You know which one. I won’t try to type it. But where exactly did that ever-present hip-hop air horn sound effect come from? Let us fill you in!

Some genres and styles of music have signature features that let you know exactly what you’re listening to. In film, there are certain sounds that have become as familiar as an old family friend. The Wilhelm scream, I’m looking at you.

One such sound effect that has made its mark as a genre staple is the hip-hop air horn. When you hear this bad boy, you can confidently assume that you’re in for a good time. But, why has it become so ubiquitous throughout the genre, and what is its significance?

Hip-Hop Air Horn Origin Story

Before air horn sound effects, came air horns. They were a favourite amongst attendees of Jamaican clubs and parties, known as dance halls, in the 1970s and 80s. To kick these parties off, everyone would make a big excited racket, screaming, cheering, and blasting air horns.

Eventually, DJs would create samples of air horns to use during their dance hall sets. Jamaican dance hall and hip-hop are very closely related. Thanks to the importation of dance hall culture to the United States by the likes of DJ Cool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa, hip-hop was born.

So, as with most things, the advent of the hip-hop air horn sound effect was a development, and can’t be pinpointed to one exact moment. However, there is one man responsible for popularising it within contemporary music.

Take a look at this video from Great Big Story, where the man himself, Cipha Sounds explains how he had a hand in the explosion of the air horn.

Cipha Sounds breaks down perfectly how one simple sound sample can be turned into a bunch of cool SFX. Take your air horn blast, play with “different rhythmic variations”, and you’ve got a portfolio of air horn goodness.

If you’re busy creating your own sound effects, and happen to own an air horn or two, why not have a play around with this concept? Here at Synchedin, we wouldn’t say no to a strong air horn, so upload your SFX to the site, and you could even earn some money for them!