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Interview: 17-Year-Old Trapo on Signing to a Label, And The Car Crash That Inspired One Of His Songs

On March 25, 2016

by Michael Penn II


Davon Prather - known to the world as Trapo - will turn 18 years old on May 20th. He’ll graduate from high school around three weeks after that. He’s unsure of what exactly will change in the wake of these adolescent milestones, but he’s even more confident that he won’t deviate far from his normalcy just yet. He’ll still be engineering raspy soul-raps in his room on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin. Still ridin’ around in a minivan with the guys, still Snapchatting himself taking a shit, and maybe even hittin’ a few stains on lonely iPhone chargers his peers leave unattended at the function.

These are mere instructions on how to live in The Black Beverly Hills.

The EP of that namesake has gathered over half-a-million streams on SoundCloud since its November 2015 release. Davon scored his first big single in “Cards & Conversation,” as well as a lone feature from early supporter and Grammy-nominated St. Paul pioneer Allan Kingdom. Within a slim 20-minute runtime, Trapo narrates the tightrope of dealing with the burdens of black skin while being trapped in the capitalist rat race to be successful despite the generational pain he’s endured. One moment he’s got a blunt and a brew, the next he’s almost dead in a joyride, but he’s 17-years-old with the captivating vocal and emotional maturity of a grown man the entire time.

As jarring as his melodies may be on first listen, the SHE EP serves as an attestation to Trapo’s versatility where the topic shifts from the world he’s grappling with to the love he’s searching for. Produced by Derrick Thomas, Jr. - a producer that linked with Trapo via YouTube, like many success stories in the millennial age - SHE is a catalog of true events that scrupulously analyzes Trapo’s dynamic with women that have impacted him in his time as a teen, producing wavy to demonic results along the way. This may be the breakout record with enough crossover appeal to take the Trapo name farther than the void SoundCloud maintains in today’s hip-hop: where fame and reach is less quantifiable than meets the eye.

Davon’s clout only continues to swell as he becomes a burgeoning frontrunner in Madison’s slow-blossoming hip-hop scene, but some days may not even feel like that. He can walk down the hall as the man that everyone knows is channeling the wave; even if his classmates don’t listen to him, they know he made the song everyone else is listening to. He’ll probably be with his childhood homies Dre and Trey; he even brought them to the interview. Even in the loudest situations with the squad surrounding him, Davon’s demeanor lands much more pensive than turnt; he doesn’t need to spend many words to be impactful. He insists he doesn’t think very far into the future; with a recent meeting at Atlantic in the books and a Gmail full of propositions, that only grows harder to believe by the second.

Vinyl Me Please: Once you get your diploma, what’s the next step for you, life-wise?

Davon “Trapo” Prather: Well, music is my life, shit. It’s gon’ be music, but I’ma turn 18, graduate and all that shit. I might do like a two-year type of thing [of more school];  I always said I was gon’ do that, so I’m still gon’ do that - but it’s still gon’ be about music.

Do you still want to be a nurse or was that a joke?

Davon: That was a joke, bro. So, my mom is a nurse; honestly, bro, I was just going through some weird shit. I wasn’t even puttin’ out a lot of music like that, but I still was like ‘I wanna rap’ and shit… it was damn near a month of it. I was gonna try to make nursing my job, I was watchin’ hella videos on how to get to it.

Trey: We had a meeting with a teacher one time, and we literally talked about how he wanted to be a nurse for like an hour, bro.

Davon: It’s funny and shit, but it’s like, bro like,  I wasn’t about to be out here and not have a purpose, bro. But whole time, music was my purpose, I just was tweakin’ at the time.

Dre: You didn’t see the vision.

Davon: Yeah, I ain’t see the vision like that, but like now that it’s like ‘Woah, I can really do that shit…’ I’m bout to do it, I ain’t ‘bout to be no fuckin’ nurse, bro.

So how did you end up in the crash [from “Cards & Conversation”]?

Trey: So I got my license the Friday before the Friday I got into the crash, it was like [August 2015]. So I was bored, I picked up the homies and shit. There was a rock outside of Memorial [High School], we spray-painted the shit. So, we go across the street - at the MATC parking lot - and I’m doing donuts and shit in this Nissan Altima. Then I’m like ‘Fuck it, I’m bored here.’, let’s go 100 on the highway. I’m bussin’ 90-sum’n on the Beltline [Highway] with four people in the backseat, James in the front seat, and I’m driving. The sheriff was sittin’ in a little cutoff spot, I’m like ‘Oh, fuck! Before this nigga come out the little cutoff spot, I’m finna break off.’ Instead of slowing down to break off, I was doing 60 on the off-ramp, turned and then I felt the car almost flip, so I turned in the other way and it slid. I hit the median, we bump over it, turn all the way around, and then I’m in the lane lookin’ at the green light.

So if you hadn’t switched it over, y’all coulda died?

Davon: We swerved, went over a little-ass median into oncoming traffic. I swear to God, it was the scariest shit in my life. And then when we hit the curb, it hit the side I’m on and shit, I’m like ‘Ain’t this some shit, bro?’

Trey: Right after we was in the crash, all I hear from the backseat is this nigga Davon say ‘G, I’m ‘bout to run.’

Davon: I was ‘bout to get out the jam, bro, cuz I’m thinkin’ like… y’all seen the news, bro, the police be tweakin’ bro, I was like hell nawl… I was damn near terrified, bro.

Trey: They came out, we was surrounded, and there was fucking guns out.

Davon: They pulled ‘em out instantly, didn’t even ask if we was ok, bro. I’m like ‘Damn, nigga, you see the car?’

White cops, black cops, mixed?

All: All white.

Dre: Trey almost got shot by like five of them -

Trey: Hell yeah. I almost got shot cuz I was goin’ nuts, I was kickin’ the car and shit.

Davon: I had to tell him to chill, bro…

Trey: Davon is the only reason that I didn’t get shot that night. Cuz he was like ‘Nigga, just chill!’

And this is like months after Tony Robinson got killed. Months!

Davon: The crash happened a week before I dropped “Cards.” The song was before the crash, I finished it after the crash. I be tryna paint pictures with my shit; all those sound effects was like cards and shit I had in the room. Turn the volume all the way up and fuck with the cards and shit, shit that I could make real. I got [the idea] from a scene in Boyz N the Hood, I just wanted to make a song about it. The song was good, but it needed some more emotional shit, and [the car crash sound] fit perfect on that shit.

Why y’all nickname your neighborhood the Black Beverly Hills?

Trey: It’s a lot of flashy shit, it’s a lot of shit that went down. A lotta drugs, a lotta gold, a lotta guns. It’s a real lowkey-ass neighborhood, but it’s a lot of flashy shit out there.

Davon: And the neighborhood itself ain’t even “flashy”, but we finessed, bro. We still gon’ make it the shit; regardless of where we stay at, it’s the shit, bro.

Dre: We stay next to the real Beverly Hills, cuz you go right next to our neighborhood… big-ass houses.

Trey: Big-ass houses, nice-ass Mercedes, it’s new shit.

Davon: Literally around the corner.

Dre: But we still gettin’ it in the hood, though. We still gettin’ what we gotta get, we still doin’ what we gotta do. That’s why it’s the Black Beverly Hills.

When you go to your shows, what do the crowds look like? Who do you see?

Davon: I see a bunch of people who are at least interested in what I’m ‘bout to do. Whether they already heard of my music or not, they ‘bout to at least pay attention. That’s the type of presence I give off, they gon’ pay attention…

I asked because when we were in Chicago [at Chop Shop], I saw five white kids upfront that knew your shit word-for-word.

Davon: That was hot as hell… It just made me realize we touchin’ everybody with the shit, it’s not just black people.

As you get more popular, when you see more white people paying attention to y’all shit - knowing where y’all come from - how does that make you feel?

Davon: It’s still a good feeling because we’re touchin’ all these people - I’m a voice now, type-shit - but it’s not gon’ change my content at all. I don’t care if it’s strictly whites in the crowd, I’m still gon’ talk about the shit I wanna talk about. And if it make anybody feel uncomfortable, oh well, but I want my crowds to be as diverse as possible where everybody could come and just fuck with each other. [It’s like] Kanye. If you know a Kanye fan, y’all damn near cool because y’all both fuck with Kanye, that’s what I want my crowds to be like.

How have the gals in your life impacted you to this point [making SHE]?

Davon: Bro, they literally birthed an EP, bro. It’s that serious. They just made a whole EP and they don’t even know it. They inspired this EP, but overall, not a damn thing. What I mean by that is I’m always gon’ put music and the ones that’s close to me over everything. That’s what impacts my life.

Will the gals know it’s about them when they hear it?

Davon: The ones who I made it about will know. If they don’t know, that mean I ain’t do a good job on the EP. But they gon’ know. I did a great job.

On Death Row, what’s the last meal you’d eat?

Davon: Fuck… a big-ass bowl of macaroni. I don’t even need no drink, bro.

Dre: Not even a fruit punch, nigga? Not even a Brisk, folk?

Trey: No, you lyin’, G, you would definitely have Ruffles, G. You would have Ruffles, them white chocolate Reese’s, a Brisk, and a bowl of mac & cheese from HyVee [grocery store].

Davon: If I had to pick one though, from all that, it’d be the big-ass bowl of mac & cheese, bro. But not just anybody mac & cheese, though, my grandma gotta make it.

If you were in Purgatory and you only had one sentence to get you into Heaven, what would you say?

Trey: I’d probably say some shit like, “My nigga, it’s all good. Come smoke this J with me and understand my life, my nigga. Like, we gon’ be straight. Everything gon’ be cool,. just let me in there.”

Davon: I’m pretty sure Jesus was gettin’ chopped, bro. I’m pretty sure them not wanting weed to be legal, that’s the devil, bro, it gotta be. Bro, weed might be that important.

Trey: Everybody who smoke weed go to Heaven, and if you don’t smoke weed, you lowkey goin’ to Hell.

But I don’t smoke weed.

All: Daaaaaaaaayum...

To finish, do you ever wanna sign [to a label]?

Davon: Not if I don’t have to. If it was full independent, I was good and didn’t have to trip over nothin’, and niggas around me ain’t have to tweak like that, then it’s no need to sign. It’s just like rock-bottom-type shit and you don’t think you can, that’s what I think people hurry up and sign for. They don’t think they can do it on they own. I think I can do it on my own right now. It might change later on, but no time soon.

You can listen to SHE below:

Profile Picture of Michael Penn II
Michael Penn II

Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.

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