Crunk Music

Lil Jon - Kings of Crunk

Unless you tripped, stubbed your toe and tumbled into the Hot Tub Time Machine, the word crunk has no music-oriented meaning to you today. Urban Dictionary defines "crunk" as "a mixture of the words crazy and drunk." Before it became a subset of southern rap, crunk was an everyday word that defined a state of crunkedness (more on this later).

Travel back to the year 2003, however, and you'll find that crunk denotes one of the most popular forms of hip-hop.

It combines hip-hop and electronic dance music. The music is typically uptempo, making it a perfect backdrop for dance clubs and rowdy parties.

The Definition of Crunk

Everyone disagrees on the etymology of crunk. Here are a few popular theories on the origin of the definition of crunk.

1980s Atlanta - The word "crunk" was an everyday word in 1980s Atlanta. Supposedly, clubgoers in ATL used the word to describe being "full of energy" or "hyped up" (a/k/a the aforementioned crunkedness),

1990s Southern Rap - Crunk was commonly used by southern rappers in the early 90s to describe an activity, such as getting drunk and smoking the chronic. Or maybe getting crazy and drunk. Or cooking and drinking. The debate goes on.

Conan O'Brien and Dino Stamatopoulos - Another theory has it that late night host Conan O'Brien coined the word crunk. In 1993, O'Brien and Late Night writer Dino Stamatopoulos invented the word "krunk" to confuse late night censors.

It was supposedly an attempt to combine offensive words without getting in trouble.

The Origin of Crunk

Crunk emerged as a music style in the 1990s. It gained momentum in Memphis and Atlanta before spreading throughout the Dirty South. It was popularized by the likes of Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twins and Three 6 Mafia.

The first notable crunk hit was Three 6 Mafia's "Tear Da Club Up." Originally released in 1992, it appears on their 1995 album Mystic Stylez as well as the compilation Underground Vol. 2: Club Memphis--a collection of Three 6 Mafia's underground hits.

Kings of Crunk

In 1997, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz released their debut album, Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album. Although it flew under the radar, it is now considered the first crunk album ever. It produced early crunk singles like "Get Crunk" and "Shawty Freak a Lil Sumtin'."

With crunk now expanding in stature, Lil Jon gave the sound a bear hug. Jon named his group's next album Kings of Crunk.

In 2003, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz finally put crunk on the national map with the smash single "Get Low." The song combined a club-friendly beat with goofy lyrics. Soon, every college kid in the country was saying "Take that thang to the flo/You skank, you skank."

Elements of Crunk

Musically, crunk blends elements of hip-hop and dance. It's club-oriented music. Crunk songs are usually high-pitched and drum-heavy. A typically crunk song employs repetitive, catchy refrains that make it fun and easy for fans to chant along.

The most popular criticism of crunk is that lacks substance.

On the other hand, crunk songs are club-oriented and, as club songs go, they favor style over substance.

The Rise, Evolution and Decline of Crunk

In the early 2000s, crunk became a daily fixture in party culture. Crunk blared out of car stereos, radio stations and nightclubs. Crunk ringtones were hugely popular. You may have even heard of the energy drink Crunk Energy.

The rise of crunk splintered it into subgenres like crunkcore, crunk rock, crunk punk, crunnk&B and acid crunk.

By late 2009, crunk had fizzled out of mainstream culture. At the same time, a new sound was invading the mainstream: trap music.

Key Crunk Artists:

  • Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz
  • Three 6 Mafia
  • Ying Yang Twins
  • Lil Scrappy
  • Youngbloodz
  • Trillville
  • Crime Mob

Essential Crunk Songs: 

Let's say you're planning a crunk party, your playlist should contain a few essential cuts.

These top crunk songs include:

  • "Get Low," Lil Jon
  • "Get Crunk," Lil Jon
  • "Walk It Out," DJ Unk
  • "Goodies," Ciara
  • "Lean Wit, Rock Wit It," Dem Franchise Boys
  • Salt Shaker, Ying Yang Twins
  • "Tear Da Club Up '97," Three 6 Mafia
  • "Knuck If You Buck," Crime Mob
  • "Damn" - Youngbloodz
  • "What You Gon' Do" - Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz ft Lil Scrappy
  • "Get Some Crunk In Yo System" - Trillville
  • "Never Scared" - Bone Crusher