“Catch work trap device” – meaning and use of ‘Trap, Trapping’

From “Beez in the Trap” to “Trap Queen“, trapping has become a part of mainstream and popular English slang nowadays. Lots of native speakers are now getting used to this fun little word. But what about all my learners out there? Do you know what a “trap” is? We’ll take a look and explain what this word is and how to use it. To do that, we’ll read some dialogues with our favorite character, Charles. (To find other short stories and dialogues where I explain English expressions, check out Adventures of Charles) All set? Here we go …

The Trap

brown mouse inside mouse trap, representing the slang meaning of "trap"
by ardeshir etemad, Pexels.com

Explain

First of all, the trap can refer to a place. Normally, a “trap” is a situation or device used to trick someone or capture something. Think of a mousetrap used to catch mice. Well in slang, the trap has been used a lot to talk about a place, sometimes an actual house (trap house), where drug deals happened. I know, that’s a little dark. It’s also been used to talk about a place where any illegal activities and transactions happen on a regular basis.

On a similar tone, sometimes it’s used to talk about the “hood” or lower-class neighborhoods in general. That’s probably because these kinds of neighborhoods have usually been where you could find a trap house. Now, the whole block is considered a “trap.” This is also where you get names like trap queen and trap music, now a whole subgenre of hip hop.

Dialogue

One thing had been on Charles’s mind for the longest time: Sheila. But he’d heard some rumors about her that he wanted to clear up. One man knew more about Sheila than anybody else, and Charles was in the neighborhood to find him.

Charles — Okay, I hope this is the right stop. Goodness, what is this place? It’s so dirty and empty. I better find this guy soon … before it gets dark.

A boy from the neighborhood came up to Charles, noticing he was kind of lost.

Local boy — Hey, yo. What’s your name? You looking for the trap or what?

  • Are you looking for the drug house, looking to buy some illegal things?

Charles — Who, me? No. I mean, sorry. I’m not from around here. I’m just looking for somebody.

Local boy — I figured, cuz I ain’t ever seen you around here before. Why you look all scared? You never been to a trap before?

  • Haven’t you ever been to a hood, a ghetto, a poor neighborhood before?

Charles’s nervousness was showing all over his face.

Charles — No, I mean … I don’t know. I didn’t know there were places like this in this city. It’s so different. Just trying to find somebody.

Explain

All illegal activity aside, nowadays a trap can also be a place where one makes their money or just spends their time. It’s a bit more sarcastic used this way though. The idea is still of a place or situation that is hard to get out of. Trap is also used to refer to trap music in general, in the sense of “listening to trap.”

Dialogue

Local boy — I could help you find “somebody.” You know her name? What street is she on?

Charles — Oh, no, it’s a he. I’m looking for this rapper or singer or whatever– He records at the studio on Wilmington Ave.

Local boy — Oh, dang. He doesn’t owe you anything, does he? That boy is so bad at paying people back.

Charles — No, no. I need to talk to him about a girl. Sheila. They record together.

Local boy — Ahh, okay! You’re talking about Lil B Dowry, that old trap rapper from down past the alley.

  • That rapper who makes trap music.

Charles — You know him?

Local boy — Yeah, I know who he is. If he’s not at the trap right now, he’s probably at home. Want me to take you over?

  • If he’s not at work, at the place where he makes money.

He thought for a second. Then Charles gave the boy a nod, and they started walking down the street, around the corner, and past the alley.

To Trap

Explain

This is basically the verb version of the above. Just like how “trap” in regular usage can be a situation/device and an action, “trap” in slang can also be an action. More often than not, people refer to the action as trapping. Trapping is used a lot to talk about making illegal transactions, especially dealing with drugs. But you’re all saintly people, so you won’t need to use it like that 😉

Dialogue

As they got near to Lil B Dowry’s house or hang-out spot — or trap, as the local boy called it — Charles noticed a couple of strange-looking people with tired eyes and smelly clothes wandering around. They looked sick in the face, and they couldn’t stop shuffling around on the floor like they were searching for worms.

Local boy — Ha. You see them? They’re probably coming from Lil B’s place right now.

Charles — Yeah? Does Lil B … trap?

  • Does he sell drugs, make money illegally?

The local boy laughed and shook his head. He then turned to Charles.

Local boy — Well, that’s what people say. Let’s find out.

Explain

Now, trapping doesn’t have to be all bad. In the loosest sense, it’s used to talk about any kind of work that one makes their money from. Some people use it to talk about making money in general, even by legal means. That’s right; even on their legal paying jobs, sometimes people say trapping.

Dialogue

When they arrived at the house, Lil B Dowry was already on the front porch. He put out his cigarette and stood up, ready to encounter two strangers. But he realized they weren’t so strange after all.

Lil B Dowry — Hey, bro! What’s happening with you?

Local boy — You know this guy? He was wandering around the block, lost, looking for you.

Lil B Dowry — Heck yeah, I know this fool. I’ve seen him around at the studio. You know, the one on Wilmington. Come on up, don’t be scared!

The sun was getting low in the sky. The sick people were still shuffling around in the streets.

Local boy — So, I see you’ve been hustling out here. Making hit songs and making deals on these fiends.

Lil B Dowry — Nah, that’s not on me. You know I don’t trap like that.

  • You know I don’t sell drugs, make money illegally like that.

Local boy — You mean, you don’t sell …

Lil B Dowry — All of my trapping is legal, kid. I make my music, and that’s it. Don’t get misconstrued. If anybody is dealing drugs, it’s Charles over there. Probably got ties with the Colombian Cartels, the Haitians. He might even be in the Japanese mafia, for all we know.

  • All of my ways of making money are legal.

They broke out laughing, and Charles realized that the rapper was joking with him. Thank God!

Explain

Just a quick note. Trap can also be a person that is lying or deceitful. It’s especially used towards women or trans people who lie about their identity, but that’s another story. You can read more about that meaning if you want to here.

Dialogue

Charles — Yeah, you all better run from me. I’ll get the mob after you. But for real, I came to ask you about …

Lil B Dowry — Sheila? I know, I remember you liked her. You come to find out if she’s a trap or not. Listen, Sheila’s cool, okay? You don’t have to worry about her. And you can ask her for yourself, she doesn’t hide anything.

  • Find out if she’s a liar, if she’s deceitful, if she’s a fake.

A sigh of relief swept over Charles. Nerves came back when he realized how dark it was.

Local boy — That’s cool you rap at a studio though. You should get me a spot in the booth.

Lil B Dowry — For sure! If you want, I’ll take you down there right now. Sheila’s probably getting done making a song right now, Charlie. I’ll take y’all if you want.

Charles — That’s alright! Where’s your car parked?

Closing

Alright, my learners! I hope this made some sense to you. These aren’t all the possible meanings of “trap,” but this is mostly what you’ll want to know. Since it’s a term that originates from illegal activities, it could be a tricky word to know how to use. If you’re an English learner, I suggest not using it unless you’re around people who use it commonly. If you’re around younger people, you could surprise them with your use of “trap” in the healthy, legal sense.

Whatever you decide, at least you now understand these slang expressions. Use them in your own sentences. Think of songs where you’ve heard these expressions. And whatever you do …! Don’t give up learning. Peace out! And take care.

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