For someone who had never set foot on a plane until being flown to Los Angeles courtesy of Def Jam Recordings, Jacksonville rapper Trap Beckham has made quick work of hitting the road as part of club appearances, concerts and other cross-country events. Back in the City of Angels for NBA All-Star Weekend, the fashionable rapper certainly looked right at home in the middle of Hollywood, talking about his travels while sitting in the lobby of the Loews hotel.
“A lot of people sleep on Milwaukee, that’s where I got these dope pants from,” he said, referring to his striking white jeans branded with various logos and phrases. “Milwaukee’s got some sauce. They had the most people that looked like they’re supposed to be VIP on the dance floor I’ve ever seen, there was all this Gucci, Louis [Vuitton], Cartier shades everywhere.”
But when it comes to his hometown of Jacksonville, Beckham says the hip-hop scene is relatively limited. By the age of 17 he had made a name for himself in the city after earning radio airplay for his energetic, club-oriented songs, and his stardom only increased when he released the mixtape 7.14.10 on his 19th birthday. Referencing his date of birth, July 14, Beckham maintained the theme after seeing the impact of the initial project, and plans to continue it once again this year with the ninth edition of the tradition, appropriately titled 7.14.18.
“It’s always different, because I’m always at a different point in my life,” he said about the series. “I can just hear the growth. You can tell on 7.14.17 that’s it’s an older person than on 7.14.10.”
Various life experiences have inspired the content of Beckham’s lyrics, and also hav pushed him to explore different sounds to broaden his discography and improve his caliber as an artist. He’s made an effort to experiment with different genres and production styles, trusting his ability to match his skill set to the music in front of him.
“I’m more melodic now, on a lot of my records,” Beckham said. “I try to explore different things that can make me a better artist and make the songs better. With me, I just adjust to anything. As long as it makes sense, I can make it make sense, too.”
The rapper will look to tie together all these influences on his upcoming mixtape Evil Emoji, which comes out on March 1. While his latest EP “Life is Lit” was more party-oriented in the wake of receiving his major label deal and seeing a subsequent spike in his life’s trajectory, Beckham says the new mixtape will reflect the wider range of sounds he typically incorporates into his projects.
“It’s going to sound like a little bit of everything,” he said. “It’s an actual project the way I like to drop them, all over the place. ‘Life is Lit’ was more like a themed project, but [Evil Emoji] will have some slow joints, some relatable joints, some party joints.”
Signing to Def Jam in 2016 did much to change Beckham’s career, beyond simply expanding his horizons and audience outside of his hometown. He’s certainly enjoyed the many perks of the celebrity lifestyle, but moreover, he recognized the significance of the achievement to the hip-hop community in Jacksonville, and how it can serve as a catalyst for others looking to follow in his footsteps and take their story beyond north Florida.
“[In Jacksonville] it was scarce for a long time, so when Def Jam gave me a deal, it was a real big deal,” he said. “It’s like, now you can go anywhere and hear something from Jacksonville, that’s major.”
A lack of talent in Jacksonville isn’t the issue in Beckham’s eyes; rather, he argues that artists need to break out of their routines and see the bigger picture for Jacksonville to truly prosper. It took a fateful Def Jam phone call for Beckham to recognize this truth, but once others in the city can see that for themselves, he feels their collective fortunes will begin to trend upward.
“We’re so stuck in our ways down there, that leaving isn’t even the most important thing,” he said. “Making the money and taking care of your family is the most important thing, and you’ll just go to your cool little events, stuff like that. I literally had to be dragged out of that mindstate.”
True, organic growth takes time. But Beckham sees it as the only way that Jacksonville will eventually make it onto the map in hip-hop.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, but over a long time we’ll become a major city,” he said. “We just have to all contribute and all make the millions, and then put it back into the city.”