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  • Writer's pictureLeon Riccio

HELLCAT: Raging on against trap-metal conventions

Charlie Stokes has grown bored of putting themself at-ends with what the trap-metal scene promotes. Instead of folding to the pressures of the niche sub-culture, the non-binary artist - who goes by HELLCAT - has pushed past the stereotypes of the genre both musically on their latest single, and also on a personal level.

“When I was coming out of that period of using drugs, I felt a massive disconnect to the trap scene because my old music was all about coke and sex and weird shit, but now it’s going more in the direction of the style I want to achieve,” said 19-year-old Stokes, sitting down with me in a near-silent pub in east Berkshire.

Their latest single ‘Lost’ features the black-country-native’s haunting, industrial wails that pierce through classically-trained soprano choral backing, bearing its beatdown influences with measured doom-metal drums on the chorus. This is followed by an intensely raw verse toward the close of the song, delivered in harmony with the single’s feature and producer BenPainx.

“I’ve known Brandon (BenPainx) since we were 13 or 14 years old. We lost touch for a while but we reconnected after he reached out to me and said I’m trying to get into producing and recording, so we started making music together. He was like ‘you forget you are a classically trained singer, and you can do stuff that’s not just chatting shit over phonk beats.’ Even if it's different from my other stuff, it's a step in the direction of what I want. I think it will age better.”

The Crowthorne-based English Literature student has made waves in the underground UK trap scene since their debut as a solo artist a year and a half ago, after frontman-ing for a string of half-serious bands.

“I think the reason I started doing trap-metal stuff was because I’d done loads of teenagery rock-band stuff for years, and I thought ‘what’s the opposite of this?’ and this seemed like fun. I never actually liked a lot of trap music - a lot of it is REALLY bad, but I wanted to try something and make it good. The genre is so simple that you can have a lot of fun with it.

“I started listening to trap music while I was in the Guildford beatdown/hardcore scene, as there were a couple people in that very very heavy metal scene who wanted to try something on the other side of underground music. A couple people I knew were making trap and phonk beats while still in these beatdown and hardcore bands, and I was like ‘I’ve heard it, I like it, sort of, so let’s have a go at it.”

Coming from the beatdown and hardcore scene, HELLCAT has risen from the darkest elements of the underground culture, which they also touched upon in their latest song. HELLCAT added: “I now follow like 300 people tied to local rap scenes, and it's a very community-based thing. A lot of people started doing it after Lil Peep died, and a lot of people started to make that sort of music.
"The genre is a small thing that doesn't really exist in the UK. It's extreme in one sense or another, with oversexualised lyrics and really hard drum loops, and on the flip side it has seven string fucking guitars, and the bass is just a PA.
“My main problem with the scene is that it gives access to predatory behaviour. This happens with every ‘different’ music scene, but the less accessible the music, the less accessible the people are that go to the shows. I personally don't go to shows in Guildford anymore, as some of the people who have been going since the start - that are now in their late 20s and 30s - are going to shows where there are loads of 15-year-olds. It gives access to predatory behaviour as everybody knows each other, and everyone thinks the guy standing next to them is the soundest guy ever because they lent them a broken mic.

“On the other end is the glamourisation of drugs - I used to have a very very bad class-A problem, but that’s not been an issue for the past year, which is good. When you go to these houses with people or walk to shows, everyone either has a joint in their hand, is mashing Xanax, or is doing gear in the toilet.

“These are good people who have a good sense of judgement, but it’s not healthy, and that’s some people's idea of a night out these days because everybody is doing it. It’s really weird. That, and it’s hard to get out of the romanticised thing of being sad - you can fall into a trap of making really miserable music because it’s really easy to listen to, and people get lost in it.”

HELLCAT’s sound has made big waves across the country, garnering more than 40,000 Spotify streams on her penultimate single, BOY$ - however their fanbase has spread globally from the US to Germany, Russia, and Turkey. Their previous tracks, namely under the semi-retired moniker Ug1y K1tt3n, refused to shy away from themes of drugs, hypersexuality, and hyper-femininity - despite this, HELLCAT has openly identified as he/they for almost half of their life.

“I first came out as a trans man when I was 10 or 11 years old, mainly because I didn't know there were other options as I was literally a child - I just knew I didn't want to be a girl. As I grew up and became more in touch with my more masculine, androgynous, and feminine side, I realised you don’t have to hide from certain elements of yourself.
"If you are a hyper-sexual person, or just an effeminate person who likes dressing up and wearing makeup, it's important to nurture that or you end up just pigeon-holing yourself."
Trap music is a heavily male-dominated genre - if you look at the people at the top like $uicideboy$, Ghostmane, or on the other side of things like Lil Peep and GothBoiClique, it's all just dudes.

“Going into that scene, regardless of how I identify, I felt there was a link missing as there’s not a lot of non-binary people or female people creating this kind of music. If you can nurture those different sides of your personality into something that hasn't been done before, or at least hasn't been done much, then the music becomes a lot more interesting.

“When I first started doing trap music under the name Ug1y K1tt3n, even the name was very self-aware, especially on the lyrics of my first tracks BOY$ or MISO. It was so to-the-core of that genre that it was enjoyable because it took the opposite stance of what was and is currently being pushed, and then pushed that even further to see how people responded.”

In terms of what’s next in store, Charlie added: “The most exciting thing that’s new is that I’m working with someone called The Jokerr, who has really done quite well for himself and I'm going to be on his next album Collective Chaos, Vol. 3. His music is rap and rap to its core, and he's a wonderful dude. I’ll also be looking to play more shows in 2023, once I have a more consistent set list. I want my shows done properly.”

To listen to HELLCAT’s latest single, click here, and follow their Instagram (

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