I'm about to make some pretty large blanket statements, so just bear with me for a paragraph or two. I promise it'll all make sense in the end...
Trap music just doesn't do it for me. I have judged producer showcases and battles where 99% of the beat entries could be classified as "Trap," I have tried oh-so-hard to get into albums that have a heavy Trap influence, and I have even tried experiencing it live to see if a different setting would help. Despite my best efforts, though, I just can't get into it. I mean, the occasional beat will get me, but I just don't have it in me to listen to booming Trap beat after booming Trap beat. For the most part (cue the blanket statement reminder) all Trap production sounds similar. A track may knock, but its foundation is just too formulaic and simple for me taste. There just isn't enough depth or variation for the beat to keep me interested for long enough to enjoy the record; I can only do the white person turnt up dance for so long before I'm bored. It isn't for me
On the flip side, I love me some female singers. Whenever I branch out into the indie-pop/indie-rock scene, I will generally always check out bands with a female vocalist. No matter how good of a singer she (or, for that matter, he) may be, though, I find myself disinterested. It's not that they aren't skilled, but their sound appeals to a certain audience and I, as a hip-hop focused listener, just can't relate. Too much light crooning and mellow, synthy undertones make me want to take a nap or talk about my feelings. I need some sort of drums, some hip-hop elements to draw me in. Where's the fucking chutzpah? It isn't for me.
Okay blanket statement time is over. So, what's my damn point?!?
My point is, shut up and take a listen to Made In Heights. This duo, made up of Alexei Saba (of Blue Scholars) on the 1's and 2's and Kelsey Bulkin on the mic, manage to merge two genres with which I can't always identify, blend them, and turn it into something totally unique that hits me right in my soul parts. If you don't believe me turn your speaker/headphone volume all the way up and take in "Wildflowers (Exhale Efreet)" and you'll hear a perfect example of what Sabzi labels as "melodic trap"; I prefer the "intergalactic trap," but "Melodic trap" works too...I guess.
I'll give y'all some other standout selections, but this is the song that sold me on 'em and it's the one I think hip-hop fans will most identify with. If you removed Kelsey's vocals (which, I would never, ever want to do) you would have a beat fit for the trap house. For my own personal tastes, the heavy Trap influence is more than palpable on the back half of the record. The way the chiming bells kick in with the booming bass gives the song more of a hip-hop feel, while still keeping things light enough to mesh with Kelsey's angelic crooning. I can listen to this song multiple times and, depending on my mood, be overcome with a very different feeling. On the one hand, it makes me want to turn up and start knucking as if I am buck, but on the other I can totally vibe out with the softer, more hypnotic aura from Kelsey's harmonies. It's not all Trap for Sabzi either. The man knows his way around a sample. I love the way he takes Kelsey's vocals and flips them into little chops here and there. Rarely do you hear artists sampling themselves, but in this case it works, adding a nice punch to the record.
Original and Trap don't always go hand in hand, but Made in Heights found a way to take a factory-made sound and make it unique. "Wildflowers" might be the best example, but "All The Places" will get a hip-hop heads attention too. The beat is Trappy, but it's Kelsey's lyrics and delivery that make this one complete. Shit, her style even boasts a pretty sly flow; not too far off from a rapper, if you ask me.
It's hard to believe this is the pair's first album. The fact that, after only one album, they already have a tangible chemistry and a unique, refined sound, makes me excited to see what the future holds for Made In Heights.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]