Emo trap doesn’t exist without regular trap. Trap entered the 2010’s as the dominating new sound after years of being perfected by artists like Gucci Mane, (Young) Jeezy, and T.I.(P.). By the end of the decade the genre had devolved a bit, in a good way. Even more apparent, it kind of seeped into every other style. Pretty much all hip-hop uses the same claps, snares, 808s, and hi hats as trap. But the overall sound has moved away from big and bombastic to a more intimate style. As emo cross-pollenated with trap, and trap became melodic, a lot of trap artists did the more low key guitar beats some justice and incorporated tales of street pain. This has given us the trap styles we’ve seen take over the beginning of this decade. Artists like Polo G, Rod Wave brought this “pain music” to the mainstream thanks to the influence artists like Young Thug with his Beautiful Thugger Girls project in 2017.
A lot of these beats didn’t rely on the simple two step hi hats like emo trap, but rather they used hi hats to accent the space in between snares and 808s. Another early pioneer of this style was Lil Baby, especially on his collaborations with Gunna. But over time, Baby became a better rapper and developed a signature style more reminiscent of earlier trap with its pianos and synths. The key difference is the triplet. For the uninitiated, that’s the da-da-da kind of flow that the Migos popularized. Baby uses these triplets not only in his raps but also in his beats, typically in the piano and/or hi hats. Lil Durk of Chicago drill fame also uses beats as part of his resurgence, and has been to push his melodic take on drill into new territories. These beats are bigger and more bombastic, with an added feeling of urgency, anxiety and crisis, while the raps are either aggressive and brash or smooth and calculated.