Flosstradamus on the birth of a movement [Interview]
The idea that many of dance music’s most successful crossover producers are dabbling in traditional Southern trap-rap tropes made famous by the likes of T.I. and Waka Flocka Flame shouldn’t be at all surprising. Chic’s disco hit “Good Times,” for instance, famously underpinned Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 breakthrough OG rap classic “Rapper’s Delight.” Continuing this lineage, modern dance and trap are presently synonymous. However, when Dancing Astronaut caught up with breakout trap-as-EDM stars Flosstradamus, they pointed to not so much of a timeline being followed, but a happy accident of sound and style that allowed for the creation of next-level music.
Josh “J2K” Young — one half of Flosstradamus — remembers his days as an underground trap-dabbling DJ in Chicago fondly. “When I first started DJing, it was 2003-2004 and indie dance parties were all of the rage in Chicago. There were Yeah Yeah Yeahs remixes, Soulwax and that kinda stuff was popular.” Young says. “My role as one of the openers was to play rap in an ironic sense at those parties. It was mainly Southern hood rap (think Memphis’ Three Six Mafia and Atlanta’s Gucci Mane), ’90s hits and R&B.”
Similar to Flosstradamus, DJs like Diplo and Low Budget at Diplo’s pre-Mad Decent head honcho days at the Hollertronix parties in Philadephia, pre-moombahton Dave Nada at Taxlo in Baltimore, and pre-Fool’s Gold Records A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs, were among many artists favoring proto-trap Southern rap productions alongside synth-pop and indie “bloghouse” hits in their DJ sets. However, by 2010, Flosstradamus (like many current top trap-as-EDM names) were at a crossroads as DJ/producers, and were as likely to be found spinning sets as being in the studio making half-time tempo bass-laden productions for rappers. Upon being introduced to Major Lazer’s thumping Dutch house-flavored single “Original Don,” a spark of inspiration hit the tandem and EDM was unwittingly on the precipice of a turnt up future.
J2K says, “when we made the ‘Original Don’ remix, trap wasn’t really a ‘thing’ yet. Trap was only understood in the hip-hop context. Everything we were making for rappers had a Southern influence. We were taking our samples from electronic pop and hardstyle records that we were feeling.” Regarding the now SoundCloud-infamous remix, J2K continues, “we attacked our ‘Original Don’ remix like we were making a rap beat. We’d been playing the original track in our sets, and we were both like, ‘it’d be amazing to hear this over a half-time track. We banged it out really quickly, and it’s so minimal because all we wanted to do was make a rap beat out of the original.”
Curt Cameruci, the other half of the duo and also known as Autobot, further breaks down the theory behind Flosstradamus’ early trap hits. “So, we started taking the tracks that Lex Luger was doing with the main beat and blending it with like, what John Dahlback was doing with his buildups and drops. As far as with the trap samples, there weren’t that many sample packs out there at the time. I mean, Lex Luger put out a sample pack and that’s still the basis for what a lot of trap and EDM producers are using.”
Trap’s initial spread was viral and ultra-quick. J2K remembers other producers and current trap stars like Baauer initially sending tracks like “Harlem Shake” to a “email@example.com.” Meanwhile, producers worldwide were showing an interest in the burgeoning dance genre. Trap’s viral spread intrigued Autobot. “Flosstradamus had been in the DJ scene for awhile, but wasn’t a part of a defined scene or anything,” he says. “The trap movement was all organic. Guys like Baauer and RL Grime had their own lanes, and everyone was generally doing their own version of what they thought [trap-as-EDM] was. Because of trap’s popularity, we noticed we started getting more gigs. From there, we started running with it.”
“Running with it” included Flosstradamus eventually hitting trap’s “ancestral” home of Atlanta via an introduction to the city’s finest names by (Atlanta-based dance DJ/producers) Heroes and Villains. “Getting to come to Atlanta and work with [trap rappers and producers] was huge,” says J2K. “Heroes and Villains set us up with (Atlanta-based rap production team) FKi (famed for Iggy Azalea’s “Work” and Post Malone’s “White Iverson,” among many hits), who introduced us to DJ Spinz (credits with Future, YG, Tyga and more). From there, we made all of the Atlanta connections from Lil Jon, to Travis Porter, to Casino (of Flosstradamus’ “Mosh Pit” fame), the (Future-affiliated) Freebandz crew, everyone.”
2011’s “Original Don” remix spawned what has turned into 13 EPs, a slew of remixes, and their debut HDYNATION RADIO album with Ultra Records. The name of the album is a nod to the DJs male “HDYBYZ” and female “HDYGRLZ” fanbase. Regarding developing their organically grown fanbase into a movement that has now spawned a full-fledged merchandise website, Autobot says, “Josh decided that we should start wearing hoodies while we played as a ‘uniform’ in this version of Flosstradamus. In ‘Floss 1.0,’ we were wearing different clothes and looking like two normal dudes. In ‘Floss 2.0,’ we wore hoodies onstage, and our guy fans started calling themselves ‘HDYBYZ,’ and our female fans called themselves ‘HDYGRLZ,’ and it built from there to the ‘HDYNATION,’ and it’s been growing ever since. It’s something we didn’t expect, but when it came to our doorstep, we ran with it. We’re involved in the creative and design process behind all of it, 100 percent.”
Reflecting on the past five years and heading into the future, Autobot opines, “It’s amazing to see so many kids who are influenced by what we started. I’ve been noticing that a lot of these kids are actually on some next level shit that we could never get to. Future bass even has a lot of those ‘classic’ sounds making a return, and that’s also kinda cool.”
Trap’s rise from producers like Flosstradamus wanting to work with underground rappers to developing rabid fanbases and mainstream label releases is nothing short of impressive. But when considering that the movement’s organic roots still permeate the vibe of the sound and movement at-present, those roots taking hold of a generation of fans and producers alike assures that though EDM may have “died,” trap, like rap-inspired disco and house did in prior eras, may remain forever.
Words by Marcus Dowling. Find Marcus on Twitter.