Like any good documentary, “Trap Jazz,” streaming on Hulu, is a neatly collated visual monograph that is a gateway to its titular topic. Directed by Sade Clacken Joseph, this casually voluminous documentary is not just a portal to its titular genre of music and the musicians involved in it. It is also a portal to a lifestyle, community, and city that viewers like yours truly have been unaware of due to geographical reasons. Like any good cinema, especially a documentary, “Trap Jazz” bridges that geographical gap as it transports us into the Atlanta music scene.

“Trap Jazz” is a proud portrait of Atlanta, a quintessential representation of America, and a globally relatable story. It does not take its audience for granted. Sure, if you know your Jazz history, and if you are not totally unaware of ‘Trap’ music, it would be an immediately intriguing view. But, people who were oblivious would not return empty-handed either. Underneath the details of the Atlanta music scene, it is a story of people who harbor a dream. People are battling to stay afloat in society while not letting go of their passion.

At its outset, “Trap Jazz” is a story of three musicians trying to make the intergenerational blend of Jazz and ‘Trap’ music. Chris Moten, Devon “Stixx” Taylor, and Cassius Jay carry the same creative passion and desire to create something new. This is the new ‘Trap Jazz.’ ‘Trap’ is a musical subgenre that is quite specific to the southern regions of the United States of America, especially in Atlanta, where it gets its name from. ‘Trap’ refers to ‘Trap houses,’ which is slang for houses where drug deals go down. ‘Trap’ music, resultantly, has a lot of references to drug usage and the violence that comes hand in hand with it.

As Moten, Taylor, and Cassius Jay provide their impassioned definitions of ‘Trap,’ you get the gist, even if previously you were unaware of it. ‘Trap’ is not suave. It speaks of struggle, urban alienation, and depression. In comparison, Jazz is a classical genre, which reflects freedom, joy, and, as with any classic genre, a certain panache. But there are two similarities between these two genres. Both went through their fair share of skepticism, and they represent the Black culture.

Trap Jazz Review

As we see Chris Moten trying to make this genre mash-up work, along with Devon Taylor and Cassius Jay, we also see a glimpse into the lives of these men. They were not men but naive boys with optimistic twinkles in their eyes. Their lives are also a blend. It starts happily, with a look into how they got into their passion, music. Through the escapist euphoria of Sunday gospel, music came to them in its most spiritual form. Their church-going upbringing helped them shape their musical passion, with Chris Moten getting to play organ and Devon Taylor wowing the churchgoers with his drumming skills.

However, it is not always sunshine and rainbows for them. As it is never with anybody, for that matter. Moten has to go through a personal crisis at a very early stage of his life, with Moten’s father being incarcerated for twenty-odd years. His father, being one of the key figures in his musical journey, this incident understandably devastated Moten. But he pushed through it. It is quite evident that this event shaped Chris Moten’s journey, both music-wise and life-wise.

Director Sade Clacken Joseph carefully structured the documentary into three thematically distinct chapters. The first chapter serves the purpose of a detailed introduction, as it introduces ‘Trap Jazz,’ the musical genre-mix, to the audiences. It shows the passion of Moten, Taylor, and Jay when it comes to creating this fusion. It introduces us to Atlanta and the Black community to the uninitiated. It seamlessly transforms into the second chapter, which highlights the personal individual challenges. And then, we jump into the third chapter, where we see our heroes getting their efforts rewarded to some extent.

Clacken Joseph’s choice of interview location reflects the stage of the documentary as well. We see Moten’s face half-hidden in shadows when he talks about his personal life, reflecting his self-admitted reluctance to divulge everything that put him on the edge of depression. “Trap Jazz” is a crafty and informative work that should tickle the inquisitive bones of its audience, urging them to open YouTube and surf for its titular music.

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Trap Jazz (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Trap Jazz (2023) Movie Cast: Chris Moten, Stixx Taylor, Cassius Jay
Trap Jazz (2023) Genre: Documentary/Music

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