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What is Phonk Music? Unlocking This Internet Music Phenomenon

Jourdan Aldredge

Apr 11, 2024

When searching online for royalty free music for your projects, there can be a lot of “noise” to sift through. Not only do you need to learn all of the intricacies of how music licensing and copyrights work, but you also need to find music that actually sounds right for your projects.

While royalty free music libraries like Soundstripe’s have an almost endless number of genres available, new musical genres pop up seemingly overnight. But what are these new genres, and, more specifically, how do they sound?

Let’s look at one new genre that the internet has dubbed “phonk” music and explore how its funk, hip hop, and EDM influences blend together to create something wholly unique, and undoubtedly very cool—especially with today’s online audiences.

What is phonk music?

Alright, let’s start by trying to define this new genre term. If we were just to use adjectives, you could say that phonk music is dark, upbeat, eerie, melodic, and abrasive. If Lofi Girl’s “Lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to” were the chill end of the lo-fi beats spectrum, then phonk music would be the chaotic other end.

While we’ll discuss the genre’s history below, it's important to know that its roots can be traced back to underground rap scenes of the 1980s. Its sound is very much shaped by classic samples, but mixed with darker lo-fi undertones.

For those familiar with EDM (electronic dance music), you might recognize the hallmarks of that auditory movement in phonk music and remnants of trap music and drum-and-bass. All told, phonk music is something quite unique and worth exploring. But first, you’ll need to know how to pronounce it.

How to pronounce “phonk”

5 royalty free phonk music creators with hats, jewellery and sunglasses, leaning against a car

Just as there is no textbook definition of phonk music out there (at least not yet), there’s no absolutely agreed-upon way to pronounce phonk. However, based on YouTube videos alone, the consensus appears to be that phonk is pronounced the same way as “funk.”

However, that’s just the general consensus, as you will likely find different pronunciations across the web. The term has changed a bit over the years and continues to evolve today. So if you pronounce phonk with a slightly harder “F” sound at the beginning, that’s fine, too.

Or, if you’re drawing inspiration from the phonk off-shoot genre drift phonk and pronounce the term in a way that rhymes more with “donk” than “dunk,” then you’re not necessarily wrong either.

The history of phonk music

Now let’s move on to the history of phonk music. Its earlier iterations can be traced back to the 1980s rap scene, particularly the sounds of the Memphis hip-hop movement. Noted for their sample-heavy beats and slowed-down tempos, this rap movement would inspire future generations of rap and hip-hop beat producers, most notably in the modern internet age.

By the 2010s, when music-sharing platforms like SoundCloud and Spotify hit the internet, new musical movements had emerged as musicians across the globe could finally share, collaborate, and influence each other.

And while further inspirations for phonk music could be found in these early internet-sharing days, it is a sound found in the latest iterations of online music communities as its chief home has been on TikTok, where phonk music (and its similar cousin “drift phonk”) have become mainstays of this new TikTok internet generation.

Download royalty free phonk music 

Since phonk music is as much an internet phenomenon as it is a tangible musical movement, it’s a bit hard to predict exactly what its sound will be today, tomorrow, or in the future. 

But if you are looking to find royalty free phonk music online to use in your videos without worrying about copyrights or takedowns, we have you covered with some hand-selected phonk (or at least phonk-adjacent) tracks from our Soundstripe royalty free music library, which you can check out below.

Kitted by PALA

  • Description: A high energy, electronic song that is best described as angry and scary. Synth and samples are the primary instruments in this track.
  • BPM: 107
  • Key: E Minor

Return Of The Villain by Ghost Beatz

  • Description: A medium-energy, hip-hop song best described as scary and angry. Synth and bass are the primary instruments in this track.
  • BPM: 120
  • Key: D Minor

No Turning Back by Nu Alkemi$t

  • Description: A high-energy, hip-hop song best described as reflective and inspiring. Synths and claps / snaps / stomps are the primary instruments in this track.
  • BPM: 80
  • Key: Gb/F# Minor

Slumback by Sam Barsh

  • Description: A low-energy, hip-hop song best described as chill and suspenseful. Bass and synth bass are the primary instruments in this track.
  • BPM: 88
  • Key: G Minor

L.Y.$.T. by Cast Of Characters

  • Description: This is a medium-energy hip-hop song that is best described as chill and reflective. Drums and electronic drums are the primary instruments in this track.
  • BPM: 76
  • Key: F Minor

If you’d like to explore this phonk music genre further, you can always find more tracks and playlists on our Soundstripe app here and even try out our AI-search feature to help you find that perfect phonk track.

The many sub-genres of phonk music

Now, for those following along at home who have a deeper understanding of phonk music and its history, you might want to clarify a few things. Notably, phonk music is a bit of a catch-all term for many different genres and internet music movements.

We’re not claiming to have mastered all of the nuances of the evolving phonk genre ourselves, but if you’re looking for an excellent source to give you a taste of the many different sub-genres of phonk music, here’s a great video that showcases the many different offsets of this budding genre.

And, if you’d like to further explore any of these sounds, here are some highlighted timestamps to check out the specific different sub-genres featured in the video above:

Tips for using phonk music in your videos

Man on stage with microphone, performing copyright free phonk music

Ultimately, you’re here because you’re most likely to find royalty free phonk music to use in your own videos. Since a lot of the phonk music found online is copyrighted, as it should be, you’re not going to be able to use those tracks for anything besides your personal channels.

If you want to use phonk music for your branded channels or your clients’ videos, you’ll need to find royalty free phonk music tracks that you can license through platforms like Soundstripe.

At the end of the day, though, your videos will do best not just because of the song you select, but because of how you present the music and the rest of your video’s presentation. A sound copyright free phonk music track will help to give your videos a darker, yet more engaging, energy perhaps, but the rest will be up to you and your creativity.