Electro. Why does the historical genre stay popular?

Electro is back in the minds and radars of Ravers worldwide again!

It is, without a doubt, one of the best music genres created that’s again on the wave of popularity for at least the last five years among underground communities, and it keeps conquering the world. However, for some people, Electro is not just some music genre or hobby but a lifestyle. 

Once you learn more about how it was created, you won’t have any questions left about why is it so popular and what’s so special about it. 

Before diving deeper into Electro’s world, here’s some information you need to know. 

Electro (Electro funk) was created with the use of drum machines and it typically lacks vocals. If vocals are included, they are presented specifically in this electronic dance music. As a result, it differs from other genres as all of its sounds are electronic. 

The following little fact you need to know is that this genre of electronic music is thought to have developed as a result of the demise of disco and the invention of drum machines.

Electro is frequently recognized by a focus on synthesizers, vocoders, and dry, syncopated/”funky” drum sounds in addition to the characteristic rhythm pattern (as opposed to the monotonous, low-pitch bass drum of house and techno). The electro vibe is more about creating fresh, cold, heavily synthetic-sounding beats and minimal basslines, along with chanted vocals, lengthy instrumental passages, and minor-key lead synth themes, as opposed to the typical hip-hop approach of funky mining beats and warm basslines from old vinyl and emphasizing a rap vocal.

To put it simply, electro music is music influenced by Kraftwerk. Of course, the German synth pioneers are the ancestors of many other dance music subgenres. It would be more realistic to describe Electro as the meeting point of hip-hop and Kraftwerk. 

But besides this legend, there’s no way we’ll forget about Afrika Bambaataa. One of the founding figures of hip-hop, New York DJ Bambaataa, had a significant impact on US music even in the early 1980s.

But since the creation of the genre, it has undergone a lengthy and successful evolution, occasionally seeing resurgences. Many, so many resurgences. Regarding its huge and epic comeback nowadays, it seems especially important to look at the history of this foreboding genre, especially in view of its recent presence on dance floors and in new release bins for the last five years. To understand why is it so popular now, you have to know it’s history and what made it so unique back in the days.

Honestly, there’s no way one can tell about the epic rise of this genre just in a few words and by giving only a couple of facts. You need to know more about it, and, trust me, you want to know more.

It all started with 808 

First thing first, in the late 70s, there was a clear decline in disco music. In the 1980s, the world needed a dance style that would reflect the trends of street life and, obviously, would make you “shake your ass.” Which is why many musicians experimented with music and started making heavier singles. So, new, non-standard songs gained popularity. Particular attention was drawn to electric funk, which belonged to electronic dance music. Pioneers in this direction were Yellow Magic Orchestra, Kraftwerk, and Cat Stevens. That was the time when, in 1980, YMO used the TR-808 drum machine for the first time, creating a unique hit with Riot in Lagos. This song is considered the first example of Electro. 

Yes, that’s how the genre was born. 

Despite the fact that the early 1980s were a virtual time bomb for the explosive growth of electronic music. It took a few revolutionary inventions for Electro to take off. 

The 808 became the best drum machine sound of all time in just a few short years and was the foundation of the majority of dance music.

Crazy to think how this one thing has changed so many genres and even the whole music world.

Those legendary 1980s

Beginning in the 1980s, a select group of trailblazing musicians like Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra, George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic, Gary Numan, D-Train, and Yello created the foundation for what would follow in terms of electro music. 

A generation of electro performers had already been impacted by Kraftwerk, whose complete embrace of synthesizers and drum machines loomed over them all. 

However, their 1981 album Computer World, notably the hit “Numbers,” was the one that helped to establish the electro genre. The song’s robotic funk quickly made it a favorite of many DJs in the US thanks to its nauseating melodies and clipped, syncopated percussion that would later become a signature of the genre.

For sure, we can’t forget about Afrika Bambaataa.

The early electro sound was first popularized by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, whose record “Planet Rock” was produced by Arthur Baker and John Robie. The Soulsonic Force rapped on the song, which was released in June 1982 on the hip-hop label Tommy Boy in New York City, over bouncy, syncopated 808 beats that interjected distinctive Kraftwerk melodies. 

In her interview in 1998, she said, “I always was into Trans Europa Express, and after Kraftwerk put ‘Numbers’ out, I said, ‘I wonder if I can combine the two to make something really funky with a hard bass and beat.’ So we combined them.” 

1982 was probably the juiciest year for Electro. With 808 beats and talkbox voices, the New York scene sprang first and brightest with the works of Warp 9’s “Nunk,” Jonzun Crew’s “Pack Jam,” Planet Patrol’s “Play At Your Own Risk” (also produced by Baker and Robie), and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “Scorpio.”

By 1983 there were more and more record labels looking for new talents. Song after song went out into the world and created a groovy genre. More and more people were becoming addicted to Electro. The audience was huge. Along with music, new dancing styles were also developing, so Freestyle and Break-Dance appeared. 

At the same time, the transformation begins, and the music started smoothly turning into hip-hop. After that, the style faded, because there was practically no separation from other genres.

The first wave of Electro reached its peak around 1984. In Los Angeles, a new electro scene was blooming. The largest electro bands in this region prioritized rapping over the hard-edged beats that accompanied their words, serving as forerunners to LA’s rich hip-hop tradition. 

Egyptian Lover, a vocalist, and producer who is one of the few original electro musicians still performing today, was definitely the city’s largest electro export.

The 90s break out.

After its crazy popularity in the 80s, Electro was just out of trend as the 1980s and 1990s transitioned into one another. Its status as the forerunner of hip-hop and techno, as well as of house, acid house, and Miami bass enthusiasts, didn’t accomplish much for music lovers caught up in those full-fledged genres. While other DJs kept their electro records in their crates, many first-wave electro artists followed the crowd and experimented with new sounds. Although new generations would carry on the tradition, Electro was never the same again. It never attained the widespread acceptance of 1982–1985. 

Despite the fact that Electro remained a niche sound, there was a global resurgence in the ’90s in the number of musicians producing the genre, with the new wave peaking in 1997.

Electro made its comeback due to producers with a techno-leaning background. Dopplereffekt expanded on the Cybotron model in Detroit by incorporating sarcastic vocals and tech-oriented themes. Le Car’s music had a little more punky tone, evoking early Human League and Throbbing Gristle, the pioneers of industrial music. With artists like Anthony Rother and DJs like Dave Clarke, Electro experienced a second wave of popularity in the late 1990s. 

Not to mention that in 2009, there was a third wave of Electro popularity.

What makes Electro so special?

It’s sound, obviously.  

As I’ve noted before, disco was dead, and people needed to set a new dance rhythm. Therefore, the musicians were looking for an alternative, which they found in Electro. The basis of the sound was, again, the Roland TR-808 drum machine, with the help of which it was possible to set the beat. 

As technology has advanced, computers have replaced musical equipment. This changed the vector and direction for many music creators. 

Though the electronic sound set futuristic themes that seemed so distant and incomprehensible to the average person, there were still more and more people finding their way to Electro music. 

For some, it might be hard to enjoy Electro as its vocals are often joint and processed by a vocoder. In addition, artists add lyrical content with robotic speech to Electro music. By the mid-80s, male vocals were often used in compositions, which added notes of early rap. But the combination of it all, the music, the vocals, makes it sound almost unreal and attracts people with an incredible force. This is why Electro never really disappears and keeps coming back with new waves of popularity.

Modern Electro

The popularity of Electro has recently experienced another upsurge, with demand for electro DJs, labels, and producers all increasing. This new wave began around 2017, and some people claim that it was started by the reissue of a sizable amount of Drexciya’s catalog by Clone, which, as far as some people can tell, has increased interest in the genre and led to other producers taking inspiration from the renowned aquatic team. 

However, today’s electronic music is different. It’s both complex and, at the same time, profoundly inspired by the past.

Before this new wave, Electro seemed mediocre and unpopular with the listener, and the world didn’t seem to like and bring it back. But it happened. And people love it probably even more than ever. At the moment, the scene is supported by hundreds of labels and artists of various categories. Among the popular trends, it is necessary to highlight Electrocore with such artists as Dynamix II and Jackal & Hyde, as well as Skweee – Scandinavian funk. 

Elements of Electro are always traced in other genres, including techno and electroclash.

Florida, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York have greatly affected the continuous interest in Electro. Electro club nights are once again becoming widespread in Florida and Europe. More and more events were and still are organized, like UA Electro, and many others, so that ravers could enjoy their favorite music.

Numerous electro labels are still supported by the scene, ranging from the disco electro of Clone Records to the retro b-boy sounds of Breakin’ Records and Dominance Electricity, the electrofunk of Citinite, and the harder, more contemporary electro sounds of labels like Bass Frequency Productions and Nu Illusion Music. Among the popular modern DJs, artists are Andy Barton, Umek, Dave Clarke, Helena Hauff, Maceo Plex, and many others. 

Electro will inevitably keep evolving and mutating. It might perhaps gain more mainstream appeal with the dedication of the long-standing underground and an infusion of new blood. As long as new people keep creating and enjoying Electro, it’ll be growing. But the mainstream is not necessary for Electro. It will keep existing and developing. Its legacy is enormous. 

With its drum machines, synthesizers, and sequencers, as well as its rap, cut and scratch, breaking and popping, and so much more, it heralded the dawn of the computer age and enchanted a generation. 

Moreover, Electro has spawned multiple subgenres that belong to the third wave of Electro. All the hype happened in 2007 and is associated with names like Anthony Rother and Dave Clark. They decided to revive the old style of music by introducing more progressive technologies and popular trends.

The headlong, steely drive of Electro has established itself as one of the most recognizable sounds of the modern era in all its extraordinary beauty. 

With its ferocious 808 drum rhythms, robotic melodies, forceful arpeggios, and unmistakable aggressive flare, it just attained a fresh wave of dominance over dance floors around the world. And trust me, it’ll keep attaining more and more new waves. 

Electro is big, historical, legendary, and game-changing. In some ways, it has even transformed the musical world. It’s not for everyone, but it has an incredible background and soul. Listening to it might be one of the best music experiences you’ve ever had.
So, I’d say don’t waste your time, and go listen to some legendary tracks you might have never heard before, visit raves, and get your one-of-a-kind experience.