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Aficionados of this US musical style will know that I’m behindhand in mentioning it, since it was described by Slate magazine eight months ago as the defining sound of 2004 in the States. But it has only recently crossed the Atlantic to the UK, so it’s new for many people. The usual problem applies of explaining just what distinguishes it from other musical genres that come and go. The best I can do is quote from the same Slate article, which talked of its “lurching beats and bellowed choruses” and said that “there’s no mistaking the genre’s sonic blueprint: a pulverizing low end and lots of rowdy shouting, party music that mixes menace and pure mayhem.” Just the thing with which to annoy the neighbours, in fact. It is said to have begun in the clubs of Atlanta as yet another variation on hip-hop. Where the name came from is disputed: some say it’s just the existing US slang term, a mixture of crazy and drunk; others argue it’s from a southern slang term meaning “cranked up”.

There has been much talk of the crunk phenomenon lately, with some dismissing it as a mere gimmick or publicity stunt. But Lil’ Jon and his crew proved that the hype is not without foundation, with a show that more than made up for in energy what it may have lacked in lyricism.

Evening Standard, 1 Feb. 2005

Crunk is a high-impact brand of woofer-popping party hip-hop that eschews all musical and lyrical invention in wild-eyed search of a good time.

Daily Telegraph, 22 Jan. 2005

Page created 26 Feb. 2005

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 26 February 2005.