A Charlotte-based choir recently performed alongside R&B legend Patti Labelle at the “BET Awards.” Saint Trap Choir, a trap-music choir, collaborated with Labelle on a tribute to Tina Turner.
Dennis Reed Jr., the choir’s co-director, said a trap choir sings rap songs from contemporary artists such as Migos and Lil’ Baby.
Earlier this month, the choir competed for a spot on “America’s Got Talent,” receiving unanimous approval from the four judges, which advanced them to the live round.
Saint Trap Choir was established in 2020 by Reed and DJ Fannie Mae, who both live in Charlotte.
Reed owns the nonprofit Inspire the Fire, which provides Charlotte-area youth with exposure to music. More than half of the trap choir’s members, he said, have participated in the nonprofit.
Reed said he has worked with artists such as Fantasia, while Mae has DJ’d throughout the country and is currently the official Charlotte FC soccer team DJ.
Like many Black singers, Reed and Mae got their start in music in the church. They met at an event where Mae was DJing and exchanged numbers. From then on, they stayed in touch.
Reed said he got the idea to create a trap choir in 2019 after seeing rapper 2 Chainz perform with a choir. He took the idea to Mae, who immediately jumped on board.
After sitting on the idea for a year, the pair found the right opportunity and began auditions, looking for people who could “harmonize” and “dance.” The choir had its first performance at The Underground in Charlotte.
Sainted Trap Choir currently has 26 members and will soon expand. It is set to perform at other events, including a 50th anniversary of hip-hop event in New York and has an upcoming collaboration with Red Bull.
QCity Metro spoke with Reed about the BET and “America’s Got Talent” experiences, the origins of the choir and its current direction.
Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did the performance with Patti LaBelle come about?
One of my mentors, Adam Blackstone, is a music producer and has produced for the Grammy’s, several BET Awards and celebrities like Justin Timberlake. He contacted me about an opportunity, saying he was doing some work for the “BET Awards Show.” And he said, “I could use some vocal arrangements. I want to put a choir at the end of the performance,” and I immediately got to work to create the arrangements. I met Adam about two years ago when we worked together on a project with Fantasia.
What were those behind-the-scenes conversations with Patti like?
She kept telling us how nervous she was because she was working through vocal issues and thanked us for being a part. And she told us, “I’m gonna need y’all to sing extra hard tonight.” She was super sweet, and her way of greeting you made you feel warm, like she was your auntie.
Tell me about the experience of being at the BET Awards.
When I got to rehearsals, I looked at Busta Rhymes in the corner, talking to Adam about his set. I saw Coco Jones, who was getting ready to perform her set. I was taking in an eight-piece ensemble, and I was just like, “Wow!” It’s something special about being in a room with people who operate in excellence, so it was a refreshing experience. And although there were a few hiccups in the set, we finished strong.
How did you come up with the name?
Fannie and I were just tossing around names, but Fannie came up with the idea of being sainted. She more so came up with the name, and I came up with the concept.
Where did the idea for a trap choir come from?
I saw 2 Chainz perform a set with a choir behind him, and I thought it was a dope concept. And I loved being in church, and if you grew up in the church or are just heavy in Black culture, sometimes you will just take a secular song and make it churchy. And so I took this idea to my partner in crime, D.J. Fannie Mae, and she asked me, “Are you in my head or something?” But we sat on the idea for about a year because we wanted the right opportunity to come.
Your website describes the choir as “every church kid’s dream” and “the essence of the Southern church.” How so?
The origin of what we do is rooted in the Black church. Some of the greatest creatives have come out of that tradition. When people think of a choir, they tend to think of a gospel choir, but choir simply means ensemble. So we played around the theme of being from a Black church but singing songs other than gospel. We also like to think of it like a Black cookout; you’re going to hear you’re old-school music like Earth, Wind, and Fire, you’re going to do the line dances and some gospel, but your cousins are also going to want to turn up, so you might hear some Migos or Lil’ Baby. So we just try to bring that into an artistic frame.
The Sainted Trap Choir recently made an appearance on “America’s Got Talent.” What was that experience like?
This was my second time on AGT, because I took my nonprofit on the show in 2012, and we made it to the semi-finals, so I was already familiar with the process of the show. But this time, the experience felt different because we presented a new concept to the world. Before the show aired, we were apprehensive. We practiced for weeks, trying to come up with the perfect set, and we had to change it at the last minute due to complications. We had a lot of challenges, with flights being delayed and still trying to learn the set, but it was completely worth it because we got four yeses, and a yes from Simon (Cowell) is just like, “Wow!”
What’s next for the choir?
We are preparing for the live rounds on AGT, and we have an upcoming performance at the Neighborhood Theater in July. Fannie is doing a tribute to Young Money, so we will perform a set. We will also be a headliner at the Lincoln Center’s event for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, and we are collaborating with Red Bull in Atlanta. We are also about to release a mantra mixtape, which will be a set of affirmations for people to listen to daily. We are also planning to hold auditions again, and I would like to add eight to ten more people to the choir.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article’s headline said, “Charlotte Choir shines alongside Patti LaBelle.”