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Unraveling the Mystery: What is Phonk in Music?

Have you heard of phonk? This underground music genre has been making waves in recent years, captivating fans with its unique sound and DIY ethos. But what exactly is phonk and where did it come from?

Phonk is a subgenre of hip hop that originated in Memphis, Tennessee, and draws influence from Southern rap, G-Funk, and old-school funk and soul. It’s known for its heavy use of samples and its gritty, lo-fi sound.

In this section, we’ll explore the history of phonk and what sets it apart as a genre. We’ll examine its defining characteristics and take a closer look at some notable artists who have contributed to its rise in popularity. We’ll also discuss the impact of the internet on the growth of phonk music, as well as its influence on contemporary music.

Key Takeaways:

  • Phonk is an underground subgenre of hip hop that originated in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • It draws influence from Southern rap, G-Funk, and old-school funk and soul.
  • Phonk is known for its heavy use of samples and its gritty, lo-fi sound.
  • The internet has played a significant role in the growth and exposure of phonk music.
  • Phonk has influenced and shaped contemporary music, leaving its mark on artists in various genres.

Understanding Phonk as an Underground Genre

Phonk is a genre of music that has gained popularity in recent years, particularly in underground music scenes. What sets phonk apart from other music genres is its unique sound and characteristics that reflect its underground origins.

The Phonk Genre

Phonk is a subgenre of hip-hop that originated in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1990s. It is characterized by its heavy use of old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap samples, combined with trap-style beats. Phonk artists often experiment with lo-fi aesthetics and distortion effects, creating a raw and gritty sound that is both nostalgic and innovative.

The Characteristics of Phonk

Phonk is defined by its rebellious and DIY mentality, with many artists producing and promoting their music independently. It is also influenced by the Southern rap and G-Funk scenes of the 1990s, which contribute to its distinct sound and style.

Another defining characteristic of phonk is its emphasis on storytelling, with many artists using their music to share personal experiences and reflect on the struggles and realities of their communities. This aspect of phonk adds a depth and authenticity to the genre, connecting listeners to the artists and their message.

The Visuals of Phonk

Phonk is not just about the music – it is also about the visuals. Many phonk artists create their own album artwork, music videos, and even clothing, reflecting the DIY ethos of the genre. The visual aspect of phonk is often dark and eerie, with artists using distorted and glitchy imagery to complement the music.

phonk genre

Overall, phonk is a genre of music that is more than just a sound – it is a culture and a movement. Its unique characteristics and origins have contributed to its growing popularity and dedicated following in underground music scenes worldwide.

Exploring the Origins of Phonk

The history of phonk can be traced back to Memphis, Tennessee, where a group of DJs and producers began incorporating old-school funk samples into their beats in the early 1990s. This sound became known as Memphis rap, with artists such as Three 6 Mafia and DJ Squeeky gaining popularity in the Southern rap scene.

The influence of Southern rap on phonk is undeniable, with many phonk artists drawing inspiration from the gritty, bass-heavy beats of the genre. However, it wasn’t until the emergence of G-Funk on the West Coast that phonk truly began to take shape.

The Role of G-Funk

G-Funk, pioneered by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg in the early 1990s, incorporated the sounds of 1970s funk and soul music, creating a smooth, laid-back sound that became hugely popular on the West Coast.

Phonk producers were quick to adopt this sound and incorporate it into their own beats, resulting in a unique blend of old-school funk, Southern rap, and G-Funk that characterizes the genre today.

history of phonk

The Evolution of Phonk

Phonk has gone through various stages of evolution since its inception, with new artists adding their own unique spin to the genre.

One notable subgenre within phonk is “chopped and screwed,” in which producers manipulate the tempo and pitch of vocals and instrumentals, creating a distorted, almost haunting sound.

Another subgenre is “phonkwave,” characterized by a dreamy, lo-fi sound that draws heavily on nostalgia and the use of samples from popular TV shows and movies.

The evolution of phonk continues to this day, with new artists and subgenres emerging all the time.

The Sound of Phonk

The sound of phonk is distinct and unique, characterized by its heavy use of samples from old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap, combined with trap-style beats. The incorporation of these elements results in a gritty and raw sound that sets phonk apart from other genres of music.

Phonk beats typically feature chopped and screwed samples, where the original samples are slowed down and manipulated to create a hypnotic and immersive sound. The use of Lo-fi aesthetics and vinyl crackles also adds to the vintage feel of phonk music, giving it a distinct warmth and depth.

Phonk production often involves layering multiple samples on top of each other to create a rich and intricate sound. The use of live instrumentation, such as guitars and horns, is also common in phonk beats, further enhancing the organic nature of the sound.

One of the defining characteristics of phonk beats is the use of heavy basslines, which provide a strong foundation for the rest of the track. The incorporation of trap-style drums and percussion adds to the intensity of the beats, giving them a hard-hitting edge.

phonk beats

In summary, the sound of phonk is a fusion of old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap, combined with trap-style beats and heavy basslines. The incorporation of chopped and screwed samples, Lo-fi aesthetics, and live instrumentation gives phonk its vintage feel, creating a unique and immersive listening experience.

Notable Phonk Artists

If you’re looking to explore the world of phonk music, here are a few notable artists to start with:

Artist Notable Songs
Slim Guerilla “All My Luv,” “Memphis Supreme,” “Feelin’ Like a Pimp”
DJ Smokey “Weed and Lean,” “EVIL WAYZ,” “Killin’ Shit 4”
TRiPPJONES “Black Magic,” “Sippin’ on Wockhardt,” “3 AM in Memphis”
Baker Ya Maker “26 Ringz,” “Laptop Aye,” “Ghoul with a 40 oz.”

These artists have all made significant contributions to the phonk genre, each bringing their own unique style and approach to the music. Slim Guerilla, for example, often incorporates soulful samples and funk influences into his beats, while DJ Smokey is known for his use of eerie and atmospheric sounds.

TRiPPJONES, on the other hand, combines trap-style beats with heavy basslines and old-school rap samples, while Baker Ya Maker infuses his music with horror movie-inspired themes and lo-fi aesthetics.

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There are, of course, many other talented artists in the phonk community, and part of the genre’s appeal lies in its underground and DIY nature, with artists often working independently and collaborating with others in the community to create and promote their music.

phonk artists

The Rise in Popularity of Phonk

Over the years, phonk has steadily gained popularity among music enthusiasts, particularly those who enjoy underground genres. What started as a niche genre has now become a global phenomenon, with artists from all over the world contributing to its growth and evolution.

The rise of phonk’s popularity can be attributed to many factors, including its unique sound, heavy use of samples, and its ability to blend elements from different genres seamlessly. However, it’s the artists who have truly propelled phonk into the mainstream, with their unapologetic and raw approach to music-making.

Some of the most popular phonk songs that have garnered massive attention include:

Song Title Artist
Southside Playaz Trapphones
South Memphis DJ Sound
Stuck in My Ways PHONKMASTER

These songs have captivated audiences with their hypnotic beats, soulful samples, and powerful lyrics. They showcase the diversity of phonk, with each artist bringing their own style and unique flavor to the genre.

popular phonk songs

The surge in phonk’s popularity has also been fueled by the internet, which has given artists an unprecedented platform to share their music and connect with fans across the globe. Social media, streaming services, and online forums have all played a significant role in promoting phonk music and helping it reach new audiences.

As phonk continues to gain traction, it’s clear that this genre is far from a passing fad. Its popularity shows no signs of slowing down, with more and more artists and fans embracing its unique sound and DIY ethos.

The Internet’s Role in Phonk’s Spread

The internet has revolutionized the way we consume and share music, and the same can be said for phonk. While the genre’s roots can be traced back to Memphis in the 1990s, it wasn’t until the rise of the internet that phonk truly began to spread beyond its local origins.

Social media platforms, online forums, and music streaming services have all played a significant role in connecting phonk artists and fans from all over the world.

  • History of Phonk: Initially, information about phonk was scarce and difficult to find outside of Memphis. However, with the advent of the internet, the history of phonk became more accessible to people outside of the genre’s birthplace.
  • SoundCloud: SoundCloud is a popular online platform where aspiring musicians can share their music with the world. Phonk artists were quick to take advantage of this platform, and many of them gained significant followings through SoundCloud.
  • YouTube: YouTube has also been instrumental in bringing phonk to a wider audience. Many popular phonk songs have garnered millions of views on the platform, with fans from all over the world tuning in to listen.

Thanks to the internet, phonk has gained a global following with fans and artists from all over the world connecting and sharing their love for the genre.

history of phonk

The internet has played a significant role in the growth and exposure of phonk music, enabling artists and fans to connect and share their music worldwide.

The Subgenres Within Phonk

Phonk as a genre has given rise to various subgenres, each with its own unique sound and influences. Let’s take a closer look at some of these subgenres:


Doomshop is a subgenre of phonk that emerged from Houston, Texas. This subgenre is characterized by its dark and moody sound, with heavy emphasis on horror themes, occult imagery, and satanic references. The beats used in Doomshop phonk often feature distorted samples and slow, menacing tempos, giving it a haunting ambiance.

Chopped and Screwed

Chopped and Screwed is a subgenre that originated in Houston, Texas, in the early 1990s. This subgenre is characterized by slowing down the tempo of the music and repeating certain phrases or beats, creating a unique, almost hypnotic sound. The chopped and screwed technique was initially applied to Southern rap, but it has since been adopted by phonk artists, resulting in a distinct subgenre within the larger phonk genre.

Mall Music

Mall Music is a subgenre that is more upbeat and light-hearted in comparison to other phonk subgenres. It draws heavily from 80s and 90s pop-culture references and is characterized by its playful, nostalgic sound. Mall Music is often associated with videos and memes on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube.

phonk subgenres

These are just a few examples of the subgenres that have emerged within the larger phonk genre. Each subgenre offers a unique take on the phonk sound, showcasing the versatility and creativity of this underground music movement.

Phonk’s Influence on Contemporary Music

The impact of phonk on contemporary music cannot be overstated. As we’ve explored in the previous sections, phonk has its roots in Southern rap and G-funk, but its unique sound and style have influenced artists in various genres.

One example of phonk’s influence is in the rise of lo-fi hip hop, a genre that has gained massive popularity in recent years. Lo-fi hip hop, characterized by its emphasis on sampling and its laid-back, mellow beats, draws heavily on the same influences and techniques as phonk music.

Another area where phonk has made an impact is in the world of electronic dance music. Many producers in the EDM community have incorporated phonk elements into their tracks, from the heavy use of samples to the signature chopped-and-screwed vocal style.

The history of phonk and its unique characteristics continue to spark creativity and inspire new sounds across the music industry. As we look to the future, it’s clear that phonk’s influence will only continue to grow.

phonk music

Creating Phonk Beats

Phonk beats are the backbone of this genre. They are what sets it apart from other genres and gives it its unique sound. The process of creating a phonk beat involves several steps, including sampling, drum programming, and adding lo-fi aesthetics.

Sampling: The use of old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap samples is one of the defining characteristics of phonk beats. These samples are usually chopped and rearranged to create new melodies and rhythms. The samples are often used in a way that highlights their imperfections and adds to the overall lo-fi aesthetic.

Drum Programming: The drum programming in phonk beats is typically influenced by trap music and Southern rap. The drums are often heavy and hard-hitting, with a focus on the kick, snare, and hi-hat. The patterns are repetitive and provide a steady foundation for the sample-based melodies.

Lo-fi Aesthetics: The lo-fi aesthetic is an important aspect of phonk beats. This involves the intentional degradation of sound quality to create a vintage and worn-out feel. Some common techniques include the use of vinyl crackle, tape hiss, and distortion.

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Phonk beats

If you’re interested in creating your own phonk beats, there are several resources available online. You can find sample packs and drum kits specifically designed for phonk beats, as well as tutorials that walk you through the process step-by-step.

The Impact of Visuals in Phonk

The phonk genre goes beyond just the music itself, as it often includes a strong visual element that enhances the overall experience. Visual aspects of phonk can include music videos, album art, and live performances that use lighting, projections, and other effects.

The dark, atmospheric nature of phonk is often reflected in its visuals, with many artists incorporating horror-inspired imagery that complements the eerie sound of the music. Some artists, such as Soudiere, even create their own animated music videos that bring their songs to life in a unique way.

One notable example of the impact of visuals in phonk is the music video for the song “666” by Ramirez. The video features haunting imagery and a brooding atmosphere that perfectly matches the ominous tone of the song. Both the music and the visuals work together to create a truly immersive experience that engages the senses and leaves a lasting impression.

Visuals are an important part of the phonk genre, and they often help to establish an artist’s unique style and aesthetic. The use of visuals in phonk highlights the DIY nature of the genre, as many artists take on the task of creating their own music videos and artwork to accompany their music.

The impact of visuals in phonk cannot be overstated, as they help to define the genre and enhance the listening experience for fans. As phonk continues to evolve and grow in popularity, it will be exciting to see how artists continue to incorporate visuals into their music and performances.

The Role of Animation in Phonk Videos

One common element of phonk music videos is the use of animation. Animated videos can allow artists to create unique and surreal visuals that would be difficult or impossible to achieve through live-action footage.

Artists such as DJ Smokey and Soudiere are known for their use of animated music videos, which often feature trippy, psychedelic imagery that complements the dreamlike sound of their music. Animated videos can be a powerful tool for establishing an artist’s visual identity and setting them apart from others in the genre.

The use of animation in phonk videos is just one example of the innovative and creative approaches that artists take in the genre. As phonk continues to gain popularity, it will be exciting to see what new visual elements emerge and how they continue to shape the genre as a whole.

phonk music visuals

Phonk and the DIY Ethic

One of the defining characteristics of the phonk genre is its strong sense of community and DIY ethos. From production to promotion, many artists in the phonk community take a hands-on approach to every aspect of their music. This dedication to creating and sharing their art has helped to create a unique and thriving underground scene.

At the heart of the DIY ethic is the idea that anyone can create music, regardless of their technical ability or resources. The phonk genre is built on a foundation of sampling, with many artists using old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap to create their beats. This approach allows for a level of creativity and experimentation that is not always possible in other genres.

Many phonk artists also take on the role of promoting their own music, using social media and online platforms to spread their work and connect with fans. This grassroots approach to marketing has helped to foster a passionate and engaged audience for the genre.

One notable example of the DIY ethos in the phonk community is the label and collective known as “Phonk’adelic.” Founded by producer and artist DJ Akoza, Phonk’adelic operates as a platform for a diverse range of artists, helping to promote and distribute their work. The collective also hosts events and collaborations, further building the sense of community within the genre.

Overall, the DIY ethic is a fundamental part of the phonk genre, allowing for a level of creativity, experimentation, and collaboration that is not always present in mainstream music. It is this dedication to the art of creating and sharing music that has helped to make phonk a vibrant and exciting genre within the larger music landscape.

phonk genre

The Future of Phonk

As with any music genre, the future of phonk is constantly evolving. While its underground roots and DIY ethos may never change, the sound and style of phonk will undoubtedly continue to develop and expand.

One possible direction for phonk is the incorporation of more electronic and experimental elements, pushing the boundaries of the genre and exploring new sonic territories. Additionally, collaborations with artists from other genres may bring fresh perspectives and create unique blends of sounds.

The global popularity of phonk also opens up opportunities for cross-cultural collaborations, allowing for the exchange of ideas and influences from different parts of the world. This may lead to the emergence of subgenres that incorporate elements of traditional music from various regions.

Another aspect to consider is the impact of technology on the production and distribution of phonk music. With the rise of streaming services and social media, artists now have greater access to audiences and tools to promote their music beyond their local communities.

Overall, the future of phonk looks promising, with a dedicated fanbase and a growing number of artists and producers contributing to its evolution. As long as the spirit of experimentation and innovation remains at its core, phonk will continue to thrive and make its mark in the music industry.

The Future of Phonk

Phonk’s Cult Following

What makes phonk music so unique and captivating is not only its sound but also the sense of community that surrounds the genre. Phonk has developed a cult following of dedicated fans who appreciate the authenticity and rawness of the music.

These fans often feel a personal connection to the artists and their music, which is fostered by the DIY ethic of the phonk community. Many artists take on all aspects of their music production and distribution, allowing their fans to feel intimately engaged in the creative process.

Phonk’s cult following also extends to social media, where fans can interact with each other and with their favorite artists. Twitter and Instagram are especially popular among phonk fans, where they can share their favorite songs, discuss the latest releases, and connect with like-minded individuals from around the world.

One notable aspect of the phonk community is the importance of visuals in the overall experience. Artists often create complementary visuals that enhance the music and provide a more immersive experience for their fans. This attention to detail and engagement with the audience is what sets phonk apart from other genres, making it a truly unique phenomenon.

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phonk cult following

The Power of Phonk’s Community

Phonk’s cult following showcases the power of community in music. The engagement and connection that fans feel with their favorite artists and each other have helped to propel the genre forward and keep it relevant.

As phonk continues to gain popularity globally, its cult following will undoubtedly grow, bringing even more people into the fold and continuing to shape the evolution of the genre.

The Global Phenomenon

Despite being an underground genre, phonk has a global reach that continues to grow. Its history can be traced back to Memphis, Tennessee, where underground artists began to experiment with combining old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap with contemporary trap-style beats.

history of phonk

The genre’s defining characteristics, including its use of samples, lo-fi aesthetics, and DIY ethos, have contributed to its unique sound and style. As phonk has gained popularity, more and more artists around the world are incorporating these elements into their music.

From Europe to Asia to Latin America, the phonk community has grown to include dedicated fans and artists who are pushing the boundaries of the genre. The rise of social media and streaming platforms has made it easier than ever for phonk artists to connect with listeners worldwide, leading to a collaborative and inclusive global community.

The Characteristics of Phonk That Have Led to its Global Appeal

Phonk’s international success can be attributed to several key characteristics:

Characteristic Description
Sampling Phonk’s heavy use of samples from classic funk, soul, and rap tracks creates a nostalgic and familiar sound that resonates with listeners worldwide.
Lo-fi Aesthetics The use of lo-fi production techniques and distorted sounds gives phonk a gritty and raw sound that appeals to fans of lo-fi and underground music.
DIY Ethos Phonk artists take a hands-on approach to every aspect of their music, from production to promotion, creating a sense of authenticity and community that attracts loyal fans.

As phonk continues to gain popularity worldwide, we can expect to see more diverse and innovative interpretations of the genre emerge, further solidifying its status as a global phenomenon.


So, what is phonk? It’s an underground genre of music that blends old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap with modern trap-style beats. Phonk has its roots in Memphis, Tennessee, and draws influences from Southern rap and G-Funk. What sets phonk apart is its distinct sound and the DIY ethos that permeates the community.

Although still relatively underground, phonk has been gaining popularity over the years, with notable artists like DJ Smokey and Soudiere leading the way. The internet has played a significant role in the growth and spread of phonk, enabling artists to reach a global audience and connect with fans worldwide.

As the genre continues to evolve, we can expect to see more subgenres emerge within the phonk community. Phonk has already made its mark on contemporary music, influencing artists across various genres. And with its cult following and global impact, it’s clear that phonk is here to stay.

So, whether you’re a longtime fan or just discovering phonk for the first time, there’s no denying the unique appeal and infectious energy of this genre. As we’ve seen throughout this article, phonk is more than just music; it’s a subculture, a community, and a movement all rolled into one. Keep an eye on phonk and see where this genre takes us next.


What is phonk music?

Phonk music is a genre that combines elements of old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap with trap-style beats. It is characterized by its heavy use of samples and a distinct lo-fi aesthetic.

What sets phonk apart as an underground genre?

Phonk stands out as an underground genre due to its unique blend of musical styles and its association with a DIY ethic. Artists in the phonk community often take a hands-on approach to every aspect of their music, from production to promotion.

Where did phonk originate?

Phonk originated in Memphis, Tennessee, and was heavily influenced by Southern rap and G-Funk. It has since spread globally, gaining popularity in various regions around the world.

How does phonk sound?

Phonk is characterized by its blend of old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap samples, combined with trap-style beats. The result is a unique and nostalgic sound that captures the essence of the genre.

Who are some notable phonk artists?

Some notable phonk artists include DJ Smokey, Soudiere, and SpaceGhostPurrp. These artists have made significant contributions to the genre and have helped shape its sound and style.

What are some popular phonk songs?

Some popular phonk songs that have captivated audiences include “Blank Banshee – Teen Pregnancy,” “DJ Smokey – Purple Durag,” and “Soudiere – Wallowin’.”

How has the internet impacted the growth of phonk music?

The internet has played a crucial role in the growth and exposure of phonk music. It has allowed artists and fans from around the world to connect, share their music, and collaborate, leading to a broader reach and increased visibility for the genre.

Are there subgenres within phonk?

Yes, there are various subgenres that have emerged within the phonk genre. These subgenres include lo-fi phonk, trap phonk, and cloud phonk, each with its own distinct style and influences.

How has phonk influenced contemporary music?

Phonk has had a significant influence on contemporary music, impacting artists across various genres. Its unique sound and sampling techniques have inspired artists to incorporate elements of phonk into their own music, creating a fusion of styles.

What is the process of creating phonk beats?

Creating phonk beats involves sampling techniques, where artists extract snippets of old-school funk, soul, and Memphis rap songs. These samples are then manipulated and combined with trap-style drum patterns to create the signature phonk sound.

How important are visuals in phonk?

Visuals play an essential role in the world of phonk. Many artists create accompanying visuals that complement the music and enhance the overall experience for listeners. These visuals often feature retro and nostalgic aesthetics that align with the genre’s vibe.

What is the future of phonk?

The future of phonk holds exciting possibilities. As the genre continues to evolve, it is likely to further push boundaries and inspire new artists to explore its unique sound. Phonk’s impact on the music industry is expected to grow, attracting more listeners and artists.

What is the phonk community like?

The phonk community is known for its dedicated fanbase and strong sense of community. Artists and listeners in this community share a unique bond and often support each other’s work, creating a nurturing environment for the genre to thrive.

Has phonk gained popularity worldwide?

Yes, phonk has gained popularity worldwide. Despite its origins in Memphis, Tennessee, it has transcended geographical boundaries and resonated with listeners from diverse cultural backgrounds. The global reach of phonk continues to expand, solidifying its position as a truly global phenomenon.