Phonk (/fɒŋk/ ) is a subgenre of hip hop and trap music directly inspired by 1990s Memphis rap. The style is characterized by vocals from old Memphis rap tapes and samples from early 1990s hip hop, especially cowbell samples resembling that of the Roland TR-808 drum machine. The genre draws from the dark, distortive techniques of the chopped and screwed sound.

Initially developed in the 1990s in the Southern United States, mainly in Houston and Memphis, the genre's early pioneers include DJ Screw, X-Raided, DJ Spanish Fly, DJ Squeeky, and the collective Three 6 Mafia. The term "phonk" was created and popularized by rapper SpaceGhostPurrp in the early 2010s.

Drift phonk is a subgenre of phonk that emerged in Russia in the late-2010s; its distinguishing features are the use of cowbells as a melodic element and loud, persistent electronic bass.


Phonk took inspiration from trap roots in the Southern United States in the mid-1990s.[1] Artists or musical groups like DJ Screw, X-Raided, DJ Spanish Fly,[2] DJ Squeeky,[3] and the collective Three 6 Mafia all helped pioneer the foundations for the genre to emerge many years later, with the Houston chopped and screwed seen as the precursor to the genre.[1] Artists such as SpaceGhostPurrp and Lil Ugly Mane revived the sound in the form of phonk in the early 2010s.[4][5]

The word "phonk" was popularized by SpaceGhostPurrp,[6] who released tracks such as "Pheel tha Phonk", "Bringin' tha Phonk", and "Keep Bringin' tha Phonk" as well his debut album in 2012 called Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp.[7][8][9] In an interview, he explained that "phonk is slang for funk", in reference to the G-funk music genre.[10] YouTube channels such as Ryan Celsius also helped popularize the genre.[11] Phonk producers continued to push this sound in the underground, before the genre gained real momentum during the mid-2010s.[1]

By the end of 2017, phonk had shifted away from the "gritty, dark, Memphis-oriented sound", incorporating more modern vocals, with elements of jazz and classic hip hop.[1] This stream of phonk has been described as "rare phonk" by Celsius, characterized by "more of a cleaner, almost mainstream trap sound".[12] Between 2016 and 2018, phonk was one of the most listened genres on SoundCloud, with the hashtag #phonk among the most trending each year.[13][14][15]


Directly inspired by 1990s Memphis rap, phonk is characterized by old Memphis rap vocals and samples from early 1990s hip hop.[16] These are often combined with jazz and funk samples.[1] The chopped and screwed technique is mainly used, in order to create a darker sound.[1][16]

A peculiarity of phonk is the fact that it is not anchored to a regional "scene":[1][16] it is tied to SoundCloud itself as an online platform, which highlights subgenres derived from hip hop and experimental pop.[2][17] Other notable artists associated with "new-age phonk" include DJ Smokey,[18] DJ Yung Vamp,[19] Soudiere,[20] and Mythic.[2][7]

Drift phonk

A sample of a drift phonk beat

"Drift phonk", a subgenre of phonk, emerged in the late-2010s in Russia.[21][22] It is characterized by the use of high bass, cowbells, and distorted sounds,[12] making the lyrics of the samples often unrecognizable.[22] Drift phonk tracks tend to have a greater tempo than normal phonk tracks.[5] Drift phonk music is often used in videos pertaining to the topics of weight lifting, drifting, and street racing cars.[22][23][5][24] The genre quickly gained traction through the app TikTok in 2020.[22][23] Most of the prominent drift phonk producers come from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries of Eastern Europe.[22][23]

As drift phonk became popular on TikTok, it surpassed the original genre in popularity; this, in turn, gave the word "phonk" a stronger association with the drift phonk subgenre.[25] Following the rise in popularity of the genre in Russia,[26] Spotify released its official curated phonk playlist in May 2021,[27] which was almost exclusively composed of drift phonk and Brazilian funk songs.[25] One of the first songs in this genre is called “Scary Garry”, released in 2016 by Kaito Shoma.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Anand, Aashna (April 13, 2020). "The Evolution of Soundcloud's Popular New Genre: Phonk". Lucid Monday. Archived from the original on January 16, 2022. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Albors, Maxime (November 2, 2017). "Lowpocus nous explique pourquoi le phonk est en train de ressusciter". Vice (in French). Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  3. ^ Luján, David (January 20, 2022). "Rap y terror: una introducción al horrorcore en 11 canciones". Shock (in Spanish). Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  4. ^ "What the Phonk". coeo. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Calamel Duprey, Charlotte (January 24, 2022). "Qu'est-ce que le "drift phonk", ce phénomène internet qui mêle hip-hop, ados russes et street racing" [What is "drift phonk", this internet phenomenon that mixes hip-hop, Russian teens and street racing]. Trax Magazine (in French). Archived from the original on December 3, 2022. Retrieved March 19, 2022.
  6. ^ Houghton, Edwin (August 31, 2012). "The Okayplayer Interview: SpaceGhostPurrp Reveals The Mysteries of Phonk". Okayplayer. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "La vaportrap s'impose en bande son des Internets". SURL (in French). October 26, 2017. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  8. ^ Bassil, Ryan (February 13, 2017). "Please, Kids. Help Us: What Is "Phonk"?". Vice. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  9. ^ "SpaceGhostPurrp: Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  10. ^ Saxelby, Ruth (March 30, 2012). "Back to the funking phuture". the Guardian. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  11. ^ Broc, David (March 1, 2017). "'Phonk', o som futurista do hip hop, faz sucesso na Internet". EL PAÍS (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Leight, Elias (April 29, 2021). "Russian Producers Obsessed With Three 6 Mafia Can't Stop Going Viral". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 28, 2021.
  13. ^ "SoundCloud » A Throwback to 2016". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  14. ^ "SoundCloud » The 2017 SoundCloud Playback". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  15. ^ "SoundCloud » The 2018 SoundCloud Playback". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  16. ^ a b c Haynes, Gavin (January 27, 2017). "What the phonk? The genre that's gripping Generation Z". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  17. ^ Broc, David (March 2, 2017). "El 'phonk', el sonido futurista del 'hip hop', triunfa en Internet". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  18. ^ "Nostalgická jízda jménem phonk. Lo-fi, špína & přetočené beaty z kazet". Radio Wave (in Czech). January 15, 2022. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  19. ^ "DJ Yung Vamp". StuckMagazine. November 2, 2020. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  20. ^ Guillard, Eloïse (June 25, 2021). "5 artistes à découvrir dès maintenant !". BLOW ENTERTAINMENT (in French). Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  21. ^ a b Лейзаренко, Даша (December 23, 2021). "Дрифт, тачки, мемы и тикток: фонк — один из жанров года. Российские музыканты сделали его популярным во всём интернете — Интернет на TJ". TJ. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  22. ^ a b c d e Bola, David (April 30, 2021). "Il faut que l'on vous parle du Drift Phonk". Radio Nova (in French). Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  23. ^ a b c Leight, Elias (November 18, 2022). "All You Need To Know About Phonk, the Dance Subgenre That's Taking Off". Billboard. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  24. ^ "Synthwave car culture: A new wave of automotive enthusiasts". Hagerty Media. May 1, 2020. Retrieved May 10, 2021.
  25. ^ a b Crocker, Jackson (April 27, 2022). "Phonk, and the Carcasses of A Million Sub-Genres". The Summit Pinnacle. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  26. ^ "Музыкальные итоги 2021 в Spotify: что слушали геймеры?" [Spotify Music Results 2021: What Have Gamers Been Listening to?]. (in Russian). Spotify. December 10, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  27. ^ "Сегодня в карточках рассказываем о наследнике мемфис-рэпа — фонке" [Today in the cards we talk about the heir of Memphis rap — Phonk.]. Facebook (in Russian). Spotify. May 12, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2022.