“A genre made primarily by nerdy twenty something’s in a relatively successful gambit to get laid.”
Twerk. Now, before we get into the music, let’s look at some background of the provocative term that has gained immense popularity this year because of Diplo’s advocacy of the dance and of course, Miley Cyrus infamous VMA performance. Although twerking is not something that is novel, it’s now common usage has prompted it’s entry into the dictionary. “Twerk” has been around since the early 90’s, most notably in the New Orleans area and from there it slowly spread. In the 2000’s the term was used here and there by musical artists like the Ying Yang Twins, Beyonce, and even Timbaland in Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back.”
Despite originally starting out as a term for a dance, which the oxford dictionary describes as “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance”, the obsession has prompted the creation of twerk music. This style/genre/whatever you may call it is gaining popularity in the dance community, but some people are wondering what makes it different from anything that’s been put out before. So the question I have been hearing lately is, what exactly is “Twerk Music?”
“It’s an interesting cultural re-appropriation fueled by plodding 808s and macbooks. I know Miley put it into the spotlight, but at the end of the day it’s bombastic, ballsy tunes made for the dancefloor.”
Is it a genre? Subgenre? Neither? For those of you who are “against genres” you’re probably thinking “Who cares, music is music.” As much as I agree with you, you can’t ignore the fact that applying these sort of labels is constructive when it comes to categorizing and educating people on what makes one piece of music different from another; however, let’s save the genres argument for another time :). My goal for this is to just clarify what defines twerk music and where the grey areas are occurring while also exposing you directly to it so you’re able to figure it out for yourself. So first, let’s start you off with some tracks; first from Meaux Green called “Grindin’ on Acid” and second, Prince Fox’s retwerk of TNGHT’s “Bugg’n.”
To commence the defining simply, let’s begin with bpms and go from there. Generally speaking, although we will see later this is not always the case, twerk music is around 100 bpm, but can range slightly above and below that mark. Stylistically, twerk mainly pulls influence from such genres as zouk, moombah, trap, and especially hip-hop. Some detesters of the music/dance would describe it as wild music for the ratchets, but that just isn’t the case (some/most of the time). The most notable thing that can be attributed to twerk is it’s irrefutable “bouncy” nature, which is perfect for the booty shaking that everyone is familiar with now. One track that really exemplifies this notion is “Bubblegum” from Jackal and Crunkn.
“The barrier to entry into electronic music as a whole as exemplified by trap and twerk specifically, I believe will create a new elite by way of complete saturation and reformation.”
– Prince Fox
Are you getting the idea of what twerk music is now? Good. Cuz now we are moving on to more obscure territory when it comes to twerk, but we’ll gradually venture into the gray; not jump right in. The previously mentioned “bounce” that is manifested in twerk is heavily prevalent, however it doesn’t have to be as accentuated as it is in some of the tracks that have been examples. Take for instance the rework of “Bugg’n”; which focuses less on the bounce and more on hip-hop/trap elements and style. So let’s think of it as a spectrum and we are moving away from what I will call “traditional twerk” and more towards trap. Two good examples of this middle ground come from the two East Coast producers Notixx and Vonzie.
See what I mean? Some may call these trap, but if you were to compare them to a trap song you would find more differences than similarities. So does that mean that twerk can’t be trap and trap can’t be twerk? For all intents and purposes, no. They can be one in the same. The king of twerk, Diplo, has some exclusively twerk tunes, like “Biggie Bounce” and “Express Yourself”, but what about tracks like “Crown” which serve a similar booty shaking purpose? Is it just the drive to get girls to twerk that constitutes twerk music? No. At this point, it’s the same as having a central genre and pulling influence from others. My personal opinion on the matter is that twerk music is in this weird place between a genre and sub-genre but you may disagree and that’s totally fine. The twerking lives on.
This last segment will focus on one person in particular who may not be the king of twerk, but is certainly next in line for the crown; if you haven’t heard of JSTJR then you probably haven’t been paying attention to much. Taking listeners and crowds by storm, this individual is legitimizing and spreading twerk like wildfire. Even non-twerkers can’t help themselves with his stuff, which is paving the way for the next wave of dance music superstars. So let’s see what he has to say about twerk himself while we listen to some of his tracks.
“When I talk about “twerk” as a genre, I’m talking about 100 bpm booty music. I think people get too offended by genre re-branding these days. People are calling it “sped up trap” without even knowing the 4 or 5 other genres that sound just like “twerk.” So, yeah, it’s been done (and named) over and over, but the new wave of twerk music not only brings about new artists, but brings the style into a new world to be appreciated, experienced and created for today.”
I hope all this has clarified for you what twerk music is, or at least given you the tools to identify this style of music. It is not even one of my favorite types of music, but the appeal and energy it has, in all its forms, is too intriguing to pass up on. Will it be the next “it” genre? Probably not, but it sure has made it’s mark so far on the industry; only time will tell if it can solidify its place in dance music for good.