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Tun·nel bang·er (noun) Circa 1994-2000, a record—often hardcore and aggressive—that whipped the crowd into a frenzy during the prime-time hour after 1 a.m. at the NYC club’s Sunday-night party.

To truly understand the definition of a “Tunnel banger,” you first need to know about the Tunnel itself. Peter Gatien’s NYC nightclub was a hotspot for house music and techno in the early ’90s, but it wasn’t until the creation of a Sunday-night party called “Mecca” that the Tunnel would cement its place in hip-hop lore. When Funkmaster Flex took over the party’s prime-time slot—roughly 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.—in the mid-’90s, the “Tunnel banger” was born.

So what was the Tunnel like on a Sunday night? As Flex’s warm-up DJ (along with Big Kap), Cipha Sounds was there for it all. The crowd? “The thugs, the drug dealers, the fucking jail dudes. Even the security guards were hustlers,” says Ciph. The mood? “It wasn’t a ‘dance’ club, people weren’t really dancing,” he says. “But records would just make people go crazy, hands in the sky, jumping.” And the music? “The records you would not hear at any other club because they were too hard,” says Ciph. “Street records, which would usually just be album cuts, became their own genre.” Yep: Tunnel bangers. This all sound kinda crazy? Well, it was—the Tunnel was shut down nearly every year because of violence, and eventually closed for good in 2001. All that remains are the memories…and the music. With a Flex co-sign, Cipha Sounds went back to the good ol’ days©—when hardcore rap and NYC still mattered—for this epic countdown of the 75 Greatest Tunnel Bangers. Now take your shoes off and get in a single-file line…

Go here to check out the full list.


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