Every artist has his or her muse. In hip-hop, The Wu Tang Clan had 1970s martial arts movies, Kanye West had college, Outkast had aliens, and Joey Trap, a surging, San Diego-based rapper, has cartoon TV shows and movies.
Just a two-hour drive down the I-5 freeway from Los Angeles, Joey Trap, 19, is making waves across social media with his penchant for flipping cartoon and children’s TV show soundtracks and turning them into trap songs. His most successful song, “I Got Top in Bikini Bottom,” which has well over 2 million plays on Spotify, Soundcloud, and YouTube, samples the SpongeBob SquarePants ending theme. On his song “Sesame Street,” which also has millions of plays, Joey Trap utilizes the tune of “Elmo’s Song.”
What is most impressive about Joey Trap’s young career is the sheer volume of his output. As far as his SoundCloud page will tell us, Joey Trap released his first project in July of 2016. Since then, he has released more than five full-length projects on Spotify, mixed in with several 20-track mixtapes on SoundCloud, amassing north of 200 total songs.
His most recent project, Trapped in TV was released a few weekends ago. The album is both a homage to, and a parody of the cartoon TV shows and movies of the early 2000s. The album’s title is to be taken literally. In the first track, Joey Trap’s character is sucked through his monitor, into the virtual world of television. He spends the rest of the album rapping about his otherworldly adventure as he hops between various fictional realities. Continuing his creative decision to sample music from TV shows and movies, themes from SpongeBob SquarePants, Star Wars, Dexter’s Laboratory and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, to name a few, make cameos. The mere nostalgia allows for even the casual millennial listener to feel right at home.
Joey Trap is hardly the first rapper to play with the fourth wall and cross into the world of cartoons. Rappers often make appearances in established cartoon shows like The Simpsons, or King of the Hill, and Rick and Morty. But it is less common to see a rapper entering these known worlds, only to bend its narrative, making it their own, which is what Joey Trap does in Trapped in TV. And he does it in a brash way.
Though he is literally out of his world, imprisoned behind the TV screen, Joey Trap’s character immediately pushes back against the animated fiction and is determined to still play by the irreverent rules of his own world, where social dominance, making a profit, and shameless promiscuity are priorities. When it comes to the grotesque, Joey Trap’s character has somehow managed to out-do his cartoon counterparts.
“She do Molly, I’m with Lilo in Hawaii. I got kilos, boy they flying,” Joey Trap raps on “Lilo Needs Stitches.” In “Mr. Incredible,” a reference to the 2004 Disney Pixar film, The Incredibles, Joey Trap delivers swiftly, “Bitch where the fuck is my super suit? She fuck with me, but she talk to you. She probably tell you she love you, but funny thing, she call me Mr. Incredible,” In “Jelly Fishing,” another SpongeBob reference, Joey Trap uses the track to flash his apparent riches, “I’ve been jelly fishing, my Margiela’s dripping, got no time for bitches, diamonds on my wrists.”
Joey’s rapid flow and lo-fi trap sound has caused some listeners to draw comparisons to South Florida rappers XXXTentacion, Ski Mask The Slump God and Lil Pump. He somewhat addresses this in the project’s first bars, “Joey that boy with a pump, durag ob me like I’m slumped. Hesaid that he wanna flex. What? Now that lil’ boy in the trunk.” (He deals with the comparisons more directly in his “Lil Pump Freestyle.”) While Joey Trap seemingly struggles to find his own distinct sound, this conceptually ambitious project is surprisingly original in that he dedicated an entire album to his interaction with cartoons and other fictional characters. In the face of the Soundcloud rapper comparisons, the San Diego rapper seems to be finding his voice in the TV shows and movies of his past.
As Joey Trap floats between Bikini Bottom, Dexter’s basement lab, an orphanage for imaginary friends, and Lilo and Stitch’s Kauai, like aimlessly flipping through channels on a Saturday morning, the lines between vulgar reality and childhood fiction are blurred in Trapped in TV, taking the listener on a ride that is whimsical, mostly absurd, often misogynistic, yet undoubtedly colorful. Joey Trap manages to entertain, but in the way that an adolescent is entertained at the first sight of a pornographic image. You feel like you should stop, but something inside of us pulls us deeper and deeper, in this case, into Joey Trap’s bizarre world.