So, every so often, the term ‘purple’ gets thrown into music. What does it mean? What is this ‘purple’ thing about? There’s a few different styles that have incorporated the ‘purple,’ sound or mindset, and I’ll do my best to explain them to you…
Purple used to be associated as sort of a ‘royal’ color, but there are lots of uses of purple in history… For a lot of people, consciously or subconsciously, it’s a color of mystery. Prince wore a lot of purple. Hendrix wore a lot of purple. It’s an intriguing color, and some of the musicians of the last fifty years to wear it seem to have a certain exciting intrigue to them… Is it because they’re wearing purple, or because their mysterious persona gravitates towards it? I would guess it’s not the former – because if it were, that would be a prime example of faking the funk, as funk goes right along with making purple. I’ll get into that a little later.
Let’s discuss the music aspect of it. Though I did mention Jimi Hendrix, for the purposes of this article, I would instead like to point out specific styles or genres that incorporate purple, rather than individual musicians, and I think there are three main instances of ‘purple’ sounds in modern music (especially electronic music) of the last few decades –
1.) funk / ‘old-style’ electro
2.) hip hop (especially chopped ‘n screwed)
3.) wonky purple edm
Alright. So first let’s address the funky electro…
Well, basically, you can find a lot of this stuff coming from the very late 70s, and up until the early or mid 80s. It’s synthy as hell, and often employs the use of vocoders and talkboxes.
Purple is a swagger, it’s an attitude, and a lot of this music has a big dose of funk smeared all over it – and funk is an attitude and swagger as well. So, at first, you might guess there is an overlap, but in fact, I would make the argument that purple comes right out of funk. It might be seen as a subgenre, but really I think what creates the purple funk, more than anything else, is having a confident and funky outlook on things, which could, in turn, lead to a purple demeanor. Confused yet? Well, it’s not so easy making purple music, is it? Don’t worry, I’ll explain it some more. But first here’s a great example of some old electro funk, to keep you going…
The second instance of purple I want to talk about comes ten years later, in hip hop. Before I go any further, though, I should point out that a lot of hip hop in the early 80s was married to electro funk. It makes sense when you consider that hip hop, as well as purple, come right out of funk (funk spreads its seeds all over the place). That being said, hip hop in the 90s sounded quite a bit different than most of the electro funk of the 80s – especially the chopped ‘n screwed hip hop from Houston, Texas.
So, when you hear talk of purple, in reference to chopped ‘n screwed, people are usually referring to codeine / syrup / ‘lean’ / purple drank, etc; and also to chopped ‘n’ screwed music, which is kind of like a soundtrack for purple drank. It’s a sound created by DJ Screw, a DJ from Texas who made TONS of rap mixes with a heavy, heavy purple influence… Anyone who’s drank lean and then listened to DJ Screw will likely agree with me on that… The music is so slow that it’s almost scary. It really has one of the most unique sounds of any genre or subgenre I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a great deal of music in my time. Here’s an example, if you’re not familar…
Ok, so, the third instance of purple takes place in more modern times, and in edm/rave music. Actually, I’d like to point out an article I read about ‘purple-wow,’ a phrase which I’ve never heard anyone use in real life, but just the same, it’s a relevant article, and yo might want to check it out here: http://generationbass.com/2009/08/17/the-purple-wow-sound-g-funk-meets-dubstep/ Their definition of this sounds is, basically, “G-Funk meets Dubstep = Purple Wow Sound!” .. personally, I think you can easily go beyond dubstep with it, and also, “Purple Wow,” is a really cumbersome and wonky name for anything.. And also, I think something’s to be said for the wonkiness of the sound.. I think it has a lot to do with making funky music, with it’s unique style of wonky / off / almost dissonant melody.
For example, if you start playing a melody (and wonky melodies often employ the use of square waves, btw) people might think your melody is going in a certain direction – but then, all of a sudden, one of the notes just rises an extra octave or two, and the next note clashes! Then the melody goes back to normal, then it drops an extra octave or two, just for a note, and then raises up in pitch to normal, and repeats that cycle, over and over. That’s just one of a few ways to incorporate a wonky / purple melody. Killing the expectation goes along way here, musically. You can really create a wonky off-type of sound by leading people on and then going in a decidedly different, weirder direction. Sometimes it even sounds ugly. This also goes along with funk. ‘Funk’ was originally a term used to describe jazz music, as in, ‘smear some funk on that melody,’ etc.
Exactly! Smear some nasty, funky purple all over your melody!
Also, don’t forget about the rhythm. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and one of my very first video tutorials was about it. Wonky / off-beat rhythms have gone into a lot of interesting songs that hail the label of ‘purple’ as their weird and funky flag. I like artists such as Joker, Ginz, some Joy Orbison, and the tune, ‘Drippin’ by Mimosa is also pretty purple and crunky.
(I have also seen the term, ‘wonky’ used to describe specific techno and trance tracks, like the one by Paul Van Dyke or whomever… the track is called ‘wonky,’ and I think it basically just means high-pitched or ugly, or something like that. I hate what techno has tried to do with wonky, it’s boring, and they use the term in the blandest and most boring ways imaginable, and I refuse to write about it anymore than I am right now.)
Anyway, here’s a good wonky purple tune for ya, from Joker…
So, in conclusion, incorporating elements from any of these styles can help you create a nice, funky, purplish sound. There’s obviously overlap, stylistically, as you could go right ahead and create a chopped ‘n screwed type of wonky beat, with vocodor and electro funk influences, if you wanted to. No reason to stifle yourself creatively, when going for the purple! Another example of overlap could be how you might see the word ‘crunk’ a lot more in electronic music now, even though that style came directly out of from hip hop.
So, as far as the last few decades of purple go, there’s the purple electro funkishness, the purple drank chopped ‘n screwed stuff, and the modern ravey dubstep or post-dubstep square wave / wonky funk stuff, which often incorporates the hip hop and electro funk stuff, too. Really, any of the influences I described can be taken and smeared in any direction you might want to take them. If you find yourself gravitating towards purple, perhaps you’re in a good position to purple-up some new styles of funk that the world hasn’t even heard, yet! I’d be down to listen to some new purple, any damn day.