RVA#40: Trapcry Is The Super Sexy, Super Fun Pop Queen

by | Mar 29, 2023 | FASHION, HIP HOP & RAP, POP & TOP 40, QUEER RVA, R&B, SOUL & GOSPEL

A condensed version of this conversation is in RVA #40, which hits the streets this Friday. Pick up the print version around town for FREE or join our patreon and read the web version right now at patreon.com/RVAMag

Justice: The first song I heard of yours was “Deep Inside.” I remember hearing it and thinking, “I don’t know another artist making music like this in Richmond or in general.” I was specifically drawn to the specificity in your lyrics, the type of music you were making, and how honest you were being. Apart from genre, for people who don’t know your music, how would you describe the type of music that you make?

Trapcry: I’m not just hip-hop anymore. I’m heavily inspired by artists like Janet, Madonna, Missy, and many others, but I feel like those two are kind of the blueprint. Like Rihanna, they’re able to do anything now. They just do whatever genre, you know. For me, I always wanted to do pop music. If I can make whatever it is “pop,” I’m all for it. I just like to experiment, you know? “Deep Inside” is a hyperpop song. I’ve dabbled in hyperpop, like “What Do Boys Like,” which is also a hyperpop song. But I don’t like doing the same song twice. They are similar—I have a lot of brother and sister songs in my discography—but I like to do different things all the time because I feel like I’ve been there, done that. I need to tell another story. I need people to hear my voice on everything, you know? Even getting booked for shows, I can tailor whatever I’m performing to what the other acts are doing. It’s cool because it’s me, but I can also fit in and blend in wherever I want to. I was talking to Tony (publisher, RVA Magazine), and he was like, “Yeah, I don’t know if Richmond knows what to do with you.” And it’s so true. It’s like even the Spotify algorithm; sometimes something will trigger it, but it’s very hard for anything to blow up. I can’t really fit into a box because I’m always just doing something new. But it always sounds like Trapcry, and it’s like I can do whatever.

trapcry RVA Magazine joey Wharton
photo by Joey Wharton @joey_wharton

Justice: How do you find room to experiment? Does that come naturally to you?

Trapcry: You know what? It’s just like you said, it’s like trying on clothes. I like to just dress in different things, but that’s literally it. It’s not that it gets boring doing one thing, but I like to keep people guessing. I like to, you know, even when I go out and I’m wearing something out of this world. It’s like, I can do that, you know? I like to try it and, if it hits, it hits, and if it doesn’t, so what? I have fun wearing it or making that type of song.

Justice: How much of the audience’s reaction do you take to guide your direction? Does that matter to you, or are you inspired by it no matter what the reception is?

Trapcry: I haven’t had that problem, I feel like, because I draw inspiration from friends. I draw inspiration from, you know, like we’ve hung out. I draw inspiration from everything, and if I’m playing music for people I’m hanging with, they’re going to, a lot of times, relate to it. Like, I did a song called “Sad Sluts” last summer. All my friends were breaking up, and it just felt like that was the song we needed to hear. I would play it during afters, you know, and people were responding well to it. And I knew when I released it, if I performed it, people would respond to it. But I haven’t had a situation when I’m on stage and I’m thinking—do people like it? And once I release a song on the internet, it doesn’t really affect me because it doesn’t belong to me once it’s out there. But I think I can almost control the narrative if I’m performing it because people will be so into it.

Justice: Tell me, how did you get your start in music? Have you always been a musical person? Have you always seen yourself as an artist?

Trapcry: I used to love Britney, Aaliyah, and Missy, and I always wanted to be that. I always wanted to be a pop star in my own world. Like, I don’t know how far I’ll go, but I kind of define my own success. All the little things I do. And I’ve done so many things in my life that I feel complete me. It doesn’t matter what happens next. But my background in this? I don’t even have a musical background. Even when I’m playing, like if I’m creating something, sometimes I’ll tap around on a keyboard and I know how to make a chord, a little chord progression, but it’s not something I’m trained in. I went to a performing arts middle school, but that was for drawing and acting – and it wasn’t really about music. And then I danced for a little bit, but I’m not a dancer. I just wanted to, you know, perform and be a pop star at some point. And then I remember my dad used to get these catalogs that would have all the recording equipment, and at one point I was like, “I want that.” And I would write lyrics throughout the day that I would keep in a shoebox. A shoebox, I know, sounds so stupid (laughs). But I had a shoebox full of lyrics and short stories, and I would carry it around all day. Eventually, I got a laptop and learned Sony Aspro. And then I started recording mixtapes and passing them around in high school (laughs).

Justice: And were your friends receptive to it?

Trapcry: Yeah, my name was Garlic Bread, and I would come out with albums quarterly—I would record my friends over the phone and mix them into the music (laughs). But, I kept doing that, and then I got serious at some point in college. It just got more and more serious. And then my equipment got better, and I was making beats, like, for real. And it was starting to sound like, “Oh, I can really do this now.”

Justice: I want to know the story behind Trapcry. The first time I saw the name, I was like, “Such an iconic name. It’s very timeless.” Tell me what it means and, do you cry often?

Trapcry: I do cry a lot (laughs). I cry when I’m watching movies all the time. But trap music was like this big thing at the time, and I wanted my perspective in it. ‘Cause usually, I would make reference tracks, like, “Well, this will be for Rihanna, this will be for Britney.” I would write from that perspective, and I’m like, “Well, I want to do the same thing, but I want to make it for me.” And it wasn’t hypermasculine, like hyper-masculinity is hip-hop’s thing, you know? I felt like Trapcry is a rebellion. It’s a different perspective. It’s not that hyper-masculine perspective that was popular in the nineties. I feel like hip-hop doesn’t take music seriously unless it is that. And for a minute, I was like, “Okay, I’m doing hip-hop,” but then it just became my own pop thing, and it’s not even what I first started out being. I was sure about my sexuality then, but it was just like, how do I want to portray it and brand it? And this was all in like 2013 (laughs).

Justice: I want to talk more about how unapologetically queer your music is. When I read your lyrics, it feels very biographical. I feel like I’m reading very specific memories and experiences. And it may sound obvious ’cause that is the life you’re living. But as a musician, you have the option to paint with broad strokes and kind of beat around the bush or keep some things private and some things public. Is it intentional to thread your queerness in your art? And how does your art interpret your queerness? How does your queerness interpret your art?

Trapcry: I think being a gay person in music, now, you don’t have to be quiet. I mean, I already told you I’m gay, so like, what now? (laughs) I can just be as revealing as I want, but also I feel like sometimes as Gene, it’s different from Trapcry. I like to push the boundaries with who people can perceive Trapcry to be because it’s a hypersexual image, and there’s nothing Trapcry can’t do. But like for me, I’m not always there. The songs I put out, they’re all real because it’s how I feel, and if it’s not real, it’s how I wish I could be. Like I said, I’m inspired by my friends a lot. And I just feel like as a gay person, I don’t have to censor myself. I can just put it all out there because they’re already beating us up about our identity. And there’s always gonna be somebody that can relate to you. Whatever I put out doesn’t matter; somebody’s gonna be like, “Wow, this song meant something to me,” or like, “I can identify in this situation.” There are so many stories to tell, and I feel like you can’t really live all of these situations. Like, it’s probably unrealistic. But, there is a piece of me in each song (laughs), there’s something there, but it’s usually up for interpretation. It’s not always exactly how it seems.

Justice: Can you talk a little bit more about the dichotomy of who Gene is and who Trapcry is, and at what points do they intersect?

trapcry RVA Magazine joey Wharton
photo by Joey Wharton @joey_wharton

Trapcry: Growing up as a student of Beyonce, she had Sasha Fierce, and I feel like that’s what Trapcry is for me. There are definitely moments in my life when I feel like this is not Trapcry. Trapcry is so outgoing, you know, my highest self. But you have to keep a piece of yourself for yourself. There are just some things you have to keep private. With social media, it’s like post, post, post this, post this. And I do post a lot, but not all of it is personal. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s just that not everything is for everybody.

Justice: What is your relationship like with your fans?

Trapcry: It’s funny because I’ve been making music for a long time.

Justice: How long?

Trapcry: I probably uploaded my first song on this thing called Sound Click in 2003. And then from Sound Click to MySpace. Then when MySpace disappeared, it was like, where do I find my fans again? I used to be on little forums and message boards, but for a while, I didn’t know where to find my fans anymore. Then Twitter popped up, and it was like, okay, I’m kind of connecting with them. Then, Instagram came around, and that’s when I came up with Trapcry. ‘Cause it was like 2013? But I still wasn’t sure what I was doing. So then, I went through this whole fitness journey, and people started to view me as more of a sex symbol. And that’s when it all clicked: I started understanding the image with the music I was doing. And from there, I was getting new supporters. But my old fans, from my Garlic days, would reconnect with me too. And they would be like, “Oh, that’s Garlic!”

Justice: That has to feel very full circle.

Trapcry: Yeah. And them still supporting me with what I’m doing now. That’s dope.

Justice: That’s awesome. I feel like some of the best artists in music are the ones that switch it up every album cycle.

Trapcry: Especially when you’re with them for a long time. I guess I’m coming on 20 years of making music (laughs). That’s crazy. That’s insane.

Justice: That’s wild.

Trapcry: It’s insane.

Justice: Tell me more about your process of making music. ‘Cause you are a pretty social person. I feel like you’re outside quite a bit, whether it’s performing or hanging with friends.

Trapcry: I always make my music by myself. Well, not always. I think the best songs are when I do collaborate, but either I come up with something myself or I might license a sample. I either start from scratch or I’m starting from a sample and it takes its own journey <laugh>. And then finally a song will come out, but usually I can write a song from one stem of a loop. If it’s a good loop, I can build around it. 

Justice: Do you have any recording or music making rituals? Is there anything you need to have with you or around you? What’s the vibe you kind of set? Take me into that room when you’re recording.

Trapcry: I prefer to record in bed. Cuz then when I take my break, I go to sleep. I like to sleep and when I wake up it’s all right in front of me. It just helps me record quicker. As long as I have an Avalon mic and as long as everything’s working and powered up, I can just jump right into it. I like jumping right into a song and not having to worry about all the little things. I can worry about the mixing later, but I just try to get the idea down and then start building. And then once it becomes an atmosphere, I can just start humming something until it becomes something real.

Justice: When you’re recording do you go from start and finish in one sitting? Or do you like labor on them for weeks and months? 

Trapcry: If it’s a vibe sometimes I record it all there in the moment. I might stop and save a snippet, but then I usually jump right back into it and finish it. Goku Thee Stallion was one. I did that in like three hours. And that’s one of my most popular songs. The most popular songs don’t even have that much thought into it.

trapcry RVA Magazine joey Wharton
photo by Joey Wharton @joey_wharton

Justice: I wanna talk about you as a performing artist. I know there’s a good amount of artists that put themselves in the camp of a recording artist: I make music because I like to be in the studio and like editing. Then there’s others that make music purely to perform it, to engage with people. I would say you’re probably a combination of the two. When I see you perform, the energy is so intense and visceral, it’s what I would imagine your music would come to be. But for someone who hasn’t been to a live show of yours, describe the experience of a Trapcry show?

Trapcry: You kind of let everything go at the door and you can be who you want to be. It’s super sexy, super fun. I’ve always been a studio artist long before I ever started performing shows, and then when I did do it, I didn’t know that it was going to unlock something. It made me feel liberated. I feel like a lot of people at my shows are going through the same things as me. And even the shows where people probably can’t relate, I feel like them seeing me in my truth liberates them too. Because a lot of times you’re in this box of who you think you’re supposed to be. But coming into my thirties, which is when I started performing, it’s like, oh, you think this is who you are? I had to realize that Gene and Trapcry are two different things. And that’s okay. As Gene, I think I’m all figured out. And then Trapcry is like <laugh> I’ve got something else up my sleeves.

Trapcry: I always make my music by myself. Well, not always. I think the best songs are when I do collaborate, but either I come up with something myself or I might license a sample. I either start from scratch or I’m starting from a sample, and it takes its own journey (laughs). And then finally a song will come out, but usually I can write a song from one stem of a loop. If it’s a good loop, I can build around it.

Justice: Do you have any recording or music-making rituals? Is there anything you need to have with you or around you? What’s the vibe you kind of set? Take me into that room when you’re recording.

Trapcry: I prefer to record in bed. ‘Cause then when I take my break, I go to sleep. I like to sleep, and when I wake up, it’s all right in front of me. It just helps me record quicker. As long as I have an Avalon mic and as long as everything’s working and powered up, I can just jump right into it. I like jumping right into a song and not having to worry about all the little things. I can worry about the mixing later, but I just try to get the idea down and then start building. And then once it becomes an atmosphere, I can just start humming something until it becomes something real.

Justice: When you’re recording, do you go from start to finish in one sitting? Or do you labor on them for weeks and months?

trapcry RVA Magazine joey Wharton
photo by Joey Wharton @joey_wharton

Trapcry: If it’s a vibe, sometimes I record it all there in the moment. I might stop and save a snippet, but then I usually jump right back into it and finish it. “Goku Thee Stallion” was one. I did that in like three hours. And that’s one of my most popular songs. The most popular songs don’t even have that much thought into it.

Justice: I wanna talk about you as a performing artist. I know there’s a good amount of artists that put themselves in the camp of a recording artist: I make music because I like to be in the studio and like editing. Then there’s others that make music purely to perform it, to engage with people. I would say you’re probably a combination of the two. When I see you perform, the energy is so intense and visceral; it’s what I would imagine your music would come to be. But for someone who hasn’t been to a live show of yours, describe the experience of a Trapcry show?

Trapcry: You kind of let everything go at the door, and you can be who you want to be. It’s super sexy, super fun. I’ve always been a studio artist long before I ever started performing shows, and then when I did do it, I didn’t know that it was going to unlock something. It made me feel liberated. I feel like a lot of people at my shows are going through the same things as me. And even the shows where people probably can’t relate, I feel like them seeing me in my truth liberates them too. Because a lot of times, you’re in this box of who you think you’re supposed to be. But coming into my thirties, which is when I started performing, it’s like, oh, you think this is who you are? I had to realize that Gene and Trapcry are two different things. And that’s okay. As Gene, I think I’m all figured out. And then Trapcry is like (laughs) I’ve got something else up my sleeves.

Justice: What I’m hearing is something kind of takes over you when you are performing.

Trapcry: That’s the vibe. It’s about just letting everything go and having a good time. Forget all we went through this week, and let’s just party and be whoever we want. There’s no judgment. Nobody can judge you but yourself, and you don’t even need to judge yourself here. You need to just love yourself.

Justice: Okay, I wanna zoom out. I want to talk about music in general. What do you see as someone who has two decades of music under their belt? Been in the industry for a minute. What do you think is next for music as a whole? What direction is music heading in?

Trapcry: Hmm, I don’t love music right now.

Justice: What don’t you love about it?

Trapcry: It is so accessible, right? And this is a good thing. Like, accessibility is good because not everybody has the same means, but I feel like with accessibility, you have people who have big platforms and because they have access to music, they’re just putting out whatever. And they’re gonna get the algorithm going towards them because they have all these followers and resources. And then, like, little people who actually make really good music, they get looked over. Someone like me, I’m not gonna get the playlist placements and stuff like that. I’m just gonna get first week’s radar for a couple weeks. It’ll hit for like a month and then everyone just moves on to the next song. Sometimes I even have to re-release something so that the algorithm will catch it again. It’s like playing a social media game, and it’s not even about the music. So I hate that (laughs). I think the good part about that is I can just make whatever I want and there’s no pressure. Like, I’m not signed. But at the same time, I do wanna be heard. I do feel like there’s a place for me whether or not the algorithm or anybody recognizes it. And that’s why I say, Richmond doesn’t know what to do with me. But I love Richmond so much. So I’m here, you know? I think there’s something new about the Richmond music scene right now. And I’ve been here for a bit. So I kind of saw what it was before the pandemic, and after the pandemic, it’s turned into something else. I feel like as a collective, we’re on the verge of something. But we have to get out of the local mindset. Just be who you are as an artist and do your thing.

Justice: Now, what do you see as the future for Trapcry? And you can talk about the immediate future if you want to tease something that is coming soon, but also you can talk on a big scale. Like what do you see five years, 10 years, 20 years?

Trapcry: Oh my God. I know there’s gonna be another big release for me. I don’t know when that’s gonna be. But it’s coming.

Justice: An album or?

trapcry RVA Magazine joey Wharton
photo by Joey Wharton @joey_wharton

Trapcry: Definitely an album. I have so many singles right now, and they all need to be put on something. I definitely have an album’s worth of singles. There are songs I perform all the time that I just haven’t put out, and it’s funny that some people know those songs better than what’s out on the internet (laughs). I know I want to do videos. I want to do a big campaign for one big project. I don’t know if it’s going to be this year or next year, but it will be a body of work that tops anything I’ve ever done. People loved my last project. I loved that project. But I want to make more art that speaks to the time we’re in now. The next project will do that. This next one is going to be very pop star (laughs) – it’s dancing, it’s sexy, it’s fun.

More than anything, I just want to keep making good music. I have so much music that’s not out, and I like sitting on music and then releasing it on my own time. I wish I could commit to doing things faster, but it feels too robotic to just release project after project. My last album was dangerous – that was in 2020. Sometimes I ask myself, what would Rihanna come out with now? Like I said, I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, but I feel like nobody else is really doing that here. Making music with a commercial twist but also crossing over into urban and alternative themes. People are doing that, but not in this locality. I think it’s easy for people to look at me and be like, “You are like Frank Ocean or Little Nas X,” and, yeah, I think I do have some songs that fit their aesthetic, but I definitely make songs that are unique to me too.

I don’t mind being Richmond’s Pop Queen (laughs). Because, I mean, nobody else is doing it (laughs). That’s why I love the community here because everybody has their own thing. Everybody has their own place. I do think that they could center hip hop a little more. I feel like the country, bluegrass, and punk scene is always getting the support. And so when I’m getting put on shows and stuff, sometimes it’s like, would I get booked for any of these shows? Cause I’m not even strictly one thing. I think people hear my music and they definitely think dance, dance, dance. But I have so many things I can do. I definitely want to do that with the next album. I think that’s where I’m headed. Just being able to reflect on the Richmond experience. Hopefully, it’ll be a cool summer, and if I push hard enough, maybe I’ll have a project out this summer.

Justice: Your music definitely sounds like summer.

Trapcry: I always have a summer song. So I just need to come up with a summer song like nowish (laughs). I’ll see what happens with that. I don’t know, like, I go in and out of being creative. Sometimes I can go weeks without recording, and then a song will pop up, and I gotta record it.

Justice: Well, that just shows that it’s something divine and it’s real. It’s not, “now it’s time to make another hit.” You gotta wait till inspiration strikes.

Trapcry: Right. If I’m not saying anything, I don’t need to. I don’t need to be the only one with the mic. But I have something to say again, and the mic is in my hand.

Give Trapcry a follow at @trapcry 
All photos by Joey Wharton @joey_wharton

Justice Smith

Justice Smith

Justice Smith is a writer, editor, and multidisciplinary artist working at the intersections of art, culture, storytelling, and design. Justice’s work is inspired by their devotion to the Queer community, and is in service to the liberation of all marginalized people




more in music

The Motet, Low Phase & Erin & The Wildfire: Sound Check

I know you're itching to get back outside as much as I am, but while the rain clears up we'll have to wait just a little while longer. We're almost in festival season where outside concerts seemingly never end, with sunshine and tunes galore. Until then, we've got an...

Chandler Has Gone Viral, Again

When your friend from far away Portugal hits you up with a message like, "Have you seen this? Do you know this guy? He's from Richmond and he is all over TikTok!" you can't help but check it out. And when you discover it's Chandler Matkins, it's almost a given—of...

The Descendents & Circle Jerks Show is Sold Out…

It’s 1978 and Los Angeles is mic-checking and clearing its throat before unleashing its answer to New York City and London punk rock. It’s about to birth two of the most influential punk bands of all time. Descendents and Circle Jerks, titans of the sun-drenched and...

King Kaiju, Lockedinkee & Nickelus F: Yo! Hip Hop RVA

Hey y’all! I know it’s been a few months since my last YO! HIP HOP RVA write-up, but the hiatus was necessary because wedding planning was consuming my life. As of a few weeks ago, I’m off the market! Now, without further ado… this week’s edition of YO! HIP HOP RVA...

Macrock XXVII, Circle Jerks & The Mitras: Sound Check

Well don't go looking for a lot of local acts this weekend in Richmond, as many of them will be trekking to Harrisonburg to participate in Macrock XXVVII. A two day affair that will span much of downtown Harrisonburg where dozens of acts will be gracing numerous...

Virginia Icon Pharrell Williams is Coming To Town

A musical based on Pharrell Williams' childhood is set to be filmed in Richmond. It's a coming-of-age story set in 1977 Virginia Beach, drawing from Williams' upbringing in the Atlantis Apartments. Williams will produce, and Michel Gondry, known for Eternal Sunshine...

Behind the Rebirth: Inside Story of Harry’s at the Hofheimer

I was strolling down Broad Street on what was an unseasonably beautiful day in March, and as I rounded the corner at Arthur Ashe Boulevard I was greeted by the familiar yet striking architecture of The Hofheimer Building. I was making my way there that day to meet...