From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Electro (short for either electro-funk or electro-boogie) is a genre of electronic dance music directly influenced by the use of TR-808 drum machines, Moog keytar synthesizers and funk sampling. Records in the genre typically feature drum machines and heavy electronic sounding deprived of vocals in general, although if present, they are delivered in a deadpan manner, often through an electronic distortion such as vocoding. This is the main distinction of electro from previously prominent late-1970s genres such as disco and boogie, in which electronic sound was only part of the instrumentation rather than basis of the whole song.
Greg Wilson, the leading British connoisseur of electro-funk remarks that it is "the most misunderstood of all UK Dance genres, yet probably the most vital with regards to its overall influence. Central to the confusion is the term itself, which during 82/83 (before it was shortened to electro) was specific to the UK." He adds that from a US perspective this music would come under a variety of headings (including Hip-Hop, Dance, Disco, Electric Boogie and Freestyle), arriving on import here in the UK, mainly on New York labels like West End, Prelude, Sugarhill, Emergency, Profile, Tommy Boy, Streetwise, plus numerous others. Just as Northern Soul was a British term for a style (or group of styles) of American black music, so was electro funk, and, like Northern, the roots of the scene are planted firmly in the North-West of England." - (Greg Wilson, 2002)
Bronx, NY based electro funk artist Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" (1982) is one of the first electro records, using elements of Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express and "Numbers" (from Kraftwerk's Computer World album).
In 1983, along came upper Manhattan, NY based Cutting Records' first recording artist Hashim. Hashim, or Jerry Calliste Jr. created the influential electro funk tune "Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)". "Al Naafiysh" became Cutting's first release in November of 1983, and Calliste became the label's vice president (Kellman, 2007)." At the time Hashim was influenced by Man Parrish's "Hip Hop Be Bop", Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science" and Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock". "Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)" managed to crossover into the mainstream music markets around the world and is now one of the world's most sought after electro tunes in electro music's history.
Bambaataa and groups like Planet Patrol, Jonzun Crew, Mantronix, Newcleus and Juan Atkins' Detroit-based group Cybotron went on to influence the genres of Detroit techno, ghettotech, breakbeat, drum and bass and electroclash. Early producers in the electro genre (notably Arthur Baker, John Robie, Shep Pettibone, and the Latin Rascals) would feature prominently in the Latin Freestyle (or simply "Freestyle") movement of the early and mid-1980s. Baker and Pettibone would enjoy robust careers well into the house era, and both would elude the "genre trap" to successfully produce mainstream artists.
Los Angeles artists Egyptian Lover and Arabian Prince gave birth to electro-hop a less funky, more bass-heavy West Coast sound, similar to 2 Live Crew and the Miami Bass scene. Other artists in this style include Chris "The Glove" Taylor and World Class Wreckin' Cru.
Detroit also has a unique style sometimes called Techno Bass which is a fusion of Detroit Techno with Miami Bass. On the East Coast electro spawned freestyle, when syncopated rhythms were added to the basic formula. In Miami, a prominent subgenre of Freestyle (best termed "Latin Hip Hop") would emerge as HiNRG and House music elements were thrown into the soup. The most famous example of this style would be studio group Expose, who would eventually be brought to life as a live-singing girl group and would achieve platinum success in the late 1980s with such hits as "Point Of No Return" and "Seasons Change".
Although the early 1980s were electro's heyday in the mainstream, it has enjoyed new popularity in the late 1990s with artists such as Anthony Rother, DMX Krew, Mr Velcro Fastener and Japanese Telecom (Dopplereffekt) and DJs such as Dave Clarke. Some current artists making music in this style have embraced the pseudonyms of Detroit techno pioneers. The renewed interest in electro, though influenced to a great degree by Detroit and New York music, is primarily taking hold elsewhere with electro club nights becoming commonplace again.
A new branch of electro, Skweee, has risen over the last couple of years from Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland, hence its first name "Scandinavian Funk". The outlets and artists of Skweee are still mostly limited to Scandinavia.