Phonk (/fɒŋk/ Listen) is a subgenre of hip hop and trap music directly inspired by 1990s Memphis rap. Mostly present on the SoundCloud platform, the music is characterized by vocals from old Memphis rap tapes and samples from early-1990s hip hop, often combining them with elements of jazz and funk. The genre deploys distorting techniques such as chopped and screwed to create a darker sound.

Initially developed in the 2000s in 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. In the late-2010s, through streaming platforms such as SoundCloud, the genre developed more of an emphasis on jazz and classic hip hop.

Popularized by TikTok and the drift community in social media, "drift phonk" is a subgenre of phonk which emerged in Russia; its main features are the use of cowbells and high bass. It is generally used in lo-fi videos showing drifting cars.


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] While phonk died down at the end of the 2000s, it saw a resurgence in the early 2010s,[4] thanks to artists such as SpaceGhostPurrp.[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".[7][8] In an interview, he explained that "phonk is slang for funk", in reference to the G-funk music genre.[9] YouTube channels, such as Ryan Celsius and Trillphonk,[10] also helped popularize the genre. 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".[11] Between 2016 and 2018, phonk was one of the most listened genres on SoundCloud, with the hashtag #phonk among the most trending each year.[12][13][14]

In May 2021, following the rise in popularity of the genre in Russia,[15] Spotify released their official curated phonk playlist.[16]


Directly inspired by 1990s Memphis rap, phonk is characterized by old Memphis rap vocals and samples from early-1990s hip hop.[17] 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][17]

A peculiarity of phonk is the fact that it is not anchored to a regional "scene":[1][17] this is tied with the nature of SoundCloud itself as an online platform, which highlights subgenres derived from hip hop and experimental pop.[2][18] Other notable artists associated with "new-age phonk" include DJ Smokey,[19] DJ Yung Vamp,[20] Soudiere,[21] and Mythic.[2][7]

Alongside its musical aspect, phonk is characterized by a distinguishable aesthetic, which incorporates cartoon imagery such as Simpsons fan-art.[22][23][24] Phonk artists often use "Pen & Pixel"-style graphics for their EPs and albums.[23]

Drift phonk

"Drift phonk", a subgenre of phonk, emerged in the late-2010s in Russia.[25][26] It is characterized by the use of high bass, cowbells and distorted sounds,[11] making the lyrics of the samples often unrecognizable.[26] The tempo of drift phonk tracks is also high.[5] Drift phonk videos often use clips of drifting and street racing cars,[26] which makes it popular in online car culture.[5][27] The genre quickly gained traction through the TikTok app in 2020.[26] Most of the prominent drift phonk producers come from Russia.[26]


  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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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). Retrieved March 19, 2022.
  6. ^ Houghton, Edwin (August 31, 2012). "The Okayplayer Interview: SpaceGhostPurrp Reveals The Mysteries of Phonk". Okayplayer. Retrieved October 23, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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. ^ Saxelby, Ruth (March 30, 2012). "Back to the funking phuture". the Guardian. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "SoundCloud » A Throwback to 2016". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  13. ^ "SoundCloud » The 2017 SoundCloud Playback". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  14. ^ "SoundCloud » The 2018 SoundCloud Playback". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Nostalgická jízda jménem phonk. Lo-fi, špína & přetočené beaty z kazet". Radio Wave (in Czech). January 15, 2022. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  20. ^ "DJ Yung Vamp". StuckMagazine. November 2, 2020. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  21. ^ Guillard, Eloïse (June 25, 2021). "5 artistes à découvrir dès maintenant !". BLOW ENTERTAINMENT (in French). Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  22. ^ Prévost, Clarisse (January 21, 2021). "Soudiere aka young Pirelli unveils a phonk mixtape ☁️". Source Radio. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
  23. ^ a b O'Flaherty, Aidan (October 31, 2020). "Phonk, Fonk, Funk, and France?". WECB. Retrieved October 20, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ Mackenzie, Mica (August 13, 2019). "Explore the New Music that's Lingering in the Underground Music Scene- Are You On the Future Funk Wave?". THE QUIET NONSENSE. Retrieved November 9, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ 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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ "Synthwave car culture: A new wave of automotive enthusiasts". Hagerty Media. May 1, 2020. Retrieved May 10, 2021.