In 2008, NBC tried to reboot the legendary '80s program Knight Rider, casting Justin Bruening as the son of David Hasselhoff's Michael Knight, and casting Val Kilmer as the voice of KITT, a hyper-intelligent car.
Ty Patterson — the Phoenix-based MC who raps as Trap — was not onboard with the show. "With the Mustang?" he asks incredulously. "Nah, I couldn't get into that."
Trap's latest mixtape, I Am Michael Knight, aims for a more authentic feel, incorporating '80s vibes, the original Knight Rider theme, and some choice samples of dialogue from William Daniels (the original voice of KITT). Featuring production by DJ John Blaze, the mix is wide open: "Billz," featuring Willy Northpole, mines catchy club-rap styles, and "In That Trap" boasts blissful Auto-Tuned vocals and gauzy synths, while tracks like "Landlord" and "Reagonomics" practically snap under the weight of Trap's ferocious vocals.
"My motivation comes from getting excited about a concept for a project, as opposed to just doing the music," Trap says of the album's Hoff-heavy theme. "So with the whole I Am Michael Knight scenario, it pushed me in a direction to make it more of a street album than a mixtape. All of my projects have been 100 percent original, but for this one, I wanted it to be as if it were a commercial release, so I made the production as big as possible. The songs, the concepts — it's all on a big scale."
The big production suits Trap's voice, raspy and booming. He's been honing that voice for 10 years, and he devoted himself to making music in 2009. And massive production is more than just a calling card — in the rising Phoenix hip-hop scene, it's becoming a necessity. The city has often been viewed as a younger sibling to rap towns nationwide, but that's changing, if you ask Trap.
"By the day, I'm more impressed by the artists releasing music in Phoenix," Trap says. "I think [about] Lifted, what he just did with the Kanye West record. I see Hannibal Leq on MTV — it's just an exciting time for Arizona artists. I feel like I'm part of that wave; I feel like I represent the front line of Arizona hip-hop. I'm just playing my part."
And while much of I Am Michael Knight finds Trap exploring hip-hop bravado from a unique angle, he steps out of the way with the album's tender and upsetting "Jhessye," dedicated to 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley, who went missing in October 2011. Rather than take sides (for or against Shockley's mother, Jerice Hunter, considered the number one suspect in the disappearance), Trap sticks to the facts — noting that by the time the police jumped on the case, the trail was already cold:
"We knew about Kim Kardashian / And how Dick Cheney's shooting was an accident / And how America's become so passionate/Except when it come to young, black Africans."
Trap doesn't insert himself into the drama or use the song as a tactless promotional tool. He simply didn't want Jhessye's name out of the spotlight: "I came to the conclusion that I wanted to make a song about it, but I wasn't even going to share it with people. But I let DJ John Blaze hear it, and when he heard it, he told me I should release it. I released it the day I recorded it; it took off on its own. I want her to be remembered, and I want to the situation to continue being spread as far as having light shined on it, so people know exactly what's going on here."
Though Trap can be counted on to provide social commentary when needed, his next project promises to keep things as fun as Michael Knight, with more pop culture appeal, too.
"My next project is called Kiss My Converse," he laughs. "It comes from the movie The Last Dragon. [The characters] Sho'nuff always makes the people he doesn't like 'kiss his Converse.' I just try and make it fun, man. If it's not fun I'm not going to enjoy it. These little things push me to elevate the music."