In this new age of frenetic production and rushed rhymes, 14 trapdoors (bendyface, Short Moscato, Wza) chooses to play the long game and not cut any corners.
As of late, the city of Buffalo has been enjoying a moment in hip-hop with the rise of Griselda Records (Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher). Since the hip-hop collective’s inception in rap, the spotlight on New York’s ranging soundscape has been amplified, and another trio is slated to keep the momentum alive.
14 trapdoors embodies a DIY ethos that the 716 celebrates sonically. “Buffalo is a real DIY (Do It Yourself) city. Whatever kind of art everybody is doing, they’re doing it from out of their home or even their bedroom.” A city that embraces individualism, Buffalo, NY is like a melting pot of culture and style.
With 14 trapdoors’ most recent LP Eileen, the group explores a range of subject matter that addresses faith, mortality and occasional drug use. Championed with nostalgic production by Camoflauge Monk, Eileen pens featured verses from the likes of Smoke DZA, Benny the Butcher, Che Noir and Royce Da 5’9 to name a few.
Showcasing their own distinct flow and cadence, 14 trapdoors hone in on an early 90’s delivery in their raps; quick-witted bars and realness, no overdrawn analysis of what could be. Our conversation, lightly edited for context and clarity, follows below.
Talk to me about 14 trapdoors, what does that name mean exactly?
Word. Well, 14 is the sum of our area code, which is 716 in Buffalo. 716 is strongly associated with Buffalo. Buffalo is a real DIY (Do It Yourself) city. Whatever kind of art everybody is doing, they’re doing it from out of their home or even their bedroom; whether it’s making clothes, making music, painting, recording studios and stuff, everyone is trapping something different from out of their house.
When you’re involved in the scene, you’re going in different houses through different trapdoors to get what you need or to work with people, so it’s kind of like paying homage to the city of Buffalo, 14 trapdoors.
When did a career in rap become the vision?
It’s always been a dream for all of us since we were young. When we formed 14 Trapdoors, we’ve been friends before that, hanging out and getting high together and shit. It wasn’t a hobby or underground thing anymore. We were saving our money and putting it into where it needs to go. Then we met up with our manager Dre, which was the first time we had a manager, and that’s when everything started to take off.
In terms of aesthetics, what does it mean to be a Buffalo rapper?
I don’t know how it goes in other cities, but Buffalo, far as the fashion scene, it’s a lot of people that went off in their own outfits; printing on ‘em, painting on ‘em, cutting ‘em up — it’s a mix between a grungy, one-off take on everything. Whether it’s vintage or new, whatever the hell it is. It’s real individual, everybody has their own look. Very individualistic for sure. We’re all a part of the same community, but everyone expresses themselves individually. It’s a big mix of styles here.
How was the decision-making process behind selecting which features would make the final cut for “Eileen”?
We have our own personal artists that we like to work with. We would name some people with our manager, Dre, and just run through ideas of who we could hit up. The ones that came through were really dope and showed off, we’re really thankful for that. The process in itself, taking the time work out the situation and talk to ‘em, they were all down as fuck, so it’s tight — it was easy honestly. It wasn’t even that anyone had to make a cut, because every artist that gave us back a feature killed it. Everybody we reached out to sent a verse back. We’ve had other projects where we couldn’t use what we got back from notable artists. We’re not going to name him, but one dude shitted on us big time bro. What he sent us, we never used it for anything. So yeah, this was definitely a rare exchange.
Yeah, that’s different. If only the process was always that easy.
I think a lot of it has to do with Camoflauge Monk’s production. His beats are so easy to rhyme to as an emcee, I think that’s a big part behind why everybody did so good. If you’re a rapper, you love rapping over Camoflauge Monk’s beats.
In terms of production, your beat selection is nostalgic of a late 90’s, early 2000’s sound. With this in mind, what is it like working with Camoflauge Monk?
It was honestly really easy because we’ve all been boys with him for years and shit. It was cool as fuck seeing the momentum that he’s been getting along with the whole Griselda movement. Just being able to work with him, not just on a producer-artist level, but on a friend level too, that was super dope. Anytime he played a beat, it was a simple yes or no. Just vibing in the room, smoking blunts and shit. The process was super easy, didn’t feel rushed or anything. His product speaks for itself as well. His beats are amazing. It was a pleasure to be able to come together on that.
I think we took the first four beats he played for us in a row. He has hundreds, but we were just like yeah dude, these are good.
How do you manage to identify with your listeners while filtering through three different perspectives on record?
I think the main thing that separates us is how different we are as people in general, and as artists, stylistically speaking. If you listen to us a couple of times, you know who is who is pretty quickly. We don’t blend in at all with each other, it’s not just an easy listen all the way through. You gotta work through our lyrics. I think it’s a great dynamic to have. We definitely have our own personalities that make us individuals, but the way it comes together is because Buffalo is such a small city, we experience the same shit with the same people at the same places at the same time. We might have three different takes on how to say something, but we all have that same experience, we fuck up in the same ways.
All things considered, what is the hardest part about your recording process?
Not getting too fucked up to record (haha). That’s the only thing that ever stops us from doing good is getting too fucked up to work. If we get weed and brews we’re fine, it’s the other stuff that gets up fucked up. That’s how we chill, that’s how we make sure we don’t get fucked up, just weed. We’ve been doing music for so long, it’s easy. To be completely honest with you, we make songs too easy, when we’re not completely fucked up. It’s just easy to vibe off each other.
Personally, does it feel like 14 trapdoors is next to blow?
Yeah, we’re on the list of next-up for sure. I think we got an interesting dynamic that a lot of people gravitate to. Our subject matter is a lot different than most people. We don’t sugar coat the dumb shit that happens in life, and I feel like that grabs onto people. People gravitate to realness, and we just keep it 100 in our raps.