NPR logo Songs We Love: Trapo, 'Speed'

Songs We Love: Trapo, 'Speed'

Trapo's latest album is titled Shade Trees. Ben Vogel/Esselgy hide caption

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Ben Vogel/Esselgy

Trapo's latest album is titled Shade Trees.

Ben Vogel/Esselgy

Download The Song

Until March 31, 2017, you can download "Speed" as part of The Austin 100 — NPR Music's 100-song sampler of artists to discover at SXSW 2017.

Madison, Wisc., singer and rapper Trapo was in third grade when he started scrawling rhymes in notebooks. Now less than a year removed from high school, he's ready for — and deserving of — a massive audience. For one thing, he's already developed a distinct songwriting voice to go with a sonic palette that's instantly, identifiably his. Trapo performs with a beguiling mix of rawness and ache, often lending a growl to his delivery that can sound tender, or desperate, or angry.

"Speed," from his album Shade Trees, opens peacefully enough, as a few gentle nature sounds give way to a woozy beat. But from there, Trapo leads the song through a conflicted set of images that signify some combination of wistfulness ("you're something to live for / adjusting your lip gloss") and destruction ("ash in all of my clothes"). Alternately peaceful and hard-charging, the arrangement only reinforces the contradictions, heightening the tormented drama even as it allows for a bit of catharsis.

Given his Midwest roots — and the room his songs find for both singing and rapping — Trapo is bound to draw Chance The Rapper comparisons, though his sung parts also exude the knotty vulnerability of Frank Ocean. But at 19, Trapo already sounds distinct and immediately recognizable as himself: a prodigiously gifted teenager with a world of talent and potential.