Wonky (music)

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Not to be confused with Wonky pop.

Wonky (also known as street bass, aquacrunk, lazer hip hop or purple sound) is an often-debated and unique/experimental genre of electronic music that uses mid-range unstable synths as well as complex and unusual time signatures. It appeared before summer 2008, among a range of musical genres, including hip hop (particularly glitch hop), grime, chiptune, dubstep, 90's G-funk, crunk, electro and broken beat.[1][dead link]

The "wet and unstable" sound of wonky is achieved by producing mid-range basses using pitch bending, LFOs on lowpassing and highpassing, phasing, and delaying. The resonance parameters of the synth's LFOs are often high. These effects give the synth and bass unique "wonky" sounds, hence the name of the genre.


Wonky is the name given to a fusion of dubstep and hip hop (particularly glitch hop) which first developed in the mid-to-late 2000s. Along with those main elements, it also has secondary influences such as IDM and its namesake, wonky techno. It is defined by its off-kilter and unstable, wonky (hence the name) mid-range, with unquantised and offbeat hip-hop rhythms at dubstep tempos, or vice versa. But in the more glitch hop like variety, it is most like dubstep with a hip hop tempo and beat.

Wonky first developed when hip hop producers, influenced by J Dilla and Madlib (such as Flying Lotus, Starkey and Dabrye), began experimenting with dubstep & IDM elements. Around the same time, dubstep producers (notably those on Hyperdub and those associated with the purple sound) began adding said hip hop influences to their own productions. These two loose strands of early wonky would fuse together, resulting in the development of a fully-fledged genre during 2009. The Scandinavian genre of skweee is also quite similar in sound, but has separate roots.[citation needed]

In 2002, American producer Rodney Jerkins preceded wonky with the R&B song "What About Us", written for American singer-songwriter Brandy. In 1997, Brooklyn-based MC Sensational included the first wonky beat.[citation needed] In February 2004, American artist Jneiro Jarel released "Get Yuh Own" and "N.A.S.A" on Kindred Spirits/Label Who. Jneiro Jarel could be considered one of the pioneers of the wonky rhythm aesthetic. A few years later, wonky developed in various places around the world simultaneously. Starkey is one of the main proponents of the wonky sound. The American wonky sound has also been dubbed "street bass".[2]

Glasgow in Scotland could be considered one of the birthplaces of the sound[citation needed] - with the Glasgow wonky sound also being dubbed "aquacrunk", a term originating from Glaswegian wonky musician Rustie. Glasgow club night Numbers, local record shop Rub-a-dub, labels like Wireblock, Stuff and Dress 2 Sweat are associated with the aquacrunk/wonky sound in Glasgow.[3][4] The wonky/aquacrunk scene in Glasgow is also centred on the LuckyMe collective; Hudson Mohawke, Rustie and Ikonika come from this scene.[citation needed] Since the release of Jagz The Smack, hype has built[citation needed] behind Rustie and Aquacrunk (the name came from Rustie’s passion for crunk and the aquatic electronics of Drexciya).[citation needed]

The term "wonky" has, since mid to late 2012, confusingly been associated with modern Brostep music. As this nu-brostep has none of the rhythmic "wonk" that defines the genre, this use of the word is being stamped out[by whom?] due to its confusing misappropriation.[citation needed]

Regional characteristics[edit]

Though wonky music is united by the tendency to use unstable mid-range synths and unstable time signatures, every wonky music scene has its own specific traits in sound. The American wonky "street bass" scene is influenced by broken beat and jazz music and the music itself has an organic feeling,[5] while the Glasgow aquacrunk and Bristol purple sound scenes are influenced by the sound of crunk, chiptune, electro and instrumental grime/dubstep,[6] respectively.

Aquacrunk is made of slowed down, low-slung beats, with electronic mutterings and morphing basslines. It is influenced as much by early Rephlex and Underground Resistance releases by crunk artists like Lil Jon or Young Buck.[7]

Purple sound emerged in Bristol in late 2008 out of the splintering dubstep scene and took inspiration from wonky, which it is sometimes considered a part of. It incorporates synth funk from the 1980s and G-funk production from the ’90s into dubstep, while also introducing many aspects of grime and chiptune (several prominent purple sound artists cite video game music as a large influence).[8] Purple sound usually includes synths as a main component and avoids the bass 'wobble' and 2-step common in dubstep. The majority of purple sound tracks are instrumental.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Clark, Martin. "The Month In: Grime / Dubstep", Pitchfork Media, April 30, 2008.
  2. ^ http://pitchfork.com/features/grime-dubstep/6840-grime-dubstep/ Grime/Dubstep : "U.S. Division"
  3. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2008/oct/20/aquacrunk-scene-and-heard : "The Numbers night at Glasgow's Sub Club is to aquacrunk what the Paradise Garage was to house and what Niche was to 4x4 bassline."
  4. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2008/oct/20/aquacrunk-scene-and-heard : "...aquacrunk is being spread through one record shop. Rub-a-dub records in Glasgow is at the centre of the city's electronic scene with half a dozen labels like Wireblock, Stuff and Dress 2 Sweat..."
  5. ^ http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/50284-the-month-in-grime-dubstep : "offkilter synths blur with offkey organic hip-hop samples and broken jazz tones" Archived October 21, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/50284-the-month-in-grime-dubstep : "an exciting direction for the middle ground between synthy dubstep and instrumental grime" Archived October 21, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2008/oct/20/aquacrunk-scene-and-heard : "The music itself is made of slowed down, low-slung beats, with lashings of electronic mutterings and morphing basslines on top."
  8. ^ http://www.thestoolpigeon.co.uk/features/interview-joker-is-quite-a-card.html : "Joker, aka Liam McLean, played video games and listened to hip hop, R&B, garage and grime continuously. Both had a deep influence on him."