All photos courtesy of Michael Trapson
If you’ve been anywhere near the internet over the past year, you’ve probably seen one of Michael Trapson’s videos. He’s the dude who looks, sounds, and dances like a cryogenically frozen Michael Jackson clone being thawed out in the middle of a 2 Chainz video shoot. The 26-year-old, North Philadelphia-bred MJ fanatic is half-impersonator, half-aspiring rapper, and full-fledged viral star, with millions of views on Youtube and Facebook to back it up.
On songs and videos like “Billie Jean and I Dab” and “If Michael Jackson Was a Stoner,” Trapson reimagines what MJ’s biggest hits from the 1980s might have sounded like if drenched in THC and produced by the Migos. (He’s even got an on-going series called “If Michael Jackson Made Trap Music.”) With lyrics and triplet flows like “I’m the king of the pop-pop/you’re girl is a bit of a thot-thot/I might pull up in the drop-top/with the Draco an’ go brrrr kot-kot” and a wardrobe that would make the real Michael jealous, Trapson has carved out a unique lane within the YouTube oddities realm, and has built an impressive following for someone who’s created a world where the King of Pop has morphed into the King of Pot.
Trapson has been doing his MJ tributes for a year now, but if you ask him, he’s just getting started. Beyond the schtick, Trapson is a true jack of all trades, both in the studio and on stage. He writes his own songs, does his own hair and makeup, engineers the music, edits the videos, and he can actually moonwalk.
MERRY JANE met Trapson and his manager Tido — yes, it’s eerily similar to Tito — at Rittenhouse Park in downtown Philly to talk about how he conceived the project (and how high he was at the time), as well as discuss the important things in life, like getting money from YouTube views and hanging out with Michael Jackson’s personal animal trainer. Check out our conversation below and be on the lookout for Trapson’s upcoming mixtape This Is Lit.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
MERRY JANE: First thing’s first, when did you first hear Michael Jackson’s music? What about him hooked you?
Michael Trapson: I was three-years-old the first time I heard Michael. My mom played the “History” videotape. I didn’t know if he was a man or a woman at first, but the music was dope; I loved it. I started dancing like him as a kid, but then I put it away for a long time. When he died, I wanted to do a tribute, then it evolved into Trapson, and we’ve been going hard ever since.
Can you tell me about the first time you smoked weed? Were you listening to Michael?
The first time I got high was at age 14. I’m 26 now, but back then, nah. I was listening to Blink-182 and System of a Down. I was really into pop-punk and all that stuff when I was younger.
The whole concept of Michael Trapson sounds like a “highdea.” Is smoking part of your creative process?
I don’t actually smoke as much as I used to, but when I came up with the idea for Trapson I was high as hell. My nephew had just come back from California, and he was in my room rolling up some crazy shit while making beats. I thought “What if Michael Jackson was a rapper?” and that became the first video, so yeah, it was definitely a “highdea.”
How long did it take before you added the weed element to your Jackson character?
I actually recorded that [first] song five years ago, before the Trapson character even existed. I used to be my own artist before all this, and I was just playing around, just joking. But I figured out that we live in a day and age where everyone has to go viral, so I wanted to figure out what kind of videos I could make that would make everybody click on them, and this was it. As soon as I put out the first “If Michael Jackson Made Trap Music” video, everyone kept asking for a part two, part three. I kept getting all these requests! I didn’t want to let people down, so I just kept hittin’ em over the head with these videos.
Has anyone in Michael’s life or the Jackson family reached out to you at all?
We actually linked up with Michael’s animal trainer, Sean. He’s got all the connects - the exotic tigers and llamas, everything. He had me holding a squirrel like it was a cat. He just reached out online and offered to help out with animals, so I was like, “Hell yeah!”
That’s amazing. You definitely need a tiger in the next video. Do people on the street ever recognize you as Trapson or do they just think you’re a regular MJ impersonator?
It’s 50-50, and it depends where I am. Actually, two days ago I was in WalMart and this dude came up to me like “Woah, Michael Trapson! Can I shake your hand?” saying he was a big fan. That’s always cool, but it’s nice to be able to take off the makeup and no one will ever know. It’s the gift of the Trapson: I can put it on, but if I take it off no one knows it’s me. I live in my own little reality.
Tell me about the makeup, you’ve got vloggers on YouTube heated that they can’t do their foundation as well as you.
Aw man, it’s all an illusion. It’s all about contouring, different little tricks I’ve learned along the way. It didn’t take long to learn. My friend Jeffrey Perez, who’s also an MJ tribute artists, showed me how to do it and that was that. Sometimes I over-do it, but it’s OK, I don’t really care.
There’s gotta be a goldmine of opportunities out there for you to do some impersonator stuff, right? In Vegas, where legal weed is on the way, they’d probably kill for a “Stoner Michael Jackson” show.
Doing a whole stoner show would be way to hard to perform. I’d be super high and probably lose my train of thought, especially with all the crazy new weed coming out lately.
Do you have a favorite strain?
Man, I don’t even know the strains. I’m from Philly — I just know there’s loud and there’s reggie. People have tried to break down the different types and all that, but all I know is that it gets me high as hell.
Have there been any strange or out-of-the-box performance requests — any bachelorette or birthday parties?
First of all, we don’t ever accept those offers [laughs]. But the weirdest one was probably some dude who wanted me to come to his private party and be a “Michael Jackson stripper.” I said, ‘Fam!’ To each his own, but that’s not my thing. As for kids’ birthdays, we get the requests, but we don’t ever do those.
Did you always plan to monetize your videos, or was it something you started after you saw the views rolling in?
I always used to monetize my videos, but no one ever tells you how to collect the money! So I had a lot of money just sitting there from ad revenue, but I had to figure out how to actually get it transferred to my bank. But yeah, the plan was always to make money. But as long as I’m having fun, too. I’m still having fun! If you’re not having fun anymore, stop doing that shit.
Fun is definitely key. But the fame hasn’t gone to your head yet? You don’t get angry at little things now, like freaking out at delayed flights and whatnot?
Oh no, I try to never get mad unless people try to test me or challenge me. People on the street yelling “Do a moonwalk!” or something. First of all, fuck out my face or I’ma slap the shit out you, that’s how I feel. They see you as MJ and they think you’re soft — but I’m from Philly. This is all fun, but don’t try and test me.
So Michael Trapson’s got a little trap in him?
Has YouTube sent you a plaque yet?
Not yet, I’m like 15,000 subscribers short, but I’ve got the spot on my wall picked out and ready.
Are you charging a “walk through” fee at the club like other trap rappers?
Hell yeah. We gotta get the money, man. All the makeup costs money, all the clothes cost money, so yeah, we’ve gotta get paid.
Any plans to leave Philly and take your act elsewhere?
I need to. That’s the plan. It’s not there yet, but it’s gotta come sometime. My family’s all here, so until I make that change I’ll be here. But yeah, that’s the hope.
Alright, one last question. The police found weed in Michael Jackson’s room after he passed away. Do you think Mike was a stoner by the time he died?
Oh, hell yeah. He was definitely getting stoned, nothing wrong with that. They need to legalize it, and stop playing. It’s not hurting anybody. If you’re smoking weed in a safe place, it’s what you want to do with your body. Nobody’s dying off marijuana — I just don’t understand why they’re still tripping about legalizing it, especially here in Pennsylvania.