, Jazze Pha, and more, coupled with the Grand Hustle boss's true-to-life lyrics, gave listeners an Atlanta experience never felt before.
For its 20th anniversary, T.I., along with executive producer DJ Toomp and producer David Banner—who produced the album's highest charting single, "Rubberband Man"—reflected on Trap Muzik's enduring impact, and all three men are still in awe with the body of work, as if it just dropped in 2023.
"Once art is produced and introduced into the marketplace, your first hope is that people actually see, hear, and experience it," T.I. told Complex. "Next is that it resonates and moves them in some way, and then, hoping it gained some success. Then it's whether you're alive to see it, bro. I'm happy to be alive and witness its growth in this manner over 20 years."
According to DJ Toomp, who produced some of T.I.'s biggest hits, creating something that can withstand the test of time is the biggest challenge.
"Making music is one thing, but making timeless music is a whole other thing," said DJ Toomp. "When you drop the needle and move that fader over, and the crowd responds the same way that they did 20 years ago to '24s,' 'Be Easy,' or whatever, no matter if I drop it as a DJ or he's performing it on stage, it's the same response where people know all the lyrics. It's impressive."
David Banner added, "To be able to create a subsection of anything and for your music to be that powerful, it's something that means a lot. It's transcendent rap because it permeates through and resonates with people so much because of the feeling it gives people."
T.I. wanted to give listeners a look at the everyday lives hustling in the streets of Atlanta. Before trap music became a hip-hop subculture, the term described the lifestyle Tip highlighted on the album. Trap Muzik is an ode to the world that T.I. and his friends came from, and the rapper had no idea outsiders would fall in love with it the way they did.
"I think my affinity around the world where I was born changed after all these years," said Tip. " I guess I'm humbled more and more because this project started as just a memorialization of the time spent by me and my partners during our teenage years, man. The lifestyle that we lived and what we endured and overcame."
He continued, "And I really just wanted to present something that people who live like us could relate to. We could inspire those and let and let others know that there was a way out, and that resonated with so many other people who said, 'Hey, man, I have my own experiences. I want to represent where I'm from.'"
Trap Muzik was recorded in an unconventional spot; in the back of a hair salon owned by Tip's associate Mac Boney's mother. As T.I. put it, the magic behind Trap Muzik was it's realism.
"We paid very, very close attention to detail. It was the nuances, perspective, and lessons learned that did it," said T.I. about the album resonating with fans. "We've heard rappers talk about murder before, but you never heard it with this nuanced detail of what the trap is like. There's emotion captured from people living on both sides of the trap, and it was true to what we were living at the time."
Before Trap Muzik dropped, T.I. wasn't getting a ton of coverage on such outlets like MTV and BET. He mostly had an underground following in the Atlanta scene before kicking down the doors with "24's." Tip had gotten dropped from Arista after I'm Serious, but the heat of "24's" got him a new record deal, this time with Atlantic Records. The song peaked at No. 78 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, but it's impact on the streets was much greater than it's chart position.
"We did so many records in the back of that salon. But the reaction we saw from everybody when we moved '24's' around in the clubs was when we knew to move forward and get it mixed and mastered," said DJ Toomp. "There was beauty in being free agents, and that let people and Atlantic know what we got going on. We knew we had a hot ass record."
The most significant record off of Trap Muzik happened by chance, though, with T.I. allowing an unknown producer/rapper named David Banner to showcase his work on a national stage. "Rubberband Man" was the biggest hit off the album, peaking at No. 30 on the Hot 100. According to Banner, he had no idea "Rubberband Man" would become a hit.
"I'm a rapper too, and if I knew that beat was that hot, I would use it for myself," said Banner. "Tip has a special ear and is one of the few lyrical artists who could pick beats well. We made that record in the back of a bathroom behind a beauty salon before Tip had kids, here we are on stages all over the world and I see his kids on stages. You can't beat that, bro."
Trap Muzik's influence can be felt all over hip-hop today. Atlanta artists like Future, Young Thug, Migos, 21 Savage, Lil Baby, and more have brought listeners to their stomping grounds with vivid accuracy, and they all continue on the path Trap Muzik helped lay out. The album's legacy is cemented, but it also lives on through the rappers now carrying the torch for the South.
"I anticipated the success, but I can't say the same for its impact," said T.I. "I didn't expect the mainstream would catch on and for other people in so many different parts of the world to find value and similarly share their stories. It grew into more than just my contribution, though. It's the input of so many others like Jeezy, Gucci [Mane], Future, Young Thug. The success of one project allowed the opportunities to evolve and contribute to the next generation's success."
When describing the 20-year journey, T.I. said, "This album shared the legend of those that came before it and contributed to those that came after. I was blessed and fortunate to be put in a position to do something amazing. Twenty years before me, people paved the way and opened the doors for me to do this."
Hip-hop has a long history of rappers dropping sequels to their most beloved albums. When it comes to Trap Muzik, Toomp and T.I. aren't ruling out a possible sequel.
"Is there a space for that?" Toomp asked. "We don't live that lifestyle anymore, and the stories won't be nothing that sticks to the ribs. We could call it After The Trap, and he would just be talking about how we made money, invested in land, and now we got kids and just also player of shit."
T.I. added, "I mean, I can't say that I wouldn't do a sequel, but I would have to land on it."
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