When the history of hip-hop is addressed, many refer to the culture’s origins in the early 1970s in the South Bronx. The discussion usually involves hip-hop's four core elements: MCing, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti-writing. While this conversation sure contains a certain educational value, we often forget that turning up had always been part of the experience -- after all, the music and culture derived from parties DJ Kool Herc would organize in the basement of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue for neighborhood youth. The kids weren't only jamming breakbeats either; DJs played all forms of dance music at these parties including funk, soul, house, as well as Jamaican/islander styles like reggae and dub. Some of rap’s earliest recorded tracks, like Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” and Warp 9’s “Light Years Away,” infused electro and featured vocoding/talk-boxing (predecessors of Auto-Tune.)
By the mid-1980s, New York hip-hop distanced itself from electro influences, adopting harder-edged beats and rock samples. Many NY producers retired the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer for newer of samplers like AKAI S900 and the E-mu SP-1200. Meanwhile, artists from Los Angeles and Miami continued sampling electro and funk artists like Zapp & Roger, Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra and Cat Stevens. Underground rap styles from all over the country -- Miami bass, Memphis crunk, New Orleans bounce, Bay Area hyphy and Houston chopped-and-screwed music -- emerged and flourished even when the spotlight was on New York rap and West Coast G-Funk/gangster rap. These underground styles recurrently impacted national sound waves but have remained overlooked in the conversation of hip-hop history.
As a guide, we have created a comprehensive timeline of the history of “turn-up” rap music, for lack of a better word. See how the most popular, widely-consumed and, arguably, timeless styles of rap have evolved since its conception in the early '80s until now. For those having trouble loading all the individual Spotify links, we've made a playlist of all the featured tracks here.
THE ORIGINS: ELECTRO, MIAMI BASS & BOOTY MUSIC
Following the decline of disco in the late 1970s, electro (or electro-funk) music arose at around the same time other post-disco genres like Chicago house and Detroit techno came about. Songs from the genre were backboned by the Roland TR-808 drum machine (produced between 1980 and 1983) and sonically a fusion of funk and New York boogie. Early hip hop music that utilized German and Japanese electro-pop influences such as Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra inspired the birth of electro. Hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force's "Planet Rock" is credited as a milestone for both hip-hop and electro music.
A few years later, Miami caught on and delivered their own rendition of electro music, Miami bass (also called booty music.) Pioneered by James "Maggotron" McCauley and Amos Larkins, "Bass Rock Express" by MC ADE (produced by Larkins) is the first Miami bass record to gain underground recognition on an international scale. 2 Live Crew's "Throw The D" set the standard for how future Miami bass tracks were made; their style, and sexually explicit lyrics were a major role in popularization of Miami bass in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The sound found success due to heavy promotion by local DJs in South Florida and Orlando as well as the many clubs that hosted bass nights on a regular basis. Atlanta followed Miami's footsteps with their variant of the sound, delivering stars like MC Shy-D, Raheem the Dream, Kilo Ali and Mr. Collipark (fka DJ Smurf) in the late '80s and early '90s.
THE FOUNDATION: RISE OF THE DIRTY SOUTH
Before the 1990s, hip-hop and rap music was mostly dominated by artists from the East and West Coasts, primarily in New York City and Los Angeles. Miami was the only city known for its distinctive sound at the time; other southern cities had yet find their sonic identities. Many acts from the South that wanted to gain national exposure/recognition had to either link up with their up-north friends or use a style of rap similar to that of successful NY/LA acts. Houston eventually became a third hip-hop mecca after the success of Geto Boys (which was partially due to working with New York hitmaker Rick Rubin) and by the 1990s, Atlanta had also become a dominant city of southern rap, bringing forth groups like OutKast and Goodie Mob.
While these outfits mostly painted the the South from a narrative perspective, Miami bass and its Atlanta-variant were still the major players of club-friendly rap music up until the mid-'90s. Then, independent labels showcasing a different type of bass music from Memphis (crunk music) and New Orleans (bounce music) started popping up and making nation-wide noise. Musically, it borrows from the call-and-response style and 808 drums in Miami bass but is slowed down and drawn out substantially to a speed similar to that of reggaeton. By the late 90s, these scenes found commercial success via Master P’s No Limit Records and Birdman’s Cash Money Records in New Orleans, and Three 6 Mafia’s Hypnotize Minds (originally named Prophet Entertainment) out of Memphis. These labels completely restructured the financial fabric and strategies for independent Southern rap labels.
A frequented characteristic of modern turn-up music is rapping in triplets, a style brought back by rappers like A$AP Rocky and Migos in the early 2010s. The first crews to popularize this style of rapping were Three 6 Mafia and Cleveland’s Eazy-E-cosigned quintet Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Their rapid flow and melodic style would be mimicked and appropriated by subsequential artists.
Around the same time crunk and bounce music began to catch on, mobb and hyphy culture began to turn up in the Bay Area, particularly in East Oakland. At the time, these styles remained as underground movements because they was overshadowed by other nationally-recognized West Coast styles like G-Funk and gangster rap. It wasn’t until the mid-2000s after crunk music blew up where the hyphy movement briefly saw light in mainstream America.
THE GOLDEN AGE: BOUNCE, CRUNK, HYPHY, SNAP & TRAP
The 2000s is when the southern takeover finally happened. After No Limit, Cash Money, Rap-A-Lot, Hypnotized Minds and others revolutionized the independent label of the south, artists from all over the third coast began to develop mainstream popularity. These include Atlanta’s T.I., Ludacris, Lil Jon, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane, Miami’s Trick Daddy and Rick Ross, New Orlean’s Lil Wayne and Juvenile and Memphis’ Three 6 Mafia and 8Ball & MJG. Houston also gained international recognition in the early to mid-2000s with artists like Paul Wall, Mike Jones, UGK, Lil Flip, Slim Thug and many other members of the Screwed Up Click. Smaller cities also generated commercial rap artists: Albany, Georgia’s Field Mob, LaGrange, Georgia’s Bubba Sparxxx, Lil Boosie of Baton Rouge, Louisianna and more. At this time, Southern rap hits accounted for over half of the percent of singles on hip-hop charts.
Crunk music, an aggressive form of dance-rap made known by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz, dominated from the early to mid-2000s. Like preceding forms of bass dance music, crunk's appeal was from its infectious beats and catchphrases. By the mid-2000s, snap music, a lighter Atlanta sub-genre originated from Bankhead, Atlanta, took over the charts. The songs, which often came with a dance, were especially in vogue with young listeners and performed outstandingly with the digital download system -- giving birth to the term “ringtone rap.” Unfortunately, other than a few like Soulja Boy, many snap artists were one-hit wonders and disappeared as fast as they emerged. This style of rap eventually faded away and was pretty much dead towards the turn of the decade.
Trap music began to come up as a recognized style in the mid-2000s after a number of successful albums and records covered topics about life in “the trap.” The style was popularized by rappers with drug dealer personas like T.I., Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti and Rick Ross. This was the South’s response to gangster rap and although trap was sought-after at clubs, the songs did not usually have accompanying dances. The sound is inspired by music from Memphis and New Orleans rap disseminated by Lil Jon, Cash Money and Three 6 Mafia, and founding producers include DJ Toomp, Fatboy, Drumma Boy, Shanty Redd, D. Rich and Zaytoven.
Bay Area's hyphy music briefly saw light in the mainstream in the mid-‘00s, with OGs like E-to, Mistah F.A.B., Keak the Sneak, Mac Dre, Too Short, The Pack and more dropping hits, sometimes with production help of artists like Lil Jon. However, like crunk and snap, hyphy's reign was short-lived and soon became a local, underground movement once again for the remainder of the decade. A hyphy inspired dance music called jerk surfaced in LA and found mainstream light near the end of the decade thanks to New Boyz and Audio Push. The jerkin' movement is one of the major influences for bright-colored clothing and skinny jeans.
INTERNATIONAL TAKEOVER: THE INTERNET AGE
As snap music went to rest at the end of the 2000s, the 2010 marked a time that second wave of trap artists took over. Lex Luger was the maestro of this new wave of modern turn-up, producing over 200 well-known songs including Rick Ross’s “B.M.F.,” Kanye West and JAY Z’s “H.A.M.,” Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in da Paint." He is often credited with popularizing the modern trap sound — earth-shattering 808s, crisp snares, rapid hi-hats and synth orchestrations. His sounds became adopted by other producers and many modern hitmakers, like 808 Mafia, Southside, Sonny Digital, Young Chop, Metro Boomin and Mike WiLL Made-it, are heavily inspired by his work.
At the turn of the decade, The Pack member Lil B positioned himself as a cult-like leader with his genre-bending, rule-breaking style of Based music. Waka Flocka Flame displayed unparalleled rock-star energy, showcased via his debut album Flockaveli. Chicago producers like Young Chop and DJ Kenn adopted the Atlanta influences into their drill sound, and the city give birth to artists like Chief Keef and Lil Durk. A$AP Rocky, a New York native, incorporated throwback characteristics of Houston, Atlanta and other southern and midwestern styles into his music (of course, with the help of Miami-based Three 6 Mafia aficionado SpaceGhostPurrp.) Trap music eventually infiltrated the charts; Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and earlier this year, Desiigner’s “Panda” hit number one.
Throughout the last few years, artists like Drake, Post Malone, PartyNextDoor, Lil Yachty, Future, Rich Homie Quan, Fetty Wap and Young Thug as well as producers like Metro Boomin, 40 and FKi demonstrated that turn-up music does not necessarily have to have an aggressive tone for it to be “lit.” Emotional lyrics, R&B melodies, hazy instrumentals and additional post-rap techniques can be assimilated to trap music to give the music more depth without diminishing its "turnt" factor.
Thanks to the Internet, trap music is no longer confined within Atlanta's crime-infested zones. In 2016, trap can be made by anybody regardless of who they are and what they've been through. Several of today’s most prominent trap songs are made by international artists, namely Seoul’s Keith Ape, Jakarta’s Rich Chigga, Tokyo’s MADEINTYO and others. UK Grime’s gained recognition in North America in the last few years and celebrated MCs like Skepta and Stormzy have embodied elements of trap into their production and rapping styles. However, to this day, Atlanta remains as the breeding grounds to some of rap’s currently most popular trap stars, such as Future, Young Thug, Migos, Lil Yachty and 21 Savage.
Non-hip hop artists like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry have amalgamated characteristics of trap music into their records. Trap became it’s own sub-genre in the electronic dance music world. At first, it was seen only as a trend that succeeded the short-lived reemergence of dubstep and moombahton, and was projected to eventually fade. Nonetheless, it’s been nearly half a decade since the conception of EDM trap and today, the style remains increasingly fashionable. Trap music has also found fame internationally, especially in South Korea; many K-pop artists and bands integrate elements of trap in their music.
Hyphy music also made a third-wave return in the 2010s, and this time, southern California has taken part in the comeback. Popular artists and producers that brought hyphy back include YG, Ty Dolla $ign, Sage the Gemini, IAMSU!, Kamaiyah, Vince Staples, DJ Mustard, P-Lo and more.