When discussing Black music and the communities that created its genres, there are cities and sounds that immediately come to mind. The Bronx and New York City pioneered hip-hop, Houston culture and DJ Screw created the “Chopped and Screwed” sound, and New Orleans birthed jazz. From Philadelphia and Los Angeles to St. Louis and Nashville, dozens of cities across the country add to the overall history of music and American pop culture thanks to styles crafted by Black populations.
The musical landscape continues to expand but not without the impact of regional scenes cultivated by Black culture. Through the innovation of new generations and traditions passed down through ancestral guidance, Black people have produced various genres and subgenres that have influenced sounds of past, present, and future.
Below are 10 scenes that contributed to the neverending legacy of Black music in America.
Dayton, Ohio – Funk Music
Notable Acts: Ohio Players, Zapp (Zapp Band or Zapp & Roger), Lakeside, Slave, Faze-O
This small mid-western city contributed to the mainstream success and widespread impact funk music had on other genres and culture. Funk music itself began rising in popularity throughout the 1970s and 1980s While artists from all over created funk music, Dayton, Ohio became a central hub for funk bands and cultivated a unique sound and aesthetic.
Although artists not from the “Gem City” such as James Brown and George Clinton are heralded for their contributions to the genre, the surge of funk bands from West Dayton added greatly to the commercial success. Songs from Dayton funk bands have been sampled throughout the music industry. Zapp hits such as “Computer Love,” and “More Bounce To The Ounce,” have been reworked by everyone from Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac to Mariah Carey and Usher.
“I really got a feel for what would make people get up and move,” Roger Troutman of Zapp told Los Angeles Times in 1997.
The style of music which incorporated hypnotic electric guitars, deep bass, and synthesized tones inspired the evolution of G-Funk in the 1990s and current hip-hop trends maintained today.
Washington D.C. – Go-Go Music
Notable Acts: Rare Essence, Junkyard Band, Chuck Brown, Backyard Band (Big G), EU, (Sugar Bear) New Impressionz, Pleasure Band
The funk-derivative drums provide Washington D.C. a unique sound native to the capital city. Go-go gained popularity in the 1970s when Black nightclubs were called “go-gos” and going to “a go-go” was the local thing to do. Go-go reached new heights in the 1980s when E.U.’s “Da Butt” was immortalized by Spike Lee’s School Daze, made it to number one on Billboard‘s R&B chart, and earned a Grammy nomination.
Go-go music has not only soundtracked the nightlife of the Chocolate City, residents use the sound to fuel local movements. In 2019, #DontMuteDC protests against gentrification used Go-go music as protest anthems. The Washington Post reported the silencing of a local store was the essential silencing and erasure of D.C. culture. In 2020, go-go was named “official music” of Washington, D.C. in a unanimous vote by the District’s city council.
“I don’t want my children to live in a D.C. that has lost its culture,” said community member Julie Guyot, “And if we lose this, we don’t live in D.C. anymore. We live in that federal city named Washington.”
New Orleans – Bounce Music
Notable Acts: Big Freedia, Magnolia Shorty, “MC T., DJ Jubilee, Juvenile, Katie Red
The heavy brass and fast-paced dance-inducing music has deep cultural ties to its native New Orleans. Bounce music originated in the 1980s and was popularized in the 1990s, built on the “Triggerman” beat and infused with energetic call and response lyrics, chants, and storytelling that paint a vivid picture of the NOLA lifestyle. The scene emerged from housing projects and wards and invaded New Orleans nightclubs, house parties, and block parties, and now international stages.
As a genre and culture, bounce embraced a carefree spirit and calls for shaking. Bounce was also one of the first hip-hop spaces to empower the LGBTQ+ community.
“We don’t call it twerking, we call it shaking,” local legend Big Freedia remarked to Indie Magazine in 2018. “We bend over, bust over, make it clap, show the hustle, pee the pants. It’s all bounce slang.”
Artists such as Beyonce, Drake, and New Orleans native Lil Wayne have drawn influence from bounce music for their biggest hits. Musicians not only create original bounce songs, but DJs also give new life to chart-topping hits with bounce remixes.
The Bay Area – Hyphy Music
Notable Acts: Keak Da Sneak, Mac Dre, E-40, Too Short
In the Bay Area and East Oakland specifically, the hyphy movement emerged as a homegrown wave in sound and style. The term was coined by rapper Keak Da Sneak in 1994, however, it was not until the 2000s that hyphy made waves nationally, when he served as a guest feature on E-40’s “Tell Me When To Go.”
As E-40 remarked to Complex for a 2016 oral history of the genre, “Hyphy is energy. Hyphy is a lifestyle. It originated with the streets. I credit people like Keak Da Sneak, Mac Dre, and plenty more. It’s really a way of life, just hard-headed and really energized, like, ‘He just a young hyphy dude. Man, he hella hyphy.’”
The hyphy culture has its own look, its own dances, and its own language. Cultivated through sideshows and other parties and shows where attendees showed off their fresh outfits, clean whips, and unique sounds.
Memphis – Crunk Music
Notable Acts: Three Six Mafia, Gangsta Boo, 8 Ball and MJG, La Chat
Once the beat drops on a Memphis crunk song either join in the melee or take cover. While some debate on the origins of the subgenre, on wax, Memphis musicians cultivated a sound and culture that laid the groundwork for the crunk music wave (and later snap music) that emerged in Atlanta during the late 1990s and early 2000s and brought mainstream by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boys.
Crunk music evolved from underground hip-hop scenes in the Tennesse city with DJ Paul, Lord Infamous, and Juicy J taking horrorcore to the club scene with original music crafted with aggressive call-and-response lyrics and drum-heavy beats, and distinct “gangster walk” dancing. They later formed the group Three 6 Mafia and released the crunk staple “Tear Da Club Up.”
In 2020, rising Memphis artist Duke Deuce released “Crunk Ain’t Dead,” paying homage to the original sound and the Bluff City. He even enlisted Juicy J, Lil Jon, and Project Pat for the remix. He filmed the video in his hometown and established the generational connection.
In an interview with Uproxx in 2020, Deuce defined the sound: “It’s crunk as hell,” he said. “For real, for real. Like on a whole nother scale. We took it back to the late eighties and nineties. Real, real crunk. We the gangster walking and all that”
Detroit – Techno Music
Notable Acts: The Belleville Three, Moodymann, Blake Baxter, DJ Starski, Underground Resistance
Most people recognize the Motor City for Motown Records, but techno music also calls the midwestern hub home. The genre is widely attributed to three high school friends, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May who formed the Bellville Three. Together, the trio created electronic music from their basements.
“At the time, I didn’t even fathom that a person could put out their own record, so that was something that was enlightening for me,” said Atkins to the Detroit Metro Times in 2018. “I was like, ‘These beats I’ve been making, you mean I could put these beats out myself?’ So we did it.”
Although now more popular in Europe and associated with non-Black crowds, techno originated in Detroit and evolved through the local party and community scenes before going global. The entire genre was formed as an afrofuturistic idea in response to the despair of the inner city was brought to life by synthesizers, turntables, and progressive, mechanical sounds.
During the 1980s and 1990s when techno was being formed, Detroit faced an unemployment crisis, drug epidemic, and gun violence that combined to exaggerate poverty levels for mostly Black residents. Underground Resistance targeted Black men through techno music to provide an alternate identity and a way out.
Chicago – Drill Music
Notable Acts: Chief Keef, Katie Got Bandz, Lil Reese, Lil Durk, King Louie
One of the most defining sounds of the 2010s decade, Chicago drill music gave a voice to teenagers who craved an outlet to vocalize the ins-and-outs of their street culture. Before the term was assigned to the music, drill was a word that indicated violence, usually shooting. The teenagers who cultivated the drill scene were doing more than rapping about gang violence and other criminal activity. It told stories of loyalty, grief, an unfair criminal justice system, inadequate schools, and overall neglected communities.
“Like I said, I say what’s real,” Chief Keef remarked to the Chicago Tribune in 2012. “I say what’s going on right now. What we doing.”
The Chicago drill scene created the blueprint for emerging drill music centers in Brooklyn and the U.K, with artists such as Pop Smoke, Sheff G, Shaybo, Ivorian Doll, and Fizzler adding their own regional swagger to the midwest sound.
Chicago – House Music
Notable Acts: DJ Frankie Knuckles, DJ Ron Hardy, DJ Jesse Saunders, Steve “Silk” Hurley, DJ Lady D, Larry “Mr. Fingers” Heard
Modern EDM music has Chicago house music to thank for its existence. The Windy City’s underground club culture in the 1980s ushered in a new sound when DJs began to mix and create tracks of their own. Warehouse, the nightclub that many argue gave the genre its name, was a party haven for primarily Black and Latinx gay males where they could exist without judgment. DJ Frankie Knuckles, nicknamed the “Godfather of House,” began experimenting with disco records to develop what would eventually be called house music.
The genre was the result of the anti-disco movement which operated with undertones of homophobia and racism. A Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl held a grudge against the glitzy genre after losing his job to the rise of disco and led the charge to destroy disco records in an explosion during a baseball game.
“House music has grown to be a million times bigger than disco, and the LGBT and Black communities in Chicago have thrived because of this music,” DJ Jesse Saunders shared with DAZED in 2018. “It has become a way of life for more than 33 years, and Chicagoans embrace their homegrown creations with a passion like no other. Just like New Yorkers hold their hip hop dear, so do to Chicagoans with their house music. This could have only happened in Chicago,”
House spread from Chicago to Detroit and New York, and eventually became a global party sound.
Miami – Bass Music
Notable Acts: 2 Live Crew, Sir Mix-a-lot, 69 Boyz, DJ Slice, Quad City DJs, DJ Nice & Nasty
The south Florida city known for fancy beaches and partying has other cultural influences to stake claim to. Miami bass music, sometimes called “Booty Bass” has influenced sounds from crunk to hyphy to trap. In the 1980s and 1990s, bass music reached popular heights. The uptempo, sexually explicit songs powered block parties, strip clubs, and more.
Raunchy rhymes rapped by the 2 Live Crew, key artists to the genre went to court to defend their right to rap and perform their content. The group was arrested after performing their top-selling album As Nasty As They Wanna Be at a Florida club. 2 Live Crew won the case, and the precedent became a victory for all musicians and the right to protect their lyrics and creative agency under the First Amendment.
“I stood up for hip-hop,” reminisced 2 Live Crew leader Luther Campbell — aka Uncle Luke — in a 2020 Variety interview. “Whether I get credit for it or not. I appreciate it if you understand the history and pay respect to people like myself.”
Atlanta – Modern Trap Music
Notable Acts: Dungeon Family, Gucci Mane, T.I., Young Jeezy, Outkast, DJ Drama, Lex Luger
Depending on who’s asked, the originator of “trap” music may differ, however, it is no question that Atlanta artists cultivated modern trap music culture and paved the way for one of the current most popular subgenres of mainstream hip-hop. Trap music artists discuss their drug deals, their customers, and the lifestyle that comes with living lavishly off of dirty money. This includes storytelling over aggressive 808s, strings, keyboards, and brass instrument sounds.
As the subgenre gained popularity, it grew from a gritty exposé of Atlanta street life and survival to a glamorous scene of designer clothes, gold grills, and flashy cars with slanging as the Kickstarter for wealth. Trap culture has the appeal of selling Cinderella stories over hip-hop’s best beats. Listeners are motivated to hustle until they have their own financial success story to inspire the next.
“My message is motivation, my message is evolution, and my message is believing in yourself,” Jeezy told GQ last year. “As long as that message is relevant, then the music will be timeless”
Today, Atlanta artists such as Migos, Young Thug, Lil Baby, 21 Savage, Future, and others have embraced elements of trap music to build their own musical style. Hip-hop artists in Atlanta have also used their fame gained through music to help lead social and political causes in the Peach State.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.