Stylistic origins Hip hop, electro, Miami bass, R&B
Cultural origins 1990s, Memphis, Tennessee
Typical instruments Drum machine - Synthesizer - Vocals - Robotic voice effects
Mainstream popularity Mid 2000s
Snap music
Fusion genres
Aquacrunk - Crunk&B - Crunkcore - Witch house (music genre)

Crunk is a music style that originated in Memphis, Tennessee[1] in the mid-to-late 1990s and gained mainstream success around 2003–2004.[2] Performers of crunk music are sometimes referred to as crunksters.[3] An archetypal crunk track most frequently uses a drum machine rhythm, heavy bassline, and shouting vocals, often in call and response manner.[2] The term crunk is also used as a blanket term to denote any style of southern hip hop, a side effect of the genre's breakthrough to the mainstream.[3]



Before its use to describe a musical genre, the word crunk was a new way of saying "hyped" or "pumped up".[4] In the mid 1990s, crunk was variously defined either as "hype" or "phat". Rolling Stone magazine published "glossary of Dirty South slang", where to crunk was defined as "to get excited".[3] Originally, the term came from the past tense form of "crank"; which is often misstated as "crunk" in the South. Thus, if a person, event or party was hyped or "cranked"- it was said to be "crunk". A common misconception is that the term "crunk" came from a portmanteau of "crazy" and "drunk".[citation needed] Outkast were the first artists to use the term crunk in mainstream music, in the 1993 song "Player's Ball".[5] 1996 proved to be a seminal year for the genre, with the releases of Three 6 Mafia album "Chapter 1: The End" (featuring "Gette'm Crunk"), [6] Memphis-based underground hip-hop legend Tommy Wright III album "On the Run" (featuring the Project Pimp track "Getting Crunk"), [7] as well as the release of Lil Jon's debut single, "Who U Wit." [1]

Often, the word "buck" is used in the same exact context. Many rappers used "buck" along with "crunk" to describe the way the club or scene was getting, using expressions such as "gettin' buck". This is an abbreviation of the expression "buck wild."

Musical characteristics

Musically, crunk borrows heavily from bass music and 1980s era call and response hip hop. Heavy use of synthesized instruments and sparse, truncated 808 drums are staples of the crunk sound.

Looped, stripped-down drum machine rhythms are usually used. The Roland TR-808 and 909 are among the most popular. The drum machines are usually accompanied by simple, repeated synthesizer melodies and heavy bass stabs. The tempo of the music is somewhat slower than hip hop, around the speed of reggaeton.

The focal point of crunk is more often the beats and music than the lyrics therein. Crunk rappers, however, often shout and scream their lyrics, creating a heavy, aggressive style of hip hop. These lyrics can often be isolated to simple chants ("Where you from?" and "You can't fuck with me" are common examples). While other subgenres of hip hop address sociopolitical or personal concerns, crunk is almost exclusively party music, favoring call and response slogans in lieu of more substantive approaches.[3]


Origin of crunk

Memphis-based Three 6 Mafia were "instrumental for the emergence of the crunk style" in the mid-to-late 1990s.[3] Two mixtape DJs from Memphis, DJ Paul and Juicy J, started making their original music, which was distinctive with its "spare, low-BPM rhythms, simplistic chants . . . and narcotically repetitive, slasher-flick textures".[3] This duo soon became known as Three 6 Mafia. Frequently featuring rappers such as Project Pat, Lord Infamous, and Gangsta Boo on their releases, they became instrumental in the formation of crunk music.[8] In 1996, now in Atlanta, Lil Jon with his group, The East Side Boyz, released their first album, entitled Get Crunk Who U Wit. Lil Jon said that they were first to use the word crunk in a song hook; he claimed that they had started to call themselves a "crunk group" on account of this album.[3] However, The New York Times denied that "Get Crunk, Who are you With" was the first crunk album ever.[1]

Three 6 Mafia, known in the early to mid-90s as "Triple 6 Mafia", are probably the originators of "buck" and "crunk" music[citation needed]. Their first record or recording as a group in 1995 was "Mystic Stylez". Based on an early song "Tear the Club Up 95", a southern hip-hop classic. Three 6 Mafia might well be the originators of "crunk" music[citation needed]. "Anybody out there doing crunk music needed to be sending a shout out to 3-6 Mafia cause, ya'll know that's where that came from," UGK's artist Pimp C stated in an interview. Also stating Atlanta knows good and well that "Crunk" music was started by Three 6 Mafia. Just keep in mind, DJ Paul and Juicy J were not the only members in Triple 6 Mafia at that time, there were a lot of collaborations on their early releases such as Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca, Gangsta Boo, Project Pat, Killa Klan Kaze, La Chat, Crunchy Black.

Lil Jon was just one of the key figures in popularizing crunk during 1998-1999. He produced two gold records independently, before signing to TVT Records in 2001. But crunk was not exclusively associated with Lil Jon and Three 6 Mafia, on its early stages such artists as Ying Yang Twins, Joey Cutless, Bone Crusher, Pastor Troy from A-TOWN, and David Banner from Mississippi also helped to popularize crunk music.[3]

Rise in popularity

Lil Jon at Halo 3 Exclusive Preview in Atlanta, September 2007

The song called "Get Low" (2003), performed by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz with the Ying Yang Twins, is credited as the track which put crunk music into the national spotlight.[9] "Get Low" reached number-two position in Billboard Hot 100 music charts; overall, it spent more than 21 weeks in charts.[10] Though rappers not from Dixie had tended to avoid being associated with southern hip hop music before, Busta Rhymes and Nelly accepted to record remixes on "Get Low".[9] Lil Jon's album, entitled "Kings of Crunk" which contained "Get Low", became double platinum.

In 2004, crunk blended with urban contemporary music, when Lil Jon produced "Yeah!" for Usher, this blend became known as crunk&B.

Crunk music arose from miami bass music before 1996[1] in the southern United States, particularly in African American strip clubs of Atlanta, Georgia. One of the most prominent pioneers of crunk music Lil Jon said that crunk appeared as he decided to fuse hip hop and electro music with electronic dance music like house and techno. In the early 2000s, some of crunk music hits like "Get Low", "Goodies" and "Yeah!" produced by Lil Jon climbed to Top10 of Billboard Hot 100 charts. Both "Yeah!" and "Goodies" were the first tracks to introduce the substyle of crunk music and contemporary R&B called Crunk & B to the public. Both of those tracks (performed by Usher and Ciara, respectively) were the main mainstream hits of 2004.[11] Since then, crunk & B has been one of the most popular genres of sung African American music, along with electro pop. In 2005, crunk & B reached Billboard Hot 100 number one position once again, now with the Pop song "Run It!" hit, performed by Chris Brown. In 2005-2006, crunk/crunk&B conquered American R&B charts and charts specialising on music with rapping and replaced hip hop and older styles of contemporary R&B there. In 2007, 17 year old entertainer Soulja Boy made the massive superhit called "Crank That" which enjoyed number one position in Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks, was nominated for a Grammy and became one of the main hits of the year. Around 2007, a bunch of internet websites specialising on crunk and hip hop mixtapes opened, and that fact caused the growing of the popularity of crunk. Also in 2007, crunk singer and rapper T-Pain popularised the use of autotune effect in crunk music, which became very popular in many styles of popular music since then. In 2008, both crunk and its subgenre crunk & B developed a new subgenre of trance crunk, and Usher's superhit "Love in This Club" enjoyed number one position in Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Around 2006-2008 many crunk music albums appeared on Billboard Top 200 number one position. However, it was in 2008 when crunk and crunk'n'B started getting replaced in charts by electro pop. In 2009, numerous crunk hits reached Top40 in American charts. The growing interest in crunk music among white music producers caused the appearance of various subgenres of crunk, including eurocrunk, crunkcore, crunkczar, and aquacrunk.


  1. ^ a b c d "Lil Jon crunks up the volume", NY Times, November 28, 2004
  2. ^ a b "Southern Lights", Vibe Dec 2003
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Miller, Matt: "Dirty Decade: Rap Music and the U.S. South, 1997-2007".
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  5. ^ Outkast Lyrics: Player's Ball
  6. ^ Da End: Three 6 Mafia"
  7. ^ On the Run: Tommy Wright III"
  8. ^ Green, Tony, "Twerk to Do," Village Voice (Oct. 23, 2001): 149
  9. ^ a b Green, Tony, "Punk rap" at Link
  10. ^ Annotation to "Bring in da crunk" article in The Denver Post, by Ricardo Baca. Link: [1]
  11. ^ Shepherd, Julianne, "Soul Bounce: Crunk 'n' B 101". Link


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