Call It ‘Trap Gospel’: Pilate’s Synthesized Soul Music

By Marcus J. Moore

Mysterious soul ensemble Pilate calls its music "trap gospel."
Mysterious soul ensemble Pilate calls its music "trap gospel."

Maryland soul group Pilate describes its new track “1000 Leagues” as a song “for the struggle” and “the spirit of a hustler who’s nearly reached his breaking point.” The work also speaks to the frustrations of the 9-to-5 grind.

Composed by Jordyn Stubblefield, the beat feels light and atmospheric, and singers Emmanuel Kerry and Jaquay Smith call for creative freedom. The song speaks to pain, but implores listeners to not become consumed by it.

“It’s about finding joy in wherever you are,” says Bowie resident Haydn Smith (Jaquay’s brother), a producer and singer with Pilate — who, along with Stubblefield, tends to wear a mask in band photos. “It’s about being in that struggle, and trying to find a way out of it.”

“1000 Leagues” (listen below) is the first single from Pilate’s forthcoming EP, Like Gold, expected out Thanksgiving Day. The instrumental was created at least six years ago and was the last song completed for the project.

Smith, 28, says the group calls its message-driven blend of soul “trap gospel.” (It’s already a controversial descriptor in the gospel world.)

Citing OutKast, Goodie Mob and Nas as inspiration, the crew puts socially conscious lyrics on top of electronic trap beats: EP cut “Area 51” details America at war. “Runway,” Smith says, is an upbeat dance number about a womanizer who finds joy in the pursuit. But above all, Smith hopes that the EP can bring peace to its listeners.

“You have to learn to be happy with nothing,” Smith says. “Everything is a process, and everything is a learning experience.”

Warning: Explicit lyrics.