The Nostalgic Sensation of "Vaportrap"
Do you feel a little warm and fuzzy inside when hearing old video game console and retro operating system start-up sounds? Love playing catch up with the hypnotic, yet chaotic, hi-hat patterns, 808 bass samples and poppy snares of traditional, hard-hitting trap beats? Well, do I got a genre for you, my friend.
Say hello to “Vaportrap”, a genre that is… exactly what the name is: a blend of Vaporwave and Trap music. Ever since its birth in 2012 with Blank Banshee’s “Blank Banshee 0”, a commonly agreed upon release that many label as the first of the Vaportrap genre, producers of the scene have been walking on a creative tightrope, a mighty fine balancing act between the two styles to constantly find new and exciting ways to blend the two very different genres together.
On one end, we have the notoriously nostalgic undertones of Vaporwave; you’ll find your selection of old hardware sounds (take a shot every time you hear the Sega Dreamcast booting up sound effect), spacey, ambient chords and just generally textured filters on top of everything, baking every melody to have that retro charm all recycled from long ago.
In the other corner of the ring, we have the fiery attitude of Trap to cover you with the drums. Like two armies clashing with one another, Vaportrap sends in thunderous layered kick drums, sharp, rapid hi-hats, and orchestral synthesizers to combat the generally laidback and woozy vaporwave style. And while these two may seem to be polar opposites on the surface level, these opposites really do attract here as the ferociousness of trap instrumentals brilliantly fills that missing trait in the chillness of Vaporwave, and vice versa. Like peanut butter and jelly, these two genres were seriously made to be and we have seen some extremely memorable and fun releases ever since its conception.
Today, I want to give you 5 releases from the Vaportrap scene that I feel do a great job at showcasing what there is to offer, and more so, go past the stereotypical tropes of the genre. I really find Vaportrap to be an umbrella term more than anything so you may find some releases on here to be more Electronic than Vaporwave, classic Hip Hop than Trap, etc. I’m also not going to talk about super mega gigantic classics like Manapool and the Blank Banshee releases, those of you reading this article have probably heard those albums multiple times through already so instead, we are going to explore some other essential Vaportrap albums that you may have not heard about. Welcome my friend to the nostalgic sensation of “Vaportrap”.
More so a mixtape than an album, let us start off the list at #5 with CONTACT LENS’ 2012 release of “ICE IN THA VEINS”. Less hectic and more tamed than most Vaportrap selections out there, “ICE IN THA VEINS” is a 27 track long display of chilly, ice-cold sample selections and synthesizers poured over brash hip hop drum loops that take their time with you… a dream haven for fans of downtempo instrumentals. This release feels really long, like some truck driver hauling their 18-wheeler around a snowy mountainside knowing they have hours and hours ahead of them of just seeing nothing but the blanketing nature of winter. CONTACT LENS brings home a very relaxing listen attracting you in with it’s smooth, icicle-inspired sounds at the forefront.
For those who are fans of 100% Electronica artist Satin Sheets, “ICE IN THA VEINS” has a very similar feel to albums like “St. Francis” but replaces the pumpy kicks with more distorted ones and other little additions to make this more of a hip hop Vaporwave experience than a funkier inspired one. While most Vaportrap releases I would definitely not consider to be “background” music, this album is most certainly in its prime state when it is treated as a piece to merely zone out to rather than dissect and have your ears chase every individual sound like other Vaportrap releases. Many may not even consider this to be a Vaportrap release because of that tranquility and lo-fi downtempo structure, but because of it’s extremely early release in the scene and definitely having a heavy influence from Hip-Hop, I know many of you will find comfort in the slow-motion blizzard of “ICE IN THA VEINS”
As the legendary Vito James of DMT Tapes FL stated back in 2017, “I, naturally, made this (ICE IN THE VEINS) my ‘christen 2017 with an album you’ve never heard before’ an entire near half-decade later, and… my god. The quality has held up like you just cut open an air-tight Bubba Kush OG from Sacramento.
“In these modern times, our trials are not those of the flesh, but of the soul. In the long treks between safe and understandable concepts lie a murky uncertainty. Plastic bottles of milk are stacked on shelves in such a way as to make the surplus appear infinite. Like the bottles of milk, our days seem without end, only to suddenly dwindle down to nothing - but the idea that there is no end is still very real in our minds. Shelves stacked with hopes and dreams. Moments crystallized into colorful, morphing cubes that seem to detach and attach themselves to each other with unknown sentience. Like savoring a glass of milk, could one not also savor time?
Imagine you could buy another day…”
Hello shoppers, welcome to “B u y M i l k” by producer 音LIGHTシステム (translated on Google as Sound LIGHT System). This album is a pure gem and is one of the first albums I actually ever heard when discovering the world of Vaporwave. A pretty short listen to 9 tracks averaging at 3 minutes a song, “B u y M i l k” consists of a hearty blend of characteristics to please any appetite. You’ll find your go-to Signalwave weather reporter sample as early as track #2 “家族 ｗａｋｅ-ｕｐ” and then shoot right over to a more future funk-inspired piece in the next track “夢 - ｌｉｎｅ”.
Every track has its own personality which can range from polished mixdowns to fuzzy, VHS inspired journeys into your television-watching past. Heavy reverb on hi-hats provides an expansive listen, playing homage to the open and virtually endless ocean behind the island we see in the album art. Tropical shakers and whistling birds in tracks like 夜のコーヒー (which translates to Coffee at Night), emphasizes this feeling of being alone on this cubey, 3D rendered pacific island… But being alone may be the best way to soak in everything we have going on here. For something that is only about 26 minutes long, the artist really came to play and truly deserves to have your full attention for each song we have found here washed upon the shoreline.
Next up on our travels, let's soar high into the sky with the wispy and luxuriously aerodynamic “Purgatory” by Cobalt Road. Vaportrap rendered out to have 20/20 vision, the beats kept at a constant 20,000 feet altitude has “Purgatory” feeling like some of the cleanest and freshest produced Vaportrap in the game. This, in a genre that boasts aggressive instrumentals with sounds flying all over the place, is indeed a breath of fresh air as tracks like “Mirrors” towards the beginning of the album would be nothing but a relaxing simple little tune that may accompany an airport terminal elevator if it wasn’t for the pristine drum production giving it weight and parachuting it back down to earth. The just short of a two-minute track titled “Solitude” is as tranquil as they come, distant synthesizers paired with its liking of humble bongos and the go-to reverb-heavy treatment on hats to really give you this respectful and submissive state of Vaportrap. Everything ends with a bang (especially compared to this albums standards) as the final track “Bliss” explodes into a warped, wanderlust inspired horn riff.
Cobalt Road’s release here is a very calm album that lays in between exhaustingly relaxing background music and traditional, yet super fine-tuned, trap-influenced percussion— “Purgatory” is really the perfect name for this album, in this case, an intermediate state between trap extremities and angelic soft tones.
“Suspended between two points; Light and dark, past and future, joy and sadness, life and death.“
Overall, this is a crispy clean release in the Vaportrap hemisphere; quaint yet sophisticated. “Purgatory” has the ability to be your background music while cleaning the house or writing an essay persay, all while having the ability to also be used as a piece to sit around with friends and bump your heads to its heavy trap underbelly. Which side will you take?
This is what a Metroid game would sound like with a Vaportrap soundtrack.
More so influenced by electronic and cyberpunk flair than anything Vaporwave or aesthetics of that nature, “Urania” by Ganz Feld is a great, great release to check out if you are a Vaportrap fan as its layers upon layers of diverse sounds are nothing short of captivating and inspiring for the hyper-active percussion lying below it.
Released on Dream Catalogue back in 2018, “Urania” has it all. Acid-Techno harps and synths accompanied by this marching style directness on track number #10 “Reprogrammed” is powerful and orchestral, especially those little breaks during the track where we get nothing but this buzzing and zapping drone treatment eventually giving room for the drums to creep back in. Track #2 “Hyperware” provides us a playground of techno and trap all getting along with one another... that ambient interlude towards the end of the track providing a small window of air before you dive back down into the fun.
“Urania” feels like you’ve stumbled upon an alien planet but you have yet to discover the lifeforms that inhabit it, unsure if they are going to be hostile or friendly. The album sways between calm and caffeinated constantly and really paints settings of what this alien world would look like from alien factories leaking with sludge to miles and miles of purple-grass covered hills. Almost every track, from change-ups and interludes within them, feels like it’s 3 different songs all crammed into one. Surprisingly, nothing feels abrupt though and that is why I think this release deserves some serious praise. Track #9 “Massive Chain” is a perfect example of this as layers of instrumentals are literally growing and morphing into their final form with one another, not just merely existing to differentiate from one another and making you think “wait, is this a new track?”
Also, we gotta talk about that album art, for fans of that Y2K aesthetic feast your eyes on this thing of beauty. Not sure if this is an actual 3D-rendered creation for the project specifically or if this alien-like vehicle was taken from a video game or something, but damn this thing just straight up sounds like the music coming off the album. Also, nothing screams “early 2000’s” like the color emerald, jewels, and microfiber. And the hyper-reflective water in the background? What a juicy lookin’ piece!
Last but not least, what I consider to be pretty much my favorite Vaportrap release of all time. NxxxxxS’s 2017 release of “Remember Last Summer”. Inspired by 90’s and 2000’s horror movies, “Remember Last Summer” is smoky in its production and comedically spooky in its sound choices, pitched-down vocal chops and flute melodies on tracks like “1000 Ways To Get Paid” have so much personality in them you can’t help but fall in love with its eclectic flair. This track is then followed up with “Come Home 2nite” that quickly places us on a dark path at twilight with it’s warped synths and slower percussion progression throughout the song. Right after this, “Evil Thoughts Be on My Mind” featuring Soudiere brings us right back in the trap with Halloween inspired sound effects and hard-hitting kicks, snares, and hi-hats.
I really love every single song on here and can go on about them all, my favorite I think would be “1000 Blunts”, that Goodfellas sample in the beginning before the pitch dips and that calm and cool flute beat comes in... it is so rewarding and sounds so damn good (trust me, there is no other way to describe it. So. Damn. Good.)
This album, as well as everything else NxxxxxS has in his discography, has grown on me so much overtime. I remember discovering “Remember Last Summer” right around the time I was obsessing over VAPERROR’s entire catalog and the rest of the Plus100 label in general, and I overlooked it as I was mesmerized by the more upfront, aggressive and harsh Vaportrap that you definitely can find in the bubbly world of VAPERROR and his works. There were 3 vinyl records left of “Remember Last Summer” when I discovered the album (don’t ask me how I remember that, I have a weird memory for things lol) and I regret not picking one up!
Most of you may recognize NxxxxxS by his most popular album, “Fujita Scale” (which is also incredible, to say the least), but for me, “Remember Last Summer” takes the cake with its memorable personality and narrative dedicated to cheesy fun horror movies. If there is one album I couldn’t recommend enough from the Vaportrap scene it is definitely this spooky boi right here, this thing goes ridiculously hard in the paint.
G-funk and 90’s hip hop fed through a Halloween sound effects noise bank and cooked up in the kitchen by NxxxxxS himself, a bag of candy better than any haul you have ever gotten while trick-or-treating... Stay spooky my friends.
Much love, ur boi, Pad Chennington.