Earlier this month, 2 Chainz’ infamous pink trap house — a real life replica of the cover to his new album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music — was painted white and the keys were handed over to the owners. But the buzz around the rapper’s month-long attraction promoting his latest full-length still put the hair weave killer in a lane of his own in regards to music marketing.
Chainz could have put up the velvet ropes for a VIPs only experience of his new record. Instead, he audaciously rented and painted a house bubblegum pink and invited his fans out to feel the trap magic as well. Surprisingly, this genius marketing execution has become more than self-promotion, but also a community safe space where he’s held HIV screenings, a church service, and paint and sip events. Not only did 2 Chainz set a new bar for himself as an artist, but he has also set a new standard for the music game: album releases with meaningful fan-centered live events equals success.
In the age of social media, the barrier between fans and their beloved artists is virtually non-existent. As a result, musicians in this current decade have been experimenting with non-traditional promotional tactics for their new albums. This has largely meant bypassing the media to release new music on-line, with such memorable feats as Frank Ocean leaking Nostalgia, Ultra in 2011 to much acclaim, Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled album drop in 2013 and her mysterious lead-up to Lemonade in 2016, and Kendrick Lamar teasing DAMN. this year with the sudden release of “The Heart Part IV.”
None of these artists have directly reached their audience in a physical setting while also using the internet to their advantage. Yet 2 Chainz has done exactly that this past month. The pink trap house was the brainchild of his management and his label Def Jam. Since hosting “one of the biggest trap experiences ever brought to life,” 2 Chainz has given the people something to talk talk about beyond a short-lived trending topic. The hashtag #PrettyGirlsLikeTrapMusic has more than 46,500 tags on Instagram and is filled with fans posing on top of the pink trap oven, the pink porch, and the pink 1970s-era Sedan. Enthusiasts reportedly traveled from as far as Melbourne, Australia to visit the Berkeley Park neighborhood. And the pink trap vibes didn’t stop at the house; Spotify also brought to life 2 Chainz’ nail salon concept for a day at another Atlanta location.
Although many loved what the pink trap house represented to the Southern metropolis, the concept did not come without kinks. The Sedan originally parked in front of the house was towed after it was damaged. Neighboring businesses also complained about increased traffic and trash in the vicinity after the pink trap house’s arrival.
Others, like local youth pastor Al Hollie, Jr., believed the house glorified the trapping lifestyle. “Much love to 2 Chainz, his movement and the culture, but if you’re taking photos in front of a trap house you haven’t seen the damage it can do to a community,” Hollie told Fox 5 Atlanta. “The damage I’m talking about is broken homes, taking family members from each other, kids being taken away, fathers going to prison, children being born addicted to drugs,” he continued.
Trap music, like many other subgenres of hip-hop music, comes out of these real, traumatic experiences some young African-Americans face growing up in many cities around the country. These struggles are rooted in socio-economic disparities that negatively affect Black Americans, especially those who are in poverty. The negative impact of drugs, those who push it and use it, are no stranger to many who live in disadvantaged areas. Hollie is right in that the real trap houses rapped about on these records don’t have paint and sip parties, don’t have art galleries, and certainly don’t have happy endings.
2 Chainz knows these consequences. The rapper spoke on the guilt he carries having sold drugs to his family members. “Sold drugs to my loved ones and it’s hard for me to admit it/ The first time I saw a crack pipe was in my parent’s kitchen,” he rapped on his song “Freebase” off his mixtape of the same title. He opened up about feeling conflicted about his actions during an interview with MTV in 2014.
“Would you want your loved one to go out in the streets and just deal with what’s going on out there, Deal with people that don’t have the real thing? Deal with robberies,” 2 Chainz, then Tity Boi, said. “Or would you just rather do it? Or are you being selfish by you supplying it? It’ll drive you crazy.”
Although Chainz is now capitalizing off of the lifestyle he once lived, there are still everyday people experiencing these pitfalls with no escape. Even with the problematic nature of trap becoming a pop spectacle, it continues to grow as a cultural phenomenon.
2 Chainz is part of a class of dozens of artists who brought trap music to global levels in the past decade. The motivational lyrics and bass-heavy production from artists like Gucci Mane, T.I., and Young Jeezy later inspired the rise of trap-pop records (which kept the sound and delivery but eliminated the drug references) made by Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry. Leaning on the success of events like Trap Karaoke, 2 Chainz took things a step further by delivering the trap house monument. He’s tapped into this idea that trap is notably rooted in the A, but now much bigger than the city. Trap fans aren’t just street hustlers but also kids from the suburbs who have never stepped foot in the hood.
Although the origins of the trap house are filled with crime, pain, and struggle, the pink trap house has presented an alternative reality promoting joy, upliftment, and wellness. In particular, Chainz received praise and media attention after he partnered with the Fulton County Board of Health for the Trap Clinic. On July 5, an afternoon of education, games, and giveaways were promised. This community partnership is a blueprint into how future hip-hop artists can engage their fans in a live setting while also giving back.
For example, Young Thug parted similar waves when, he tweeted on June 29, that all the proceeds of his concert in New York would be donated to Planned Parenthood. The event was promoting his latest Beautiful Thugger Girls.
Other albums, like Jay Z’s 4:44, sparked many conversations around the stigmas surrounding therapy for Black men and women. On “Smile” he rapped, “My therapist said I relapsed,” a line that brought the discussion up on Twitter. Imagine if Jay paid attention to these dialogues and in turn sponsored free or discounted therapy sessions for those in need at a 4:44 clinic? Or what if Kendrick Lamar took an element of DAMN., like “DNA.,” and brought it to life in a pop-up space. For African-Americans who aren’t able to trace their ancestry as descendants of enslaved people, Kendrick could give some lucky folks an opportunity to do on-site DNA testing.
Without giving away too many ideas, it’s safe to say when it comes to bridging the worlds of album releases with fan experiences, the opportunities for major artists to take innovative progressive approaches are limitless. Tweeting out a link to a new album isn’t enough. Social media has made us closer to celebrities on-line, lessening their allure.
Making an impact amongst the noise is harder but not impossible. We’re entering a new realm where pink trap houses are possible and are necessary. Fans want something tangible to engage with. Fans, especially millennials, now prefer businesses with social responsibility. In turn, what 2 Chainz shows us is that devotees will show up and support en masse with their cell phones in hand, and tweet, snap, and gram said art. And everybody wins.
For more of our features, take a look at our recent interview with Vic Mensa right here.
- Text: Natelegé Whaley