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Music At The Moment - Evolution of Memphis PHONK


I previously did a music at the moment on the rap game. I lightly mentioned it, but this is a more in-depth about where Memphis/south rap went. It’s a very interesting story and is very relevant to today’s rap.


Firstly, Memphis rap came about like every other rap central. Westside coming out after N.W.A. and the Eastside coming out after the popularity of New York underground hip hop. Memphis went in a different direction with the available gear for making music. Instead of Westside’s sample and bass emphasis or the Eastside signature dirty direction, Memphis went for an almost demonic approach. Making deep bass and using the signature 808 cowbell sound effect. The lyrics were about Memphis and the high violence rate that it holds in all of America.


A sample would be heavy bass with a backing of treble through not the traditional high top but instead the 808 cowbells. This is a sound only available to the TR-808, a DJ set that was popular only in the south due to a lack of shipments of any other brands. Everyone down south was experimenting with the sound of an even more underground hellish sound. Because of the demonic sound, at first, it was pushed aside for the awkwardness in the rap game. There was also a backing of chanting that went along with the lyrics of the song, shouting this like “North Memphis!” and other lines.


Trap came next. We all know this as basically the current state of the hip-hop scene, trap music derives from a more upbeat Memphis rap. You might even be able to hear the 808 cowbells in some of the new songs coming out today. Huge inspiration was drawn from the south experimentation of sound in a rap sense. Trap isn’t the end, PHONK is next.


PHONK is a weird one. A hugely lessened focus on rap but more emphasis on the beats. Basically almost becoming beat tracks, but too good to be used as such. PHONK is Memphis rap, party music, a beat on 100. A sample would be heavy use of the 808 cowbells and speed faster than most hip-hop songs. As well as the bass-heavy percussion with little to no snare or anything other than the bass drum amplified. As well as samples of 90s Memphis rap chants retaining as sometimes the only lyrics in the song. It goes a very unique sound that you can bump on some twelves in a car, which is often the mood the music sets.


As TIK TOK gets bigger and bigger so does the music used within the platform. PHONK is on its come up because of the drift community using the beats as a backdrop to awesome JDM cars. That is what PHONK is often associated with, cars and drifting and wild nature. Some artists I can recommend is Pharmacist, Ghostface Playa. And LXST CXNTURY. They are great starters and introductions to PHONK.


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