Thanks to streaming platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud, as well as social networks like TikTok and Instagram, phonk music is on the rise. Are you a phonk artist and want to grow your audience? We’ve got some tips for you. If you are a curious music lover and don’t know what phonk music is, we’ve got you covered! Here is everything you need to know about phonk music, from its origins to today.
1. What is phonk music?
Phonk music is a genre that emerged in the early 1990s from the underground rap and hip hop scenes in the southern United States, particularly in Houston, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee. The genre takes inspiration from other subgenres such as chopped and screwed, Memphis rap, and trap music, as well as funk, soul, and jazz. Phonk music has recently had a resurgence in popularity thanks to TikTok and the drift community, a group of car enthusiasts who are passionate about drifting. Drift phonk music emerged over the past couple years as a subgenre of phonk music that accompanies lo-fi videos of drifting cars.
2. What is the meaning of phonk?
The term “phonk” is derived from the word “funky” and refers to the genre’s heavy use of funk samples and grooves. Unlike funk music however, phonk music is characterized by its gritty, lo-fi sound, giving it a much darker vibe thank original funk music. There is often the use of cowbells, heavy bass, and distorted sounds drowned in reverb. Phonk music often features slowed-down or chopped-up samples, creating a hypnotic, nostalgic feel.
3. How to make phonk music
First of all, to make phonk music, you will need a computer and DAW (digital work station) to produce your track! The most popular DAWs that producers use for making music are Pro tools, FL Studio, Ableton, Cubase, and Logic Pro. It would be difficult (though quite funny and original) to make a phonk music track with a live band. Making phonk music involves a combination of sampling, chopping and screwing techniques, and other production methods to create a gritty, lo-fi sound that is characteristic of the genre. Here are some basic steps you can follow:
- Find funk and soul samples: The phonk genre heavily relies on samples and loops from funk and soul music, so start by finding and listening to tracks from artists such as James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Isaac Hayes. Look for tracks with groovy basslines, catchy melodies, and other elements that you can sample and incorporate into your own tracks.
- Use the chop and screw technique: Chopping and screwing involves slowing down and manipulating samples to create a hypnotic, lo-fi effect. Chop up your samples and adjust the tempo, pitch, and other parameters to create a unique phonk sound.
- Add drums and emphasize the bass: Once you have your samples chopped and screwed, add drums and emphasize the bass. The phonk music genre often uses breakbeats and hard-hitting drums to create a driving, energetic sound. The bass is usually quite strong as well in phonk tracks.
- Use effects and processing: To achieve a gritty, lo-fi sound, use effects such as distortion, tape saturation, and reverb to add character and warmth to your instrumentals. You can also experiment with other processing techniques such as filtering, compression, and EQ to shape the sound and create a unique sonic signature.
- Perfect your track and release it: Make sure your track is high-quality and prepare to distribute it to music streaming services! We can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting your tracks on music sites like Spotify, Apple music, Deezer, Napster, Amazon music, and more. The days of downloading music are fading away. Streaming is how the majority of people consume music nowadays, so if you want to be heard, you have to be visible! Learn how to release music independently on music-streaming platforms here.
4. What’s the difference between funk and phonk?
The first and most important difference between funk and phonk is that funk music came first! Funk originated in the 1960s and 1970s and is characterized by its groovy basslines, syncopated rhythms, and use of horns and other instruments. It often features lyrics that explore identity, social and political issues. Funk music has served as inspiration in the development of many other genres of music, including hip hop, R&B, rock, and of course, phonk.
Phonk originated in the 1990s and used samples of funk tracks but is more similar to trap and hip-hop styles. Funk tends to have a more polished and refined sound, with live instrumentation and a focus on complex arrangements and virtuosity. Phonk, on the other hand, emphasizes the use of sampling and processing to create a raw, gritty, and often hypnotic sound.
5. Phonk music artists examples
Who are some phonk music artists to introduce you to the genre? Here is a good place to start, from original phonk pioneers to artists making phonk music tracks today:
- DJ Screw – A Houston-based DJ and producer who was influential in the creation of phonk music. He became popular in the 90s for his “Screw Tapes”, a series of mixtapes that featured slowed-down and chopped and screwed versions of popular rap and R&B tracks.
- Three 6 Mafia – A Memphis-based hip-hop group that were important in developing phonk music with their dark sound that blended gangsta rap and Southern hip hop. Lots of phonk artists today use samples of Three 6 Mafia in their tracks.
- DJ Smokey – A Memphis-based producer who is considered one of the pioneers of phonk music. His tracks often feature chopped and screwed samples and heavy basslines.
- Soudiere – A producer from France who has gained a following for his dark, hypnotic phonk tracks. His music often features eerie vocal samples and lo-fi drum patterns.
- DJ Yung Vamp – A French producer known for his hard-hitting phonk beats and use of funk and soul samples. His tracks often incorporate elements of trap and EDM.
- DJ Sacred – A Houston-based producer who is known for his lo-fi, chopped and screwed phonk tracks. His music often features slowed-down samples and hypnotic rhythms.
6. Why Phonk Music is on the rise
Why is Phonk music on the rise? Recently, there has been a growing interest in the lo-fi and underground hip-hop scenes as well as sampling which has led to a resurgence in phonk music. One of the main reasons for its popularity is also the increasing accessibility of music production technology. With the availability of affordable music production software and hardware, more aspiring producers are able to create their own tracks and share them with a wider audience on platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube. Making music from samples has never been easier! Additionally, the Internet has played a crucial role in the spread of phonk music. TikTok and drift culture have helped to create a global audience for phonk music, helping phonk artists go viral. Social networks are becoming a gateway to streaming music, turning listeners into subscribers.
7. Do you make Phonk Music? Check out Groover to promote your music!
If you make phonk music, now is the time to promote it and get your music heard! Make sure your music is available on TikTok- you just may go viral because your track was used in a drifting video! TikTok is becoming a platform where more and more people find music to listen to. If someone stumbles upon a trending video with your track on it, they could become hooked and listen to the rest of your music library on streaming services.
You can also send your phonk track directly to music industry professionals by using Groover and get a guaranteed response. Groover is an innovative platform that connects artists with a variety of music professionals, from labels and managers to playlists and music blogs. You can pitch your track to a music influencer of your choosing and get a response within 7 days. It’s the most sure way to get your music heard and get real feedback and visibility! There are now curated playlists and influencers on Groover that are looking for the next biggest phonk tracks, check them out here.