The Electric Hawk research team returns to educate everyone about the rising genre: Phonk. Already having gone into the depth of genres like Vapor Twitch and Escape Room, we believe it’s time to open the files into Phonk.
Recently, a tweet from Nathaniel Kosko brought attention to the EDM community on how the genre continues garnering thousands of monthly listeners, and yet no one within our sphere talks about it. Despite the little attention, the Electric Hawk team is ready to teach our community everything about Phonk and help expand your music knowledge!
What is Phonk?
Well, let’s start off with the original definition of Phonk.
An underground style of hip-hop/trap music directly inspired by 90s Memphis Rap, mostly present on SoundCloud as trill style beats with old funk and nostalgic samples, often accompanied by vocals from old Memphis Rap tapes.
Phonk is regarded as a genre that is nostalgic, euphoric, and groovy with layers of dark, eerie undertones that make any listener fall into a trance. The term Phonk became coined by the now-considered grandfather of the genre, SpaceGhostPurrp, that “Phonk is slang for Funk.” Alongside him, the community also recognizes Mr. Sisco, DJ SMOKEY, Three 6 Mafia, Soudiere, and Lil Ugly Mane as sounds that cultivated and influenced the Phonk sound in the early 2010s.
But when you go up to someone today and ask if they have heard one of these pioneers’ tracks, they may look at you and say, “This is not Phonk at all.” So what changed from its origination to what the public may recognize as Phonk today?
The fast evolution of the Phonk genre over the years
Nowadays, the general public would consider Phonk music as something completely different than when it originated. Around 2020 and with the rise of TikTok, the public begin to learn about what is now considered Drift Phonk or Drift House.
Drift Phonk as a subgenre evolved from a genre called Horrorcore, which is defined by its heavy distortion and extremely fast BPM, often north of 160 BPM. Drift Phonk became associated huge with videos of JDM cars and drift culture as a whole. Later in 2020, music from artists like Ghostface Playa, Pharmacist, and Kaito Shoma became viral on TikTok. With the massive virality coming from YouTube compilations and TikTok challenges, it began gaining traction with a wider audience. Then the question emerged, “So is this considered Phonk?” And theoretically, yes. It does still have influences from Memphis Rap but revived for modern times soundscapes.
Fast forward just one year to 2021. Introducing artists like Dvrst, Kordhell, and Dxrk, who take the Drift Phonk style, but give it more of an electronic house twist. And in today’s generation, most people will consider these pioneers of what Phonk is now. The twist from these artists’ influences comes more from Russian Hard Bass rather than the original sounds from Phonk music back in the early 2010s. When the community compares today’s Phonk with the original Phonk, they will come to the heavy conclusion that the music you are hearing today is not Phonk. Although, the music industry would say otherwise.
Eventually, one of the largest streaming services, Spotify, created a dedicated editorial playlist for the genre in May 2021! After massive praise coming from the Phonk community, Spotify finally showed recognition for the genre. Now, the community will claim Spotify may be one of the reasons for “destroying” the genre.
Did Spotify destroy Phonk?
From the origin of the Phonk editorial playlist, the playlist has garnered up to five million likes on the platform in just a couple of years. Officially, it became one of the fastest-growing playlists for Spotify. Simply having one track added to the editorial can be revolutionary for an artist’s career. However, when you look through the editorial, there don’t appear to be many artists from the pioneers of the genre. Instead, the editorial playlist primarily focuses on the Drift Phonk subgenre. Even when the announcement of the Phonk editorial mentioned the pioneers of the genre, they don’t appear to have a presence in the playlist or have not been added to the playlist at all.
Although the general audience may not fully know the nuanced history of such a niche genre, things are different for a Spotify playlist editor. Meanwhile, the community pleaddwith Spotify to start adding other subgenres of Phonk rather than whatever Drift Phonk goes viral on TikTok. But, if you didn’t already know, Spotify has two big playlists within the genre. The main editorial as well as the Spotify algorithm-generated playlist called The Sound of Phonk. Immediately, anyone can see the massive difference between Spotify’s algorithm interpretation of Phonk versus when you compare it to a Spotify editorial playlist. So, what could this mean about the future of this genre?
The legacy of Phonk in the future within the EDM community
While there appears to be a rift between the core Phonk community and the Drift Phonk subgenre, the genre continues to rise and gain listeners from all over. Labels like Jadū Dala and Monstercat stay ahead of the curve, releasing music from the genre. Artists like Godlands, k?d, NITTI, and more are dropping Phonk in their catalogs, along with others also playing Phonk in their live sets. Recently, one of the fastest-growing artists in the Drift Phonk area, Kordhell, signed with Wasserman Music Group for future bookings and events. If one of the biggest talent agencies is starting to sign artists, then they are seeing the demand people are wanting.
Regardless of your stance on Phonk, it appears to continuously grow no matter what side you are on. Already, certain areas in the US are hosting small curated Phonk events, like in Denver with PHONK AROUND AND FIND OUT at The Black Box. Other areas also place their foot in uplifting the genre in their community. Labels, agents, and promoters are beginning to notice the potential that will come with Phonk artists, and how this sound will sell to the general public.
In the end, Phonk is continuing the gain traction from all outlets of music. All it takes is one mainstream artist in the EDM sphere to elevate the genre even more than what it currently is. Now, we just play the waiting game as music enthusiasts to see how the genre grows in the upcoming years. We truly will never know the future, but at least now we know the roots of Phonk music and how it evolved from its origins.
Immerse yourself into the rising genre of Phonk with this playlist below!
Sources: What is Phonk? , Why Phonk isn’t Phonk, How Spotify is Killing Phonk, Phonk Reddit
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