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Music Industry

What Is Phonk? A Deep Dive Into The Genre

Photograph of the blog post author, Chioma Eguzoraku

Chioma Eguzoraku


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What is Phonk music? It is a subgenre of hip-hop and trap music that emerged in the late 2010s. It is characterized by its lo-fi quality, heavy bass, repetitive lyrics, and samples from old-school hip-hop, funk, and soul music. The genre also incorporates elements of horrorcore, making it distinct for its eerie, ghostly vibes. Phonk music is often associated with car culture, particularly low-riders, and the Southern United States’ street culture, although it has gained global recognition.

What Is Phonk

What is Phonk Music?

It is said that Phonk music originated in Memphis, Tennessee, in the early 1990s. It was during this time that local DJs began to experiment with slow tempos and manipulated beats, which eventually became a hallmark of this genre. This genre combines elements of classic funk and soul with deep basslines and dark, often explicit lyrics, creating a mesmerizing sound that is heavily influenced by southern rap, Memphis rap, and gangsta rap from the ’90s. The genre has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with many emerging artists adopting the Phonk style and sharing their music on platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube.

Social Media’s Influence on The Genre

The rise of phonk music on TikTok has been instrumental in its revival. This underground hip-hop style, born from Memphis rap in the early 1990s, is characterized by a slower tempo, the use of samples, and intense basslines, drawing influences from funk and soul music. Social media platforms like Soundcloud, YouTube, and particularly TikTok have enabled the genre creators to connect with a broader audience than ever, even without the support of record deals or powerful labels like Three 6 Mafia.

Phonk is characterized by its mesmerizing sound, which is a fusion of classic samples from vintage Memphis rap and old-school funk. This distinctive sound can be likened to the styles of chopped and screwed or trap music. Artists like Soudiere, DJ Smokey, and Greafer are among the most well-known Phonk musicians on Spotify today. Meanwhile, X-raided Kordhell harks back to the original spirit of Phonk with his raw style, which is heavily influenced by DJ Screw’s Chopped & Screwed techniques.

 Famous Phonk Artists

DJ Yung Vamp

Although the genre remains largely underground, several artists have gained recognition within the genre:

DJ Yung Vamp: A Belgium-based producer, he is one of the most popular figures in the music scene, known for his unique blend of old-school samples and heavy basslines.

Soudiere: A French artist, Soudiere is another leading figure in the phonk genre, recognized for his dark and atmospheric tracks.

Baker Ya Maker: A rapper and producer from Memphis, Baker Ya Maker is known for his raw, gritty sound that stays true to the roots of phonk.

Mythic: This UK-based artist has gained popularity for his unique fusion of phonk with UK drill.

 Alternative Phonk Genre

Phonk’s versatility has led to the creation of alternative subgenres that blend phonk’s core elements with other music styles.

Vapor Phonk: This subgenre combines phonk with vaporwave, another internet-born genre known for its nostalgic and dreamy soundscapes. It creates a unique blend of eerie, lo-fi hip-hop beats with vaporwave’s slowed-down, reverb-heavy samples.

Drill Phonk: This subgenre merges phonk with the hard-hitting beats and aggressive lyrics of drill music, creating a unique sound that’s both menacing and rhythmically captivating.

5 Tips On How to Make Phonk Music

1. Choose the Right Samples: Phonk music heavily relies on samples from classic Memphis rap, 70s funk, and horror films. Look for samples that have a dark, gritty, and lo-fi sound. The more obscure the sample, the better.

2. Master the Art of Chopping and Screwing: The technique of chopping and screwing, which involves slowing down and manipulating the pitch of the music, is a key element of Phonk. This creates a trippy, hypnotic effect. Learn how to use music production software to chop (cut up and rearrange) and screw (slow down) your samples.

3. Use Heavy Bass and Drum Beats: The beats in Phonk are typically heavy and hard-hitting, often with a trap influence. The bass should be deep and the drum patterns should be complex, with lots of hi-hats, snares, and kicks.

4. Add Atmospheric Elements: This genre often includes elements like eerie synths, ambient noises, or vocal samples to create a haunting atmosphere. These elements can be layered over the main beat to add depth and complexity to the track.

5. Experiment and Develop Your Unique Style: While there are certain conventions in Phonk music, it’s also a genre that encourages experimentation. Don’t be afraid to incorporate elements from other genres or to develop your own unique sound within the style. Listen to a lot of Phonk music to understand its nuances, but also let your own musical instincts guide you.

 Top Hits in Phonk Music

While the genre is largely an underground genre, several tracks have gained significant popularity:

1. DJ Yung Vamp – “I Need More Blood”: This track encapsulates the essence of phonk with its heavy 808s, eerie samples, and lo-fi production.

2. Soudiere – “Deep in The Night”: Known for its haunting melody and hard-hitting bass, this track showcases Soudiere’s signature style.

3. Baker Ya Maker – “Kreepin’ Out Da Kut”: This track stays true to the roots of phonk, with its gritty lyrics and raw, lo-fi production.

4. DVRST – “Close Eyes”: This track blends phonk with UK drill, resulting in a unique, captivating sound.

Closing Thoughts

This genre with decades of history, is currently gaining momentum among music enthusiasts. Originating from Memphis, Phonk has developed into a funk subgenre that’s increasingly recognized on social media platforms such as TikTok. Over time, the genre has undergone notable transformations, from a focus on lyrics to the emergence of new sub-genres like Drift Phonk. For those interested in creating their own music in this genre, we offer essential advice and techniques to help you begin. If you’re already a fan, don’t miss the popular playlists on Spotify and YouTube. Prepare to immerse yourself in the rhythmic world of Phonk!


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